It’s difficult for consumers to navigate today’s society with bad credit. From credit card issuers to landlords, companies often use your credit profile to decide whether or not to do business with you. And, if they choose to do business with you, it may come at an additional cost if you have bad credit.
If you have a troubled credit history, taking steps to raise your credit score and improve your credit history would be a smart personal finance move. For some, hiring a credit repair company may be a smart financial decision. Here's our ranking of the best credit repair companies, and what you need to know before you choose to use one.
Best credit repair companies of October 2020
- Credit Saint
- Ovation Credit Repair Services
- The Credit People
- Sky Blue Credit Repair
- Lexington Law
1. Credit Saint
Credit Saint earned our No. 1 ranking in no small part due to its reputation with consumers. Credit Saint has an A rating from the Better Business Bureau and no complaints registered with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
This isn’t surprising as Credit Saint offers a 90-day money-back guarantee and allows you to cancel at any time. It also offers three different levels of service to best solve your credit repair needs, and its guarantee ensures that at least some of the negative information on your credit report will be removed in your first three months of working with Credit Saint.
2. Ovation Credit Repair Services
Ovation Credit Repair Services also earned an A+ from the BBB and remains complaint-free with the CFPB as well. And although Ovation doesn’t offer a money-back guarantee like Credit Saint, it does allow you to cancel at any time and, if you are not happy with your service in any given month, you won’t be charged.
When you couple that with an Ovation plan that offers unlimited challenge validation letters, unlimited creditor goodwill letters, and TransUnion credit monitoring, this could be a good credit repair company for a lot of consumers.
3. The Credit People
The Credit People could be a great match for your credit repair needs if price point is one of your most critical deciding factors. Credit People scores high on affordability. You can choose between a flat-rate membership or a monthly membership that you can cancel any time. With the monthly membership you can get started for as little as $19.
The Credit People also offers customer support via email, phone, and chat, which is not something all credit repair companies feature.
4. Sky Blue Credit Repair
If your financial situation means you need some flexibility from your credit repair company, then Sky Blue Credit Repair could be the best fit for you. Sky Blue offers a 90-day guarantee that it will refund your money in full if you’re not satisfied with its service.
But you may be totally happy with Sky Blue and still need to take a break from its service, which is why they give you the ability to pause service, start back up whenever you’re ready, or even change your monthly due date.
5. Lexington Law
Lexington Law is one of the most well known names when it comes to credit repair and how to improve your credit score. They are also the only company on our list that provides its customers with mobile apps for both Android and iOS devices.
That means you can log into your Lexington Law online portal from a desktop, as with the other companies we’ve ranked in our top five, but you can also monitor your FICO score and check out your credit repair case progress from anywhere you are with your smartphone.
What is credit repair?
According to a 2013 study by the Federal Trade Commission, one in five consumers had an error on at least one of their three credit reports. Credit repair is the process of identifying these questionable, damaging items from your credit report that are weighing your credit score down and then working to change or remove them when possible.
The process is pretty much the same whether you do it yourself or hire an agency, but credit repair companies will typically move through the following steps:
- A free consultation: The first step usually entails a free consultation to evaluate your credit and discuss the company’s services, price of doing business, and potential results.
- Thorough credit report examination: Once you’ve hired them, the company will request a copy of your credit report from all three credit bureaus — Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion — and then review each one before creating a plan of action tailored to your specific situation.
- Dispute any errors and questionable items: The company will identify and dispute credit report errors and other questionable items on your report. Eligible items are typically hard inquiries that never should have been on your report or items that should have already fallen off.
If you think your credit score is suffering from negative items that don’t belong on your report, the credit repair process may be worth it, regardless if you tackle it yourself or hire a company to handle it.
How credit repair companies work
Credit repair companies will use a variety of strategies on your behalf. They work with the three credit reporting agencies to determine whether or not there are inaccuracies that should be removed from your credit report. This can include strategies such as disputing questionable negative items, negotiating with lenders, and utilizing credit repair loopholes to have negative items removed. So, for example, a company might dispute a late payment if you didn't actually pay late. Or they may negotiate with a credit card issuer to resolve any charge-offs listed on your credit file.
Depending on your situation, credit repair companies may be able to assist you in the following ways:
- Fix errors on your credit report
- Improve your credit score
- Negotiate with lenders to remove negative items from your credit report
- Stop collection calls by sending debt collectors cease-and-desist letters
- Challenge debts listed on your credit report by writing and sending debt validation letters
- Take advantage of credit repair loopholes to have negative items removed from your credit report including:
- Additional free credit reports: Per the Fair Credit Reporting Act, you’re allowed to obtain a free credit report from all three credit bureaus once every 12 months through AnnualCreditReport.com. However, if you apply for credit and get turned down, you’re entitled to no-cost reports to identify why you were denied. Lenders must tell you which credit bureau provided the information that led to the rejection, and those credit bureaus have to give you a free report.
- Non-action by creditors: The FCRA requires credit bureaus to process legitimate consumer complaints within 30 days, and this means verifying or removing questionable items. This can include things like incorrect dates, misspellings of creditors’ names, and dollar amounts that are slightly off. If creditors respond with the correct information, it’ll stay on your report; if they choose to ignore these inquiries from the credit bureaus, it can result in total removal of the negative information.
- Timing of a dispute: While credit bureaus don’t have to investigate every consumer dispute they deem “frivolous or irrelevant,” if a legitimate dispute is not verified it must be removed from your credit report. If you happen to catch a credit bureau at a busy time, it may result in a failure to validate the information within the required 30-day limit. If that happens, you may see the item removed entirely.
Credit repair can work, but it’s not an overnight fix, so it’s important to go into the credit repair process with a plan and realistic expectations. It would be great if simply hiring someone to make all of our problems go away worked, but this isn’t always the case.
Troubled credit history doesn’t necessarily mean there’s anything a professional can help with. It may just mean you need to brush up on some credit do’s and don’ts and focus on how to manage your money.
When credit repair makes sense
With enough time and know-how, yeah you can most likely tackle the credit repair process yourself. Just like a car, you’re free to do your own repairs, but sometimes it just makes more sense to step aside and let a professional take over.
Here are three reasons you may want to hire a credit repair company:
- If you can save a lot of money
- If you can save a fair amount of time
- If you can benefit from their expertise and experience
Having poor credit can cost you a lot of money. Credit card interest rates are usually higher, car insurance premiums can be more expensive, and even utility bills can be pricier if you have not-so-great credit. Paying a professional to help clean up your credit could be the difference between costing or saving tons of cash.
You’ll have to weigh the cost of hiring a credit repair company and how likely you’ll get results against what you could end up spending as a price for having bad credit.
The credit repair process is tedious, there’s no way around it. It takes a lot of time — often times months — to dispute credit report errors, make phone calls, and mail letters, over and over again. Simply put, not everyone has the time to see this process through — some may not even want to bother with it at all.
Credit repair companies do all of this work for you. While you may possibly miss something that could result in a missed opportunity, they know what they’re doing. They mail the right letters and craft the right responses.
Credit repair is a credit repair company’s business — all day, every day.
These companies can spot what is disputable and with teams of trained professionals, there’s a good chance they’ll catch the things you may have otherwise missed. If you don’t have any experience dealing with creditors, bureaus, and potential legal issues — or don’t want to figure it out on your own — a credit repair company can be a wise option.
How to find the best credit repair companies
Just like any service, it’s important to research any company you’re considering working with. Although credit repair scams do exist, the FTC’s implementation of the Credit Repair Organizations Act (CROA) has seen success in cracking down on shady practices by credit repair companies. To ensure you don’t fall victim to a credit repair scheme, do your research.
Here are nine things to look for choosing a credit repair company:
- Reviews and reputation
- Quality customer service
- Free consultations to see if you’re a fit
- Prices are reasonable
- Proven success
- Reasonable claims
- Timeframe for results
- Help you learn about your credit
- Offer credit monitoring services
Nowadays, checking reviews is common-practice and the same should go for finding a credit repair company. The first thing you should do when looking for a credit repair company is to check its reputation. A simple Google search of the company will be a good start to see what people are saying about the business. Aside from that, check with the Better Business Bureau (BBB), and look for any unresolved complaints or government actions against them.
You’re going to want to stay informed during the entire process, so dealing with an agency that will answer your questions and address your concerns in a timely fashion is important. You’ll probably be able to quickly spot if a credit repair company has poor customer service in their reviews. If they do, you’re probably better off continuing your search.
Any reputable company will provide a free consultation before starting to work on your behalf. Walk away from any company that insists on charging you to simply determine whether or not you’re a good fit for their services.
Paying for a service is one thing, being gauged for exorbitant fees and unrealistic prices is another. Reputable companies will usually offer both reasonable pricing for their services and a range of options to choose from so you can pick what works best for your situation.
No matter the business, there are going to be some who found nothing beneficial from their experience, but a reputable credit repair company should have a proven track record of success. If you’re finding that a significant amount of previous customers can attest to a company’s services, you should be on the right track.
Absurd, baseless claims should be an immediate red flag, such as guaranteeing everyone’s credit will be go up and by a specific amount of points. If, however, a company claims they’ve had success removing negative incorrect items from clients’ credit reports or raised their credit scores by reasonable amounts, that could very well be true.
The credit repair process isn’t an overnight fix, but you don’t want the entire credit repair process to drag on and on without seeing any results. Since many companies use a subscription-based service, you can cancel and walk away if aren’t getting anything out of it.
You might be paying for a service to help you clean up your credit, but this isn’t a permanent fix. Some companies may help educate you on how to keep your credit in the green so you don’t have to go through this process ever again. Even if they don't offer this help, make it a priority to educate yourself on how to build and maintain good credit.
Credit monitoring is something you should have regardless, as it helps you stay informed of any activity — especially fraud — taking place in your credit. Most credit cards provide free credit monitoring, but if you don’t already have it, it’s typically a service that many credit repair companies will provide.
How to avoid getting scammed
As much as we wish it weren’t true, scams exist; and the credit repair industry has had its fair share of them. Fortunately, the government has cracked down on shady practices with regulations around how credit repair companies can conduct themselves as a business.
Here are some red flags to look out for in a credit repair agency:
- Payment is demanded upfront without any work being done on your behalf. Under federal law (the CROA), credit repair agencies can’t request or receive payment until they’ve completed work for you.
- They promise results without knowing the specifics of your situation or your credit file.
- They can’t answer or avoid answering any of your questions about the process, including things like the specifics of their services or the total cost you’ll be paying.
- They withhold or feed you misinformation, especially regarding certain rights afforded to you. This can include your right to obtain a written contract detailing your arrangement, as well as the ability to cancel your contract with any company within three business days.
- They recommend you try to create a “new credit identity” or they tell you to falsify information on an application for new credit or new loans. Scammers often accomplish this through identity theft. For example, they steal the Social Security number from someone else and then sell it to you as a new identity.
- They try to come off as an official government program.
If you are interested in hiring a credit repair company, don't despair. There are plenty of legitimate credit repair companies out there, you just need to be aware of your legal rights and do a little homework before choosing who to work with.
DIY credit repair vs. using a credit repair company
Hiring a credit repair company can be a good idea for some people, but it’s not required in order to repair your own credit. You can do it on your own.
The following breakdown of some pros and cons of each method might help you decide which is best for you:
Using a credit repair company
|They send out cease-and-desist letters to get creditors off your back||You have to pay and it’s not always cheap|
|They do all the legwork||There’s a potential for being scammed|
|You have trained professionals working on your behalf who know the ins and outs of the credit repair process||You may not get the results you were hoping for, but still have to pay for the work they’ve done|
|The process may go faster|
DIY credit repair
|It doesn’t cost a penny||There’s a learning curve|
|There’s no chance of you being scammed||You’ll have to negotiate with lenders yourself|
|You’ll learn a lot of valuable lessons that will motivate you to keep your credit in check||It may take longer to see results|
|You may miss things a professional might not|
In determining our ranking of the best credit repair companies, we looked at popular companies and ranked them according to a series of weighted factors that we consider critical to the consumer. We did not evaluate all companies in the category.
FinanceBuzz ranking criteria include:
- BBB rating: To be on our list, a company must have a BBB rating. Companies were scored higher for having a better BBB rating.
- CFPB complaints: The number of complaints recorded with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau was taken into account. Companies with no or fewer complaints scored higher. Only companies with fewer than 10 complaints were evaluated.
- Money-back guarantee: Companies were scored higher for offering a guarantee.
- Cancellation policy: All companies listed offer a cancellation policy that allows the consumer to stop on any given month. If a company requires a contractual commitment beyond a month, it was not included on our list.
- Customer experience: Companies were scored higher if they have both online and mobile access, as well as a variety of ways for a customer to communicate with them.
FAQs about credit repair
How long will it take to repair my credit history?
Every credit situation is unique, so there's no simple answer to how long credit repair takes. It’s important to understand that there is no overnight solution to repair your credit.
Considering how time-consuming the entire process is, you may not see results for months — if you see results at all. Keep this in mind when deciding if it’s the best option for you.
How much does credit repair cost?
Prices will vary depending on the company, but for companies that use a subscription-based service, they’re generally between $75 and $150 per month beginning 30 days after starting the service.
Most credit repair companies will charge an initial review or setup fee as well, and this is oftentimes the same price as the monthly fee.
Is it worth it to hire a credit repair company?
Whether or not credit repair services are worth it depends on your situation and preference.
You may not have the time to stay on top of things or your time is too valuable to spend knee-deep in the credit repair process. On top of that, it takes some understanding of how to go about drafting your dispute letters. If you’d rather pay someone to do all of these things, then it may be worth it.
Is credit restoration the same as credit repair?
Yes. The terms credit restoration and credit repair are generally used interchangeably, with the ultimate goal of improving your credit score.
Can a credit repair company really help?
There are no guarantees that you’ll find paid credit repair to be beneficial, but that doesn’t mean it never works. If you work with a reputable company and there are legitimate issues with your credit that can be remedied, there’s a chance their expertise will prove beneficial.
Just remember that you too can learn what to look for and if you have the time, discipline, and patience to stay on top of the process, you can do it yourself at no cost.
How is credit repair different from credit counseling?
Credit counseling agencies are typically nonprofit organizations. They employ certified credit counselors who can help you with consumer credit, budgeting, and debt. These counselors can help you learn how to manage your money. If you need help with debt you can't handle, then they can also get you set up with a debt management plan. Credit counseling is considered an alternative to debt settlement or bankruptcy. You should spend time learning about the best credit counseling companies if you think this route is the right one for you.
Matt Miczulski also contributed to this piece.