Identity Theft

How Does Credit Repair Work? How Long It Takes, How Much It Costs, & More

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Credit scores on computer screen (Caption: How To Repair Your Credit)It’s essential to have good credit if you want to be able to take out a loan or open a new utility account.

Your credit can go wrong for various reasons, from late payments to identity theft and lots of stuff in between. No matter how your record was blemished, it’s likely you want to fix it.

Credit repair can be confusing, so it’s good to know your options and how to get your credit back on track.

Article Overview

How Do I Repair My Credit?

Repairing your credit is simple in theory: figure out what looks bad on your credit report and fix it fast. In practice, it’s a little more complicated. Here are four tips to get you started.

1. Get Copies Of Your Credit Report

Person online with credit card in handThere are three credit bureaus: Equifax, Experian, and Transunion. You can get a free copy of your credit report from each bureau every year. You can get the reports from each bureau’s website or at AnnualCreditReport.com. You need to look at each one because they may differ. Make sure to get your credit score too. This score helps creditors determine if they’ll approve you for credit.

2. Look For Errors And Dispute Them

If your credit report has negative marks, like accounts in collections or late payments, and you know it’s not correct, start a dispute online at the bureau’s website. You can’t complete all disputes online, so you’ll need to follow the bureau’s instructions for mailing in the information. Once you get the dispute started, it’ll be the credit bureau’s responsibility to investigate.

3. Increase Existing Credit And Open A New Account

Hands holding money and watchAnother factor that can increase your credit score is your credit utilization or the ratio of credit you are using to your available credit. Asking your creditors to expand your existing credit amount or opening a new account instantly increases your available credit.

As long as you don’t use it, your credit report will show lower credit utilization and improve your credit score. To maintain a good score, you should keep utilization under 30%. However, a goal of less than 10% is optimal when you’re aiming for an excellent credit score.

If you’re unable to expand your existing credit, you still have options. You can pay down your current lines of credit. Pay down higher interest cards and newer cards first to increase the average length of credit. If your spouse can add you as an authorized user to their cards, and those have a low balance with good payment history, that can also increase your credit score.

4. Keep Balances Low And Make Payments On Time

There aren’t just bad things on your credit report. Keeping a low balance on your credit lines and making payments on time shows up in your credit report too, and works to improve your score.

Credit monitoring services can help keep an eye on your credit when you aren’t paying attention. Our experts review the best credit monitoring service to help you decide if this service is right for you.

How Long Will It Take To Fix My Credit?

Generally speaking, credit repair takes 3 to 6 months, depending on how many items you need to dispute and how long it takes for you to deal with each credit bureau. That time frame can be shorter or longer.

How Much Will It Cost To Repair My Credit?

You have free options to repair your credit, but they may be too time-consuming for some people. The Federal Trade Commission Consumer Information division offers free credit repair advice on its website (PDF). You can find lots of tips and information to help you repair your credit on your own.

Your other option is to work with a credit repair company. These companies offer to work on repairing your credit for you for a fee and charge either a one-time flat-fee or a fee for each item they dispute on your credit report. The cost ends up being somewhere in the $50 to $800 range.

Be sure to check with the Better Business Bureau before you work with a credit repair company. You’ll want to work with a credible company that has a good BBB rating. Whenever your personal information is involved, you can’t be too careful.

7 More Options To Repair Your Credit

Your Score bookYou have many options if you aren’t sure you can handle repairing your credit on your own. These range from DIY information to having the work done for you. The cost is variable, from books for less than $20 to services that can cost several hundred dollars or more.

  1. Identity theft protection software: If you have an active identity theft protection account with LifeLock or another reputable provider, they are often available to help as part of the service you are already paying for. Be sure to check this option first, if applicable.
  2. Credit repair books: There are many books on the market to help you learn about credit repair. Some options, like the Credit Repair Kit For Dummies or Your Score, are how-to books with detailed instructions, while others, like Your Score, help you gain a better understanding of credit and fixing it.
  3. Credit repair classes: If you learn better in a classroom setting, you may want to enroll in a credit repair class. These classes are available online or in-person and usually are informative to teach you what to do, but they don’t do the work for you.
  4. Credit repair programs: Credit repair programs allow you to pay someone to do the work for you. You enroll in the program, and they guide you step-by-step or even take care of the leg work.
  5. Credit repair software: This type of computer software helps you easily dispute negative items on your report and guide you on improving your credit.
  6. Credit repair apps: These apps provide a range of options. Some give you advice and tips to improve and maintain your credit, while others work with you and on your behalf to actively repair your credit.
  7. Credit repair lawyers: Some lawyers specialize in credit repair and can work to remove negative items from your credit report sooner than you expect. They will do a lot of the work for you, but it’s one of the more expensive options.

Credit Repair And Your Credit Score

This three-minute video from Mashable explains what a good credit score looks like and what factors play a role in getting that score.

Protect Your Credit By Protecting Your Identity

Unfortunately, not everything you may need to dispute on your credit report is your fault. If someone gets ahold of your personal information, they can use it to steal your identity and ruin your credit. You can help prevent a credit repair situation by protecting your identity. Our experts have put together a comprehensive guide to protecting your identity to ensure you have the tools to keep your identity safe.

Julie Fritz

Julie has been writing professionally since 2012. She is an active volunteer for a local arm of Everytown for Gun Safety, the largest gun violence prevention organization in the country. Everytown does comprehensive research on gun violence and makes recommendations on how we can all make our communities safer. Her involvement with this organization has given her invaluable information about how to keep our kids safe. She enjoys writing not only about gun safety, but from family-related content to informative articles about technology, events and healthcare. In her free time, you might find her hiking, trail running, biking or swimming. You might also find her in the kitchen where she loves to cook and bake.

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