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Bad credit scores may feel impossible to fix until you come across an ad for a credit repair service company. These companies promise to help you fix your credit so all you have to do is cut them a check and wait. Here’s the truth though: Credit repair services cost a lot of money, and you’re paying for something that you can do on your own.
Learn the ins and outs of credit repair before hiring a credit repair company.
What Is Credit Repair?
Credit repair companies help remove errors from your credit report with the intent to increase your credit score.
Some credit repair companies offer extra features in package upgrades, such as free credit score updates, writing cease and desist letters to debt collectors or even writing letters of recommendation to any lenders you’re applying for a loan with.
However, these extra services aren’t typically worth the higher charges. For example, a letter of recommendation from a repair company is unlikely to sway a lender. Plus, you can get your credit score for free elsewhere and you can write your own cease and desist letters with templates off the internet, too.
Can You Pay to Have Your Credit Repaired?
Unlike how the name suggests, you’re not able to just pay money for a good credit score. That’s because credit repair companies can only help to remove errors; they can’t remove information that’s damaging but correct.
For example, if you’ve made several late payments, defaulted, have a large credit card balance relative to your total credit limit or other common negative marks, and it’s accurate, there is nothing credit repair companies can do.
How Much Do Credit Repair Companies Charge?
Credit repair services generally charge in one of two ways, depending on the company. Some companies offer a pay-per-delete model where they charge for each error they’re able to remove from your credit report.
More commonly though, credit repair companies use a subscription-based model, which ranges from $50-$150 per month, depending on the specific package. You may also need to pay a startup fee (sometimes called a first-work fee), which can be the same price as a full-month subscription.
Most companies have ways to get you to stay signed up for several months. Some companies limit the number of deletes they’ll help you with each month, forcing you to stay signed up for longer if you have several errors. Other companies offer credit score updates, and because it can take a few months for your score to update, they advise you to stay signed up—all the while paying monthly fees—until you see the changes reflect on your credit report.
Either way, it’s an expensive route to go. If you need to pay a $100 first-work fee plus six months of credit repair services at $100 per month, you’re looking at spending $700 for something you could do on your own.
Watch Out for Scam Credit Repair Companies
One of the most unfortunate parts about credit repair companies is that there are a lot of scammers hidden among legitimate businesses. Here are some red flags to watch out for.
How to Repair Your Own Credit for Free
Believe it or not, you can repair your own credit for free, and you don’t need to pay anyone to do it. Follow these five steps to do so:
1. Request a free copy of your credit report from each of the three bureaus at AnnualCreditReport.com.
2. Review each page and highlight any errors you see.
3. Write a dispute letter to each credit bureau for each of the mistakes you see.
4. Wait for a response from the credit bureau about its decision.
5. Check your credit score in another month or two to see if it’s changed (not all errors will affect your credit score).
If you truly are confused about your credit situation, consider working with a nonprofit credit counselor who can help you get back on your feet for a reasonable price. The National Foundation for Credit Counseling is a great place to find a reputable credit counselor.