Does Credit Repair Really Work? — 2018 Expert Opinion

Does Credit Repair Really Work? — [current_year] Expert Opinion
GUIDE

Advertiser Disclosure

Brittney Mayer
By: Brittney Mayer
Posted: April 3, 2018
BadCredit.org's popular "How-To" series is for those who seek to improve, rebuild or better understand their subprime credit rating.

Although few of us really enjoy commercials interrupting our preferred programming, many of us are still remarkably willing to enjoy a product advertisement when it’s the star of the show — hence, the infomercial. Perhaps it’s the mystery of it all, since, more often than not, we’re left pondering the product and trying to decide, “Does it really work?!”

Like the mop that promises to clean anything, credit repair can often seem as though it couldn’t possibly be the credit report magic eraser it’s often advertised to be. But hearing the stories, reading the reviews, and paging through forum posts can show mixed results, leaving you with that same basic question: “Does credit repair really work?!”

Disputable Items | Top Companies | How It Works

Yes, So Long as Your Items Qualify for Dispute

All in all, the answer to the question of whether credit repair works is very much a typical, “Yes, but…” Yes, credit repair can work to remove certain negative items from your credit reports. But it doesn’t work for every type of item — and it definitely isn’t an instantaneous, magic credit score booster.

Essentially, credit repair is the process of disputing items on your credit report that are an unfair or inaccurate representation of your financial history. The ability to file credit report disputes is provided to help you ensure your credit report isn’t full of false data that can be used against you in lending decisions.

If you identify information in your file that is incomplete or inaccurate, and report it to the consumer reporting agency, the agency must investigate unless your dispute is frivolous. — FTC

What credit repair is not is an easy way to remove fairly earned derogatory credit report marks or a way to dispose of legitimate debts. Not only are these disputes very likely to be rejected, but the credit bureaus do not even need to investigate disputes that are considered to be frivolous.

The Items Most Likely to Be Successfully Disputed

The best way to have credit repair success is to know what to expect from the process before you get started. If you go into it with an inflated sense of what you’ll accomplish, you’ll obviously be disappointed in the end. Realistic expectations can go a long way in credit repair (and finance in general).

So, it comes down to knowing which items on your credit report actually meet the qualifications for a successful dispute.

Since the process is designed to ensure your reports are accurate, the types of items that can typically be removed through credit repair are those that are, well, inaccurate in some way. This includes items that are erroneous, fraudulent, outdated, or unsubstantiated.

  • Erroneous Items: The easiest type of item to dispute is one that is just flat-out erroneous. This covers basic errors, like spelling mistakes or misreported amounts, that can cause confusion or credit problems. For example, if that decimal point is in the wrong place, it may look like you have far more debt than you should. In many cases, simple mistakes take little effort for the credit bureau to investigate and can be fixed in a fairly short amount of time.
  • Outdated Items: Another type of disputable item that’s generally easy to fix are items that are outdated. Most negative items can only remain on your credit report for a set amount of time before they need to be removed. Hard credit inquiries, for instance, last up to two years, while delinquent payments can last up to seven. Once these items hit their max age, however, they should be removed from your report automatically or you can file a dispute to have them removed.
  • Fraudulent Items: If you’ve ever been the victim of identity theft, you could wind up with fraudulent accounts on your credit reports. While these accounts may seem legitimate at first, further investigation can often unveil their sinister origins. In addition to filing disputes to have fraudulent accounts removed from your reports, be sure to report any cases of identity theft right away.
  • Unsubstantiated Items: The last of the frequently disputed items are those accounts on your reports that cannot be substantiated by the information providers. If they are unable to show that the debt or derogatory mark really belongs to you, the credit bureaus will remove the item.

When considering credit repair, be sure to check all three of your credit reports. Credit bureaus rely on third parties to report your financial behavior, so not every item is reported to all three consumer credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion).

As a result, one or two of your credit reports could house disputable items that don’t show up on the other reports. Since you can’t predict which credit report(s) a creditor will use to determine your credit risk, all three of your reports should be in good condition to prevent missing out on credit in the future.

The Top Credit Repair Companies

As with many things in life, credit repair is a process that you can do yourself — or you can hire a professional. The route you take will depend mostly on you (and your credit reports). If your credit report disputes are simple and straightforward, such as a spelling error or outdated item, then filing yourself may be fast and easy.

If your disputes are more involved, however, it may be less stressful to hire an experienced credit repair company to act on your behalf. This can be particularly true in cases where you need to present significant evidence to back up your dispute. Some of our top-rated credit repair companies have decades of experience helping consumers remove items from their credit reports.

  • Free consultation: 1-855-200-2394
  • Most results of any credit repair law firm
  • Clients saw over 9 million negative items removed from their credit reports in 2016
  • More than 500,000 credit repair clients helped since 2004
  • Cancel anytime
  • Click here for sign-up form, terms, and details.
★★★★★

4.9

Overall Rating

Better Business Bureau In Business Since Monthly Cost Reputation Score
A+ 2004 $79.95 10/10
  • Free consultation: 1-855-200-2393
  • Average 40-point increase in Transunion credit score during first four months
  • Free access to your credit report summary
  • Three-step plan for checking, challenging and changing your credit report
  • Online tools to help clients track results
  • Click here for sign-up form, terms, and details.
★★★★★

4.5

Overall Rating

Better Business Bureau In Business Since Monthly Cost Reputation Score
A+ 1997 $99 9.5/10

+See More Credit Repair Companies

Most credit repair companies will operate under a monthly fee, which is charged for each month that they work on your behalf. Credit repair is rarely a quick process, so be prepared to pay for the service for at least a few months if you go that route. Complicated credit repair cases involving multiple disputes may take six months or more to see results.

One thing to note is that credit repair companies cannot legally guarantee positive results (at least, not in so many words). If a credit repair company promises that you will see a specific number of items removed from your reports, you may want to do more research into the company’s reputation — or simply go with another choice.

How the Credit Repair Process Works

Disputing inaccurate items on your credit report is a legal right granted to you by the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), which protects your right to fair and accurate credit reports.

While disputes once needed to be submitted in writing through the mail, even the credit bureaus have modernized to the point where you can file most disputes online through the bureau’s website. On the surface, credit repair sounds like a very simple process. And it can be. “But…” The complexity of the process tends to vary with the nature of your disputes.

To start, a separate dispute will need to be filed for each item and for each credit report. This means you’ll need three individual disputes to remove a single item that appears on all three reports, which will need to be done by writing letters to each bureau or visiting each bureau’s website.

Screenshot of Experian Online DIspute

You can file online disputes with all three credit bureaus through their individual websites.

When you submit your dispute, you must be sure to include as many supporting and/or evidentiary documents as you can. Always submit copies with your dispute, never submit your original documents.

You’ll also want to keep a copy of your dispute and any correspondence related to it — just in case a problem arises.

Once a dispute is received by the bureau, it has 30 days to investigate the item in question and respond to your dispute. Part of this requirement is that the agency must forward your dispute and any information you provide to the party that provided the information.

The information provider must then investigate the item in question, reviewing all relevant information and reporting the results to the credit bureau. If the information furnisher finds the item to be inaccurate, it is required to notify all three credit bureaus and request that the item be removed from all of your credit reports.

After the investigation, the bureau is required to inform you of the results in writing, along with a copy of your report if items were altered. You can also request the reporting company to send notices of these corrections to anyone who has received your credit report in the past six months.

Fix the Root of Your Credit Problems for Lasting Success

While the late-night infomercial may be as much about the advertising as the “amazing” products it features, it certainly doesn’t diminish the sense of mystery that comes from wondering if that little gadget really is the miracle they make it out to be. But even seemingly harmless infomercials can turn heartbreaking for those who truly need whatever gadget they’re hawking to actually work.

For many consumers, credit repair can at first seem like an easy way to clean away the credit damage holding down their credit scores. Unfortunately, credit repair is one product that doesn’t “do it all” — regardless of how it’s sometimes advertised.

While that’s not to say credit repair doesn’t work — it does, provided your disputed items meet the requirements — but it certainly isn’t a cure-all. The best way to ensure lasting credit success is to address the problems that caused you to seek out credit repair in the first place.

If you’re prone to late payments, set up autopay to make sure you’re never delinquent again. If you carry a lot of credit card debt, transfer or consolidate to ease the repayment process. If you’re in over your head and don’t know what to do, contact a credit counselor or another financial adviser who can help you make a plan.