If your credit score isn’t as good as you want it to be, you’ve got some work ahead of you to repair it. Repairing credit can be a daunting task, but it’s essential for your financial stability and to help you achieve your future goals.
It’s important to get yourself back on the right track. It can take time and energy to repair your credit. And that’s where credit repair companies come in to play – they help you out and speed up the process, right? Well, maybe. But, maybe not.
Let’s dig in to credit repair companies and the results they tend to promise.
What do credit repair companies do?
Repairing credit takes time. That’s just the truth of it. Your credit score is a numerical representation of your financial history – it’s a score between 300 and 900 – and it tracks how responsible you are with money so lenders can decide whether or not they should lend money to you. If you have a history of poor money management, your credit score will be low. And if you have a low credit score, you’ll have a difficult time getting approved for loans, credit cards, and mortgages. Some landlords also check credit scores, preferring to rent to tenants with a good credit history. Everything will be easier with a higher credit score.
So, with credit scores being so important, it’s easy to see why people might want help repairing bad scores. Credit repair companies position themselves to do just that. For a fee – often about $50-$100 a month – credit repair companies will take on certain tasks related to your credit history, to try to fix any elements that can be fixed. They can pull your credit files from the credit bureaus, assess them, dispute any items or negative comments that seem incorrect, and negotiate with creditors on your behalf.
Here’s the thing, though, there’s very little a credit repair company can do to help you that you can’t do yourself. (More on that later).
How long do credit repair services take?
There is no quick fix, it takes time and responsible financial behaviour. Where credit repair services can help speed things up for you is through their knowledge of the system. They can identify items to dispute, know the process for communicating with creditors and the bureaus, and can provide advice to you on steps to correct your finances. You can do all of these things yourself, but it does take time to undertake the necessary work to improve your score.
The timeline for improving your credit score varies depending on your credit history and what elements can be disputed. While there is no definitive answer to how long credit repair takes, a typical timeline can range from a few months to a year, or more. Credit cycles are reported every 30 days, so consider credit repairs a month by month endeavour.
How do credit repair companies get items removed?
To repair your credit, you might need to get negative items removed from your credit report. This is certainly something credit repair companies can help with. Negative items are things like late payments, loan defaults, bankruptcies, and court judgements against you.
It’s important to note, however, that no matter what a credit repair company might claim, the only items you can have removed from your credit history are items that are factually inaccurate or which are unverifiable. Unverifiable items might be debt you owed to a company that has since closed – if there is no one available to verify your unpaid debt, that item could potentially get removed from your file. If there are negative items on your file that are true, though, you will not be able to have those items removed – no matter how much you might like to.
To have items removed, a credit repair company (or you by yourself) will need to file your dispute with the credit bureau where the item is recorded (Equifax or TransUnion or both). The bureaus are required to investigate your dispute, which can typically take 30 days or so. The bureau will reach out to the lender or creditor who provided the negative information in order to verify it. If they’re unable to verify the information, for whatever reason, that negative item might be removed from your file.
What are some tips to help you repair a credit score?
Whether you’re doing it yourself or you opt to use a credit repair company, these are the steps that can help you improve your credit score.
Analyze your credit report and correct errors
You can access your credit report for free from both Equifax and from TransUnion (where it’s called a Consumer Disclosure). Go through your report to find if there are any negative items that you believe to be inaccurate or that you otherwise want to challenge. If you find anything that looks off, you can notify the bureau and provide any evidence that will support your dispute.
Monitor your credit utilization
Your credit utilization is how much you have borrowed compared to how much you are allowed to borrow. If your credit card limit is $2000 and you owe $1000 on that card, you’re utilizing 50% of your credit. The credit utilization part of your credit score takes into account all credit cards and loans you have open and how much you are using, cumulatively. Try to keep your credit utilization under 30% to improve your credit score. Borrowing to the limit of your credit tells the bureaus you rely on borrowed money to get by, and they will mark your score down for that.
Pay back what you owe (consolidate if necessary)
Missing payments can harm your credit score, so you want to pay back what you owe, on time. This comes down to managing your finances. If you owe money on credit cards, you have loans, and have other ongoing expenses like rent and car lease payments, for example, you need to stay on top of these. Set aside enough money each month to cover what you owe and set reminders so you don’t miss payments. If your payments are becoming unmanageable, be sure to speak with whoever you owe about a payment plan, and consider consolidating your debt into one manageable loan, if that might help.
It takes time to rebuild your credit score. It doesn’t happen overnight, so you need to be patient. If you’re doing the right things and being responsible with your money, your score will improve.
Keep learning and do the right things
There are lots of ways to improve your credit score that don’t involve paying a credit repair company. Generally, these come down to your spending behaviour, but there are also credit cards and loans you can take out that are designed to help you build credit. KOHO has published a ton of articles about building your credit, like this one.
What should you look for when choosing a credit repair company?
Frankly, there are a limited number of things a credit repair company can do for you, and basically nothing they can do that you couldn’t do yourself. The real benefit they offer is that they take the admin out of your hands – so you need to weigh up if the cost they’re charging you outweighs your own time and effort. If you opt to use a credit repair company, look out for the following things.
You need to be aware of companies promising too much. There are, unfortunately, too many companies preying on people desperate to repair their credit quickly. When researching credit repair companies, make sure to read reviews online to see if others have been happy with their services. Check that what they’re offering is legitimate. If one company is offering something no one else is offering and it seems too good to be true, it probably is.
Shop around. Once you’ve identified companies you like the sound of, and that you’re confident are legitimate companies, compare their prices. Most will charge a monthly fee, and these will vary. Compare what you get from different companies and how long their contracts last.
Make sure their services are transparent and it’s very clear what they will be providing. Remember, no matter what a credit repair company might say, no one is able to remove negative items from your credit report if the items are legitimate. Be sure that the company you choose isn’t making outrageous claims.
The KOHO Credit Building Difference
One way to get started building your credit is with a credit building program, like the one offered by KOHO. KOHO’s credit builder is set up to help you build credit fast, easily. With a small line of credit, that’s interest free and has guaranteed approval, you just make small monthly payments and in as little as six months you can build your score.
Ultimately, we all want good credit. Improving your credit scores will have both short and long-term benefits. A credit repair company may be able to help you speed up the process – but it still takes time. Good spending behaviour and responsible money management are the best ways to attain and maintain a good credit score.
Sam Boyer spends, invests, budgets, and writes. He enjoys writing about things he wishes he’d learned earlier — like spending, investing, and budgeting. A journalist originally from New Zealand, Sam has written extensively about consumer affairs, insurance, travel, health, and crime.