Best Credit Repair Services 2019 - Rankings and Guide
A good credit repair service can help you improve your credit score. If you are being turned down for loans or credit cards and don't know why, then there's a strong chance you have a bad credit score and should do something about it. The best credit repair services will not only help you fix a bad credit report, but will provide comprehensive services that can help you understand exactly how to improve your credit score.
One of the best-known credit scores is called the FICO score. This is used by many lenders and ranges from 300 to 850. In broad terms if you have a score of over 700 then you are considered to have a good credit score. If you're below 670 then you may want to consider improving it using a credit repair service. Having a good or excellent credit score lets you to get better credit, with a lower APR and often more favorable terms. A bad credit score, on the other hand, can mean you lose out on renting accommodation or even getting a job, in some cases.
We researched and spoke to 12 credit repair services and compared services, pricing and client support, to narrow our list down to the 10 best credit repair services. Lexington Law comes top of our list of best credit repair companies. It has comprehensive tools and resources to help you understand your credit rating reports, reasonable prices and a client dashboard the lets you monitor the status of each item you’re disputing.
Though it costs more than other services, Lexington Law offers great educational resources and a mobile app to keep you informed during the dispute and credit repair processes.
Sky Blue Credit Repair
Sky Blue Credit Repair’s included features and awesome 90-day money-back guarantee make it an excellent value.
Verdict: CreditRepair.com keeps you up to date on your credit score, your dispute progress and overall credit profile using a variety of convenient tools.
Best Credit Repair Service Overall
Lexington Law is the best credit repair company because it not only disputes inaccuracies on your credit report, it offers comprehensive credit education resources to help you maintain healthy financial habits and a good credit score.
We valued financial and credit-specific educational resources higher in our comparison because understanding your credit score and credit report are important for raising your credit score and because they give insight into the process and what the service is actually doing for you. Lexington Law thoroughly details the credit repair process, your rights and what the company does to fix your credit. It also offers three tiers of service starting at $89.95 per month for its Concord Standard level. This tier covers the basics for effective credit repair, including dispute letters to the credit bureaus and communicating with creditors. The two other levels go up in increments of $20 per month and add useful features such as credit monitoring, assisting with credit inquiry removals and cease and desist letters. It pairs you with a dedicated paralegal who works on your case alongside the team and updates you on your progress every two weeks. The service also has an online portal and mobile app that allow you to check up on your disputes and see how the process is affecting your credit score in real time. Lexington Law isn’t the cheapest service we tested, as it charges a first-work fee equal to a monthly payment and a $14.99 fee to pull your credit report, but it does offer a discount if you and a friend or family member sign up at the same time.
Best Value Credit Repair Service
While it’s not the cheapest credit repair service we evaluated, Sky Blue Credit Repair offers an unconditional, 90-day guarantee that allows you to cancel your service and receive a full refund if you are dissatisfied during the first three months. If you cancel your service after that period, due to dissatisfaction with Sky Blue, the company doesn’t charge you the last month’s payment. These practices are notable among credit repair services, which rarely offer refunds. Sky Blue charges a little less at the beginning of service than other companies as well, as it doesn’t charge a fee to pull your credit report. It has one inclusive service plan, which includes up to 15 total disputes per 35 days. This means that five items are disputed for each of the three credit bureaus in any 35-day period. We like that Sky Blue does not require upgrades to access useful supplementary services like credit monitoring or identity theft protection. With it, you work with a team of agents instead of one dedicated point of contact, but you can check on your progress at any time using the online customer portal. You can also cancel your service through the online portal or pause for a month.
Best Credit Repair Company for Tracking Progress
CreditRepair.com offers the best methods to check up on your progress and keep track of your credit report and score.
In addition to communicating via phone or email, CreditRepair.com also has an online portal and iOS and Android mobile apps. They offer you a monthly online credit score analysis, monthly credit reports, they update your credit scores every 90 days and can send you customizable text alerts. You may not need all of these features, but the variety allows customers to find a convenient way to interact with the service. At $99.95, this service has a relatively high monthly fee, but it is somewhat offset by the all-inclusive nature of the service. Instead of offering multiple levels of service like other companies we evaluated, this company sticks to one that includes several perks from credit monitoring to identity theft insurance. CreditRepair.com also has a ton of supplementary educational materials to help you learn more about credit and managing your finances. We appreciated the included credit score analysis, which gives you a holistic look at how your financial habits affect your credit. Though CreditRepair.com is a good credit repair service overall, it doesn’t offer discounts for couples or family members often.
Best Credit Repair Customer Service
The Credit People has many of the same services as other credit repair services we reviewed with additional customer service-oriented touches. For one, The Credit People is one of the only companies we reviewed with a customer satisfaction guarantee.
The guarantee is effective for both month-to-month subscribers and those who enroll in the company’s six-month service. The flat-rate, six-month service is a unique feature of The Credit People. Most companies offer their services on a month-to-month basis, but The Credit People offer customers the option of paying one flat fee for a full six months of service, which costs $55 less than the month-to-month option for the same amount of time. During your enrollment in the service, you are not limited by monthly caps on how many disputes you can make to each credit bureau. A few areas where The Credit People fall short, however, include its relatively small couple’s discount, lack of identity theft protection and short supply of educational resources. These are understandable, as none are explicitly necessary to the service, but they are nice features that many credit repair services offer. Still, with its lower-than-average monthly rate, The Credit People offers good service.
Best Credit Repair Company for Couples
At $89 a month, My Credit Group has an average price, but its large couple’s discount makes it a good all-in-one credit repair option for two people.
My Credit Group assigns an individual case advisor to you at the beginning of your service who acts as your point of contact throughout your contract. They’ll pull your credit reports for free and sit down with you to create a custom action plan to remove any negative marks from your credit report. Like other credit repair services, MCG disputes inaccurate claims with the credit bureaus directly; however, they also negotiate with creditors. The flat service rate for MCG includes extras like credit monitoring, identity theft protection, debt settlement, pay for deletion agreements and new credit advising. The company’s website, however, isn’t as informative as other credit repair services we evaluated, specifically it doesn’t have as much educational information to help you learn about your credit and finances. Still, My Credit Group is worth considering, especially if you and your spouse plan to enroll together. Most credit repair services offer discounts for couples, but MCG’s discount is more than 30 percent of your total cost over six months by giving couples a 20 percent discount on monthly payments as well as 50 percent off the first work fee.
Why Trust Our Best Credit Repair Services Guide?
We’ve been reviewing credit repair services for seven years, monitoring industry trends and staying abreast of the latest regulations and technological improvements. We took into account the educational resources provided by each company because they offer insights into your credit score and how you can positively influence it. We can point you to useful resources on good credit practices as well as investing and money management, and we recommend services based, in part, on how they’re set up to represent and serve you. For example, most of the best credit repair companies offer individual case advisors in addition to a team of service agents.
How We Tested Credit Repair Companies
For this update, we contacted each of the services by phone, asking questions about their process and whether they offer dedicated paralegals versus a team of customer-service agents. We compared pricing, looking at monthly rates, costs for signing up and any discounts for couples. Since each person’s credit is unique, there’s no way for us to accurately gauge the success of each credit repair service in disputing potentially erroneous items.
We also checked out the educational offerings. Some of them had only FAQs pages, but the best offered detailed explanations on what exactly goes into your credit score, as well as videos and courses on improving your credit score.
How much does a credit repair service cost?
The price of a credit repair company charges varies depending on the plan and service that you are buying. All services will charge an initial setup cost and an ongoing monthly fee. For the basics, the services we reviewed charge $50 to $100 with an additional set up fee between $20 and $179. Most services also offer advanced credit repair plans where you can contest additional errors and have other credit monitoring features, and they cost between $20 and $40 more than the basic services.
How long does it take to repair a credit score?
It usually takes three to six months for a credit repair company to resolve your disputes. This varies depending on the complexity of your case because credit repair services usually have a max number of disputes they handle each month. If you have more disputes, it’s a good idea to send multiple disputes in the same letter and to investigate the number of disputes the credit repair service can file on your behalf each month. Some companies offer higher tiers of service that allow for more disputes per month and cost more money. In these cases, you must weigh the cost of a higher monthly fee against the cost of potentially employing the service for a longer contract. The credit bureaus have 30 days from the receipt of a dispute letter to respond, and in some cases, they may request further information from you. In accordance with the CROA, the credit repair company should give you an estimated timeline or completion date in your service agreement.
Accurate derogatory marks on your credit report can stay there for up to 10 years, depending on the type. Late payments, charge-offs, student loan delinquency or default, repossession and foreclosures can stay on your report for up to seven years. Chapter 7 bankruptcy remains on your report for up to a decade. Still, even with these marks on your report, you can work to raise your credit score by making on-time payments and lowering your utilization rate – two key factors that affect your credit score. Unfortunately, there is no quick and easy way to repair your credit; it takes some patience.
How to Choose a Credit Repair Service
According to a study conducted by the FTC, up to 5 percent of people have an error on at least one of their credit reports. If the errors are more extensive due to identity theft or debt collectors adding multiple entries, a credit repair service can dispute inaccurate information on your behalf. They also work with your creditors and the credit reporting agencies to remove inaccurate, redundant or unfair information from your credit reports. Hiring a credit repair company is an investment, so here are a few guidelines to help you find the best fit for your situation.
When choosing a credit repair service avoid companies that offer you a guarantee to fix your credit report. Credit history is usually very personal, and unique – so this guarantee can not always be achieved. It is an early signal that the credit repair service is actually a scam.
Avoid companies with high upfront costs
Credit repair services that have a high upfront cost are best avoided. The high cost could be an indication that they are a scam. Credit repair services should only charge you for the work they have performed.
Know your rights
A reputable credit control service will inform you of your rights. The Credit Repair Organizations Act (CROA), an act that governs what credit repair services can and can’t do, states clearly, “No credit repair organization may charge or receive any money or other valuable consideration for the performance of any service which the credit repair organization has agreed to perform for any consumer before such service is fully performed.” This means companies shouldn’t ask for payment before any work is completed. The CROA also requires that credit repair services include “the terms and conditions of payment, including the total amount of all payments to be made by the consumer to the credit repair organization or to any other person” in the initial contract to protect you against surprise fees and expenses.
Only use a service that informs you of these rights.
The best credit repair companies offer a wealth of educational resources to help customers learn about credit, credit scores, credit reporting and credit laws. It’s extremely helpful to have all the answers you need compiled in one place, especially if you have little to no knowledge about credit. It will also save you a lot of research. We preferred services that offer a variety of educational resources, as different people learn in different ways. For example, Lexington Law offers email subscriptions, eBooks, videos, articles and other educational mediums.
Beyond online resources, your point of contact should also educate you on your rights according to the CROA. Under the law, the credit repair company is required to disclose the Consumer Credit File Rights Under State and Federal Law, which briefly explains your rights, though we recommend looking over the CROA in its entirety before hiring a credit repair company.
Use Credit Monitoring
Credit monitoring will allow you to see how the changes affect your overall report and credit score over time. Know how your credit report is changing is an important step in your journey toward better credit. Most accurate derogatory marks stay on your credit report for seven to 10 years, but with corrective behaviors, after a year or two the marks have less impact on your report. Most of the credit repair companies we recommend, including Lexington Law and CreditRepair.com, provide credit monitoring with their services. But if you choose a company that doesn’t offer credit monitoring or if you try to fix your credit report DIY-style, check out our list of the best credit monitoring services.
In our evaluations, we found most credit repair companies either assign a specific individual to work your case or divvy the work up between a team of people. We preferred companies that assign an individual case advisor, as it lets that person become more familiar with your case and establishes a single point of contact if you have questions or want to check on your progress. Companies that route your queries through a team of customer service agents work fine, but aren’t as convenient. A personal case advisor is also generally better for customer comfort, as talking about sensitive personal information is uncomfortable, and trust is important.
We thoroughly researched and vetted all 10 of our featured credit repair services, but if you’re shopping for a service beyond our recommendations, there are a few things you should keep in mind. First, know your rights. As mentioned above, the CROA mandates that credit repair services inform you of your rights prior to making any contract or agreement. You don’t want to get involved with a company that doesn’t tell you that you can dispute inaccurate claims on your credit report on your own for free and that you can exit a contract with a credit repair company within three days for any reason. Sometimes a company may ask you to sign a form waiving these rights as a way to discourage you from exercising them, but that practice is illegal and doesn’t override your rights.
Common signs of a credit repair scam include high upfront costs, no explanation of your legal rights, too-good-to-be-true guarantees and encouragement to lie about your credit history, credit-worthiness or identity. All of this is illegal and can create even more trouble than you started with. For example, some credit repair scams claim to procure a new credit identity for you, giving you a nine-digit number to use in place of your social security number. This is always fraud and is often identity theft. Another common tactic for credit repair scams is to dispute all derogatory marks on your credit report, regardless of accuracy. If a credit repair service is acting illegally, file a complaint with your state Attorney General and the FTC.
DIY Credit Repair
If you have many inaccurate lines on your credit report to properly fix yourself, you’re too busy to handle the process or you just want to make sure everything is done correctly, it's a good idea to hire a credit repair service. Professionals who know the ins and outs of the process can make the experience less stressful and more effective. There are many situations, however, in which hiring a professional service isn’t the best course of action. For example, if you have one or two inaccuracies and a bit of spare time, you can dispute these lines on your credit reports yourself.
The first step in repairing your own credit is to request your credit reports from all three major credit reporting bureaus: Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. You can get these reports for free once every 12 months from annualcreditreport.com, or you can get your credit reports for free within 60 days from a company that has denied your application for credit or in other specific circumstances. Once you've obtained the credit reports, examine each report and note anything that seems wrong. Remember that the three credit reports may not be the same and could have different errors. If you find an inaccuracy you wish to dispute, collect any information that supports your claim, and include copies of the documents with your dispute claim. You can use this sample letter to notify the credit bureaus in writing that specific items on your credit reports are inaccurate, why they are inaccurate and that you would like the items removed. Send your dispute through Certified Mail, and request a Return Receipt. The credit bureau must investigate your claims within 30 days and notify you in writing of the results of your dispute.
Understanding Your FICO Score
Although credit repair can make a huge difference in your credit score by correcting inaccurate derogatory marks on your credit report, there are several other things you can do to improve your credit. The first step you should take is to learn how credit scores work. Lenders usually use FICO scores to judge your creditworthiness. Your FICO score is calculated based on five components: payment history, number of credit inquiries, credit mix, credit utilization and credit account history.
Because there are three credit reporting bureaus and each bureau may have different information, it is possible to have multiple credit scores. According to Nancy E. Bistritz-Balkan, vice president of communications and consumer education at Equifax (one of the three credit bureaus), each company uses slightly different metrics. “Consumers frequently ask why their credit scores are different,” she explained in an interview. “Not all lenders, financial companies and credit card companies report their information to all three major nationwide credit bureaus. They may report to one, two, all three, or none at all. In addition, each credit bureau has its own credit scoring model, and each lender has typically had its own lending criteria... In addition, lenders, financial companies, and credit companies report account information at different times, which can also impact credit scores.” Even with these differences, however, “The factor that can most significantly impact a consumer’s credit score is payment history,” she told us.
Payment history makes up 35 percent of your FICO score, so one of the best things you can do to repair your credit is to make consistent, on-time payments. One way to make sure you pay on time each month is to schedule automatic payments, which are easy to set up for most credit accounts. Even a year of consistently on-time payments can do wonders for your creditworthiness to lenders. “A derogatory mark doesn’t mean someone’s credit history stops,” Bistritz-Balkan said, emphasizing the importance of practicing good credit behavior even if you end up with some negative items on your credit report. “Remember: When lenders, financial companies or credit companies check someone’s credit history, they want to see a good track record of making timely payments."
Your credit utilization is both the amount of money you owe and the ratio of your debt to your available credit. This makes up 30 percent of your credit score. For example, if your limit on a credit card is $1,000, putting $300 on the card puts your utilization at 30 percent. There isn’t a hard-and-fast rule for how much credit you should be using to maximize your score, but generally, keeping your balances lower is better, as creditors consider regularly maxing out your card or carrying debt close to your credit limit to be irresponsible credit behaviors. Paying off debts and using credit cards less frequently are great ways to start getting your credit utilization percentages in order.
The total length of your credit history makes up 15 percent of your FICO score. A longer credit history makes it easier for lenders to gauge your long-term financial behaviors and, therefore, results in a higher score. Someone who just opened their first credit account would lose points for this, though it is still possible to have a good credit score with a relatively short credit history. You can use this information to improve your credit by holding on to your oldest credit accounts.
Credit Inquiries and Credit Mix
Your credit mix and your credit inquiries or new credit make up the remaining 20 percent of your FICO score. Credit mix is the different types of credit you use, including credit cards and loans. Having a good mix tends to be better for your credit score than having a bunch of credit cards, for example. But if you have only one or the other, it’s not a huge deal. New credit and credit inquiries are the number of credit lines you’ve opened or applied for within the past year. Hard inquiries to your credit hurt your credit score, so you should apply for new lines of credit only when you need them.
Types of Derogatory Marks
Credit reporting errors can occur at any step of the information transfer process, from your initial application for credit to the information provided by credit reporting bureaus. Many happen because of human error, typos or misreading or misinterpreting information. In some cases, errors on your credit report stem from more malignant activity, like identity theft. However they might originate, errors on your credit report, particularly erroneous derogatory marks, affect your credit. A derogatory mark is an item on your credit report that negatively affects your credit score. Here’s a brief overview of the most common derogatory marks.
A late payment can cause a minor ding to your credit, but the longer it takes you to make the payment, the worse it is for your credit score. To mitigate this, set up automatic payments on your credit accounts or, if you forget a payment, make it up as soon as possible. A mark for late payment stays on your credit report for seven years.
Sometimes lenders may charge off your account, which means they’ve given up on directly collecting the owed amount. In many of these instances, the lender then sells the debt to a third-party company, which tries to collect on the debt. A charged-off account stays on your credit report for seven years.
Bankruptcy is a legal procedure by which a person is relieved of certain debt obligations. Bankruptcy is a severe derogatory mark and can stay on your credit report for seven to 10 years, depending on what type of bankruptcy you file for.
Any legal judgments requiring you to pay a debt or damages can appear on your credit report for seven years. If it remains unpaid, it could stay longer, as local laws in some areas allow the debt clock to reset on unpaid judgments.
If a borrower has stopped making payments, a lender may attempt to recover losses by selling the collateral used for the loan. This often happens with severely late payments on mortgages. A foreclosure can stay on your credit report for seven years.
How much does a tax lien hurt your credit score?
Tax season is stressful enough without a big tax bill wrecking your credit. If you suspect that you owe the IRS for unpaid income tax and can’t pay it by April 15, you have options. File your taxes on time, as any late fees or penalties only add to the bill, and pay what you can. Then, work with the IRS to come up with a payment plan for the remaining debt. Payment deadline extensions, delayed collections or installment payment plans are all viable options. They aren’t ideal, as they do come with fees, penalties, interest and strict rules. However, these options prevent the IRS from hitting you with a tax lien.
A tax lien is when the IRS puts a legal claim on your property to compensate for tax debt. Until April 2018, tax liens were reported as derogatory marks on your credit report. However, this practice changed when the three major credit bureaus agreed to stop reporting this information. Not paying your taxes, therefore, does not directly affect your credit score. Your tax bill may still affect your credit in other ways, however. For example, if you pay your tax bill with a credit card or take out a personal loan to pay the bill and you subsequently fall behind on those payments, it will hurt your credit and may result in higher interest rates and penalties than an installment plan with the IRS. Because the IRS is a government agency, a tax lien from the IRS supersedes other debt and will, therefore, affect your credit.
Credit counseling is different from credit repair, although some credit repair companies offer credit counseling. Credit counseling is usually a free service offered by a nonprofit organization. Its goal is to help you manage your finances and debt. It’s important to note that some organizations do charge a small fee or charge for further services or resources.
While credit repair looks specifically into removing inaccurate, negative items from your credit report, credit counseling is more holistic. A credit counselor may suggest credit repair as a tool to help your finances overall, but also will likely provide advice on budgeting. A credit counselor may also suggest a debt management plan, which is a schedule for paying off your debts. It should address both current concerns and give you next steps to build toward. Credit counseling from a government-approved organization is mandatory prior to filing for bankruptcy.
It’s not a service reserved for those in dire straits. Many people could benefit from professional financial advice when they first start to build credit or after a large financial change. To find a credit counselor, the most important thing to look for is accreditation by the National Foundation for Credit Counseling. Make sure your initial credit counseling sessions are free. Many credit counselors are available both in person or over the phone.
Do Credit Applications Affect Your Credit?
New credit and credit-seeking behaviors make up 10 percent of your credit score, so applying for a new credit card, an increase on your credit line, or anything that causes a hard credit inquiry can affect your credit score for up to 12 months. Applying for multiple lines of credit in a short period of time is a red flag to creditors, but one or two instances of new credit in a year is unlikely to affect your credit. If you’re building up your credit for a large purchase like a house, however, it’s best to play it safe and avoid credit-seeking behaviors.
If you don’t have a credit history, opening up a credit account is one way to build your credit, though it’s not advisable to apply for multiple credit cards. Start building credit by becoming an authorized user on a credit line belonging to someone you trust, like a parent.
Because credit utilization makes up 30 percent of your total credit score, opening new credit accounts or increasing your credit limits can positively affect your credit, especially after the new credit application stops affecting your score. This method requires increasing your overall credit but not using any of the additional credit, thereby decreasing your credit utilization without changing the amount you actually use.
Contributing Reviewer: Rebecca Armstrong