How Much Does Credit Repair Cost?
If you want to repair your credit, you can try to do it yourself, use software, or hire a credit repair company. Each method has its pros and cons, along with costs ranging from zero to several hundred dollars.
Types of Credit Repair Costs
There are three basic strategies for repairing your credit. The type of repair route you take depends largely on how much time you have and how much money you're willing to invest.
DIY Credit Repair
It's possible to repair your credit entirely on your own using methods and documentation widely available on the internet. Best of all, DIY credit repair is totally free.
On the downside, repairing your credit on your own demands time, determination, and patience. If you're short any of these qualities, you might be better off going with another route.
To repair your credit on your own, you'll need to obtain a copy of your credit report, which you can do for free. In fact, federal law entitles you to one free copy of your report every 12 months from each of the three major credit bureaus.
Once you have your report, you should carefully review it for any mistakes or inaccuracies. If you spot any problems, you should dispute them, which you can do online or via mail.
Aside from the cost of postage, DIY credit repair is cost-free, making it the most affordable option for people who want to rebuild their credit and improve their score.
Credit Repair Software
Credit repair software is a middle ground approach for people who don't have the budget to pay a credit repair company but aren't totally comfortable handling the credit repair process on their own.
However, credit repair software isn't one-size-fits-all. Rather, there are dozens of software packages out there, each with its own features and functions.
Depending on what kind of software you purchase, the cost can run from less than $50 all the way up to $500 or more.
On the basic end, budget credit repair software gives you templates for dispute letters and other correspondence. More expensive credit repair software tends to come with dispute letters tailored to various scenarios, along with credit monitoring and even access to expert help.
Full-Service Credit Repair
If you prefer to leave your credit repair to the professionals, you can hire a credit repair company. This is the most expensive option for repairing your credit, but it's ideal for people who don't have the time or patience to try fixing their credit on their own.
Full-service credit repair companies charge a range of prices, however, you should plan on paying a few hundred dollars at a minimum. In most cases, credit repair companies charge an onboarding fee to get started and then a recurring monthly fee for as long as you use their services.
Initial setup fees vary, but a general range is somewhere between $50 and $100+ to start the credit repair process. From there, monthly charges can range from $50 to $150 or more.
Additionally, some credit repair companies charge a flat fee to repair your credit, while others bill you for every negative item they get removed on your behalf. The cost for a flat-fee service can span a wide range, but you should anticipate paying at least $100, with some flat-fee services costing as much as $500 or more.
If you're on the fence about costs and whether it's worth hiring a credit repair company, consider how many negative items are on your report. If there are two or three negative entries, you might be able to handle disputing these yourself.
However, if your credit report is littered with negative items, the dispute process will take longer and require a great deal of organization and dedication on your part. In this case, it might be easier and less frustrating to hire a pro.
4 Ways Credit Repair Can Improve Your Credit Score
Credit repair can help your credit score in a number of ways. Under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA), creditors and credit bureaus are required to remove items that are inaccurate, outdated, or entered twice on the same report.
The FDCPA also protects consumers by requiring creditors to verify any info they report to the credit bureaus. If a creditor can't verify a debt, the credit bureau and the creditor have an obligation to remove it.
Here are four items credit repair can fix:
Identity mixups - In some cases, creditors report data that belongs to someone with a name similar to yours. If your report contains an item that doesn't belong to you, the credit bureaus must delete it.
Inaccurate dates - Incorrect dates can hurt your credit score by depriving you of valuable credit history.
Outdated debts - Debts age off your report after a certain period of time. For example, credit bureaus must remove a bankruptcy after 10 years.
Items that can't be validated - If a creditor can't prove that a debt actually belongs to you, they're required by law to remove it.
According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), 1 in 5 consumers has an error on their credit report. In other words, about 20 percent of Americans have a mistake on their credit report that could be lowering their score.
By disputing items and getting them removed, you can raise your credit score. This can help you qualify for better interest rates on loans and credit cards, ultimately saving you money and opening the door to healthier finances.
FAQs on Credit Repair Cost
The following are some of the most commonly asked questions and answers about the cost of credit repair.
Is It Worth Paying Someone to Fix Your Credit?
Credit repair companies can't do anything for you that you can't do on your own. However, they may be able to accomplish faster results because they understand how the credit repair process works and they have a streamlined strategy for disputing negative items.
If your budget is tight, you could start by trying to handle disputes yourself. Then, if the DIY route doesn't work out, you can move on to professional credit repair.
Keep in mind that items on your credit report don't stay there forever. If you absolutely can't remove an item from your report, you can still improve your score by following the time-tested strategies for rebuilding credit.
How Can I Repair My Credit for Free?
If you want to repair your credit without incurring any costs, you'll need to take the DIY approach. While this can be a little intimidating at first, you can accomplish it by following three easy steps.
1. Get copies of your credit report and review your information
You can request your credit report by going to annualcreditreport.com. Once you have your reports, you should review all three, as they might contain different information.
As you review your reports, look for errors and keep track of every mistake no matter how insignificant it might seem. Even small items like a misspelling in your name can make a difference, as you can dispute these and possibly get them deleted.
2. Dispute errors or inaccuracies
If you identify any incorrect items in your credit report, dispute them. To do this, you'll need to gather documents that support your claim that an item is improperly reported.
For example, you might need to assemble bank account statements, insurance paperwork, a copy of your ID, or any other document that supports your position that the item is an error.
You can submit your dispute online or you can send a letter to the credit bureaus. If you choose to submit your dispute through the mail, you should include your dispute letter, all your documentation, and a copy of your credit report with the incorrect items highlighted.
It's also a good idea to send your letter via certified mail. That way, you can be certain the letter reached its destination.
3. Follow up with the credit bureaus
Federal law gives the credit bureaus 30 days from receipt of your dispute letter to investigate an error and respond to the consumer. If the credit bureau fails to respond within 30 days, it's required to delete the item from your credit report.
In other cases, the credit bureau lacks the documentation to prove that the item is accurate — something that can happen when a creditor sells a debt to a collection agency or other buyer. In these cases, the credit bureau must remove the item.
How Long Will It Take to Repair My Credit History?
The length of time required to repair your credit depends on a few things, including how many errors are on your report, your mix of credit types, and how much debt you carry. There are five factors that make up your credit score, and you may need to address all five before your score is in the place you want it to be.
There are things you can do to boost your credit score sooner rather than later. For example, you could open a new credit card to improve your credit utilization and boost your score within a matter of weeks.
In other cases, repairing your credit history takes several months and maybe a year or longer. For example, your payment history is the biggest factor in your credit score, and the only way to improve it is by consistently paying your bills on time month after month.
However, if you're diligent about following all the strategies for improving your credit score, you should see progress within a couple of months. This can be an excellent motivator for staying the course and continuing to make smart decisions about your finances.
You can repair your credit for free, but going the DIY route requires patience and organization. If you have a busy lifestyle, credit software or a credit repair company might be worthwhile as long as your budget can absorb the cost.
About the Author
Mike is a recognized credit expert and founder of Credit Takeoff. His credit advice has been featured in CNBC, Investopedia, CreditCards.com, Bankrate, Huffpost, The Simple Dollar, Reader's Digest, LendingTree, and Quickbooks. Read more.