How to compare credit repair services

Many credit repair organizations offer seemingly similar services, and it can be difficult to figure out which ones to trust. Here are a few criteria you may want to compare:

  • History: Has the company stood the test of time and offered the service for years? While new companies could wind up doing a good job, you might want to stick with a company that has a solid reputation.
  • Price: Many credit repair companies charge an initial work fee plus a monthly subscription or a fee each time a negative item is removed from your credit report. Price can be important, but sometimes you get what you pay for. For example, a company that charges a low monthly fee might feel pressured to keep you enrolled in it’s program for a long time.
  • Guarantees: Credit repair companies shouldn’t guarantee results—that’s against the law. But some offer a money-back guarantee if you’re not satisfied or if you don’t see results.
  • Services: Many credit repair companies offer several tiers or programs, with extra benefits the more you pay. Find out what’s included with each level of service when you’re comparing prices.
  • Reviews: Look for reviews and comparisons of companies (like you’re doing now). You can also look for their ratings with the Better Business Bureau (BBB), TrustPilot, and other less-industry-focused review sites.

Paying for credit repair vs. DIY: Which is better?

If you’ve looked into credit repair before, you’ve likely read how credit repair companies can’t do anything that you can’t do on your own. That’s true—you can file disputes for free. However, to be effective, you may need to understand how credit reporting works and your rights as a consumer.

Many people are successful with the DIY route, and many credit repair companies were founded by people who learned about credit repair through trial and error. Some credit repair companies even offer free or low-cost DIY guides to customers.

A good analogy may be preparing and filing your taxes. If you know the rules and have a simple situation, you may be better off filing on your own than paying a tax preparer. However, preparers can use their understanding of your particular situation and the laws to help you save money. It’s not just knowing the answers, you have to know which questions to ask.

If someone fraudulently opened an account in your name and never paid the bill, you may be able to file a police report and dispute the account on your own. But if there’s a five-year-old collection account on your credit report and you can’t figure out why, a credit repair company may be able to help.

Good credit repair companies also have employees who can quickly spot negative marks, look for potential errors, and ask you follow-up questions to determine which negative marks can be disputed.

For example, they may know that a particular collection agency doesn’t keep detailed records. Based on this, rather than disputing the account, they could decide that the best course of action is to send a letter to the agency asking it to verify the details of the account and it’s right to collect the debt. If the agency doesn’t or can’t do this, it may need to stop reporting the collection account to the credit bureaus.

A trained professional will also know what not to do, which can be just as important. A novice or fly-by-night credit repair option might dispute everything on your credit report and hope something comes off. This could be fraud—disputing an item you know is accurate—and may wind up hurting your credit.

Part of credit repair is establishing new accounts and using them responsibly, but disputing those accounts or related hard inquiries could lead creditors to close your account. After all, if you’re disputing an account and saying it’s not yours, then the creditor probably should close the account.

An overview of the top credit repair companies

To help you identify trustworthy credit repair companies and help you improve your credit, we've thoroughly researched the credit repair industry to find some of the more reputable companies.

With our top-ranked credit repair services, you could get:

  • Easy-to-read credit reports and personalized scores improvement insights
  • Tools and tips to help you understand your scores and action plans for how you’re going to fix your credit together
  • Free credit monitoring that can help you spot potential identity theft before it occurs
  • Free consultation with credit experts
  • Great customer service and frequent updates on your progress
  • Educational resources to help you with your overall financial situation

Here are some of the highlights of each of our top picks:

Best overall credit repair company: Credit Saint

Credit Saint is our top choice for the best overall credit repair service. It’s been in business since 2004, earns top marks from past customers, and has an A+ rating from the BBB.

You can start with a free phone consultation with one of the company’s credit consultations. If it seems like a good fit, there are three plans (ranging from $79.99 to $119.99 a month after a $99 to $195 initial work fee) you can choose from depending on your needs. The lowest tier can help you remove up to five inaccurately reported items, the middle tier is up to 10, and the top comes with unlimited removals.

Once you sign up, you’ll be able to call your credit counselor to ask questions about your specific situation or credit in general. The company is also proactive in reaching out to customers to give them progress updates.

If it doesn’t work out, Credit Saint offers a 90-day money-back guarantee. You can request a full refund if the company doesn’t remove any negative items from your credit reports within your first 90 days.

  • 90-day money-back guarantee
  • A+ BBB accredited service
  • Monthly pricing starts from $79.99
  • Reach credit consultations via phone, email, or chat

Best overall value: The Credit People

Founded in 2001, The Credit People receive our top honors for best value and availability out of all the credit repair services we reviewed. After a free consultation, you can choose to pay an initial first fee of $19 plus $79 a month, or you can sign up for a six-month package for $419 (a $74 savings).

No matter which package you’ll choose, you’ll get a full-range of services, including unlimited disputes, debt and inquiry validations, and free credit scores. You’ll also have access to an online dashboard where you can watch your progress and get updates from The Credit People. There is a satisfaction guarantee, but you won’t necessarily get all your money back if you’ve been enrolled for several months.

  • A low $19 initial fee plus $79 a month, or $419 for six months
  • Unlimited disputes with either plan
  • Access to an online dashboard and mobile app with real-time updates

Best money-back guarantee: Sky Blue Credit

If you’re looking for a company with a lot of history, look no further than Sky Blue Credit. They’ve been in business since 1989, back when credit scoring was starting to become mainstream. The company also offers a great guarantee. You can request a full refund within 90 days of enrolling and, unlike with some other companies’ guarantees, there are no conditions.

Sky Blue Credit charges a one-time $79 setup fee and a $79 monthly fee. The company will dispute up to five items on each of your credit reports every 35 days. Additionally, the company will send debt validation, goodwill letters, and cease and desist letters on your behalf at no extra charge.

  • Condition-free, 90-day money-back guarantee
  • Free credit reports and scores
  • Disputes up to five items per bureau every 35 days

Best known company: Lexington Law

Started in 1991, Lexington Law is one of the longest-running and most well-known companies in the credit repair space. If you’ve looked into credit repair, you’ve likely come across an advertisement or review of Lexington Law.

The company offers three plans ranging from $89.85 to $129.95 a month, and the first-work fee is for the same amount. The most basic plan only comes with disputes, while the other two add on more services, such as a credit score analysis, credit report alerts, and identity protection tool.

  • A large company with a reputation to uphold
  • Higher-tiers come with add-on services
  • No money-back guarantee

Best simple service: CreditRepair.com

CreditRepair.com is a sister site to Lexington Law — both companies are owned by Progrexion. However, unlike Lexington Law, the CreditRepair.com site and team is focused on credit repair without offering many potentially confusing services or different payment plans.

It’s $14.99 to pull your credit reports and start, and then $99.95 a month. The company says that, on average, members use the service for six months. You can monitor your progress with the company’s app or through your online dashboard.

  • No limits on which items they’ll challenge based on your plan
  • Inexpensive initial work fee
  • No money-back guarantee

The credit repair process and timeline

Each credit repair company may take a slightly different approach to how they go about addressing your credit, but the process usually looks like:

An initial consultation

Many companies will start with a credit audit or consultation. You’ll be asked to share a copy of your credit report or sign up for a credit monitoring service and allow the credit repair company to access your credit reports. Many credit repair companies receive a referral fee when you sign up for credit monitoring, and some larger companies even start their own credit monitoring service companies.

The initial consultation often involves a one-on-one phone call or meeting where you’ll go over your credit report. You should learn what’s helping and hurting your credit scores, and what steps that company believes it can take to help your credit. You should also learn about what working with the company will be like and what you’ll be expected to do during the credit repair process.

Feel free to ask questions during this initial consultation about your specific situations, what impacts credit scores in general, and how the company works. Sometimes an initial audit is free, other times, there’s a first-work fee. In either case, it’s a chance for you to interview the company, ask questions, and better understand their attack plan.

Mail the first round of disputes

Based on the consultation, an initial round of disputes will be sent to the credit bureaus to try and get negative items removed. The company may write and send dispute letters on your behalf, or may send you copies of letters to review, sign, and send.

A letter will need to be sent to each of the three credit bureaus, and the letters should specify which item (or items) on your credit report you’re disputing. If you have collection accounts, the credit repair company may also send a debt validation letter to the agency.

Debt validation letters simply ask the company to verify that it has the right to collect the debt. Sometimes, collection agencies don’t have sufficient records to prove this right, and you can then get them to stop reporting the collection account to the credit bureaus.

When a credit bureau receives a dispute letter, it has up to 30 days to investigate your dispute—or 45 days if you send additional information after filing the initial dispute. During this time, the bureau will reach out to the company that’s sending it information to ask whether it’s correct.

Focus on building good credit

Credit repair companies should help you understand how to build good credit in addition to trying to remove erroneous negative information from your credit history. They may have suggestions for certain secured credit cards, credit-building loans, or other types of credit accounts that will be reported to the credit bureaus.

Taking out new accounts, using a small portion of your credit cards’ limits, and making on-time payments can help your credit. You don’t necessarily need to use the credit repair company’s suggestions—sometimes they get kickbacks when customers sign up for certain credit cards or loans, and you can find cheaper options elsewhere.

Receive responses and send a second round of disputes

The credit bureaus will send you a response based on their investigation and will tell you whether the item you disputed came back as verified, or if they corrected or deleted the item. You’ll likely be asked to send copies of these letters to the credit repair company.

The company will then prepare a second round of dispute or debt validation letters. These may be to dispute other items on your credit report, or to follow up on the initial round with additional questions or proof that there is an error.

Continue the process

The dispute-response-dispute process can continue for some time based on the results. Sometimes, a company might not want to dispute too many items at once as credit bureaus are able to dismiss letters they deem are “frivolous” without an investigation and make no changes. However, if a company is only disputing one item at a time (and you’ve identified multiple errors), it may be dragging its feet to keep you enrolled in the program and paying fees.

End the program

The credit repair process can continue on for several rounds and many months. The exact timeline will depend on how many items in your credit history can be disputed, and how quick the bureaus, creditors, and collection agencies are to respond. On average, someone might work with a credit repair company for three to six months. However, you can ask about your specific potential timeline during your initial consultation.

Common credit repair pricing structures

Legitimate credit repair companies will comply with the Credit Repair Organizations Act (CROA). The federal law states that a credit repair company can’t charge you a fee for work that hasn’t been completed.

After an initial consultation or review, many credit repair companies will get to work disputing inaccurate, negative items on your credit report.

Companies usually charge for their other services in one of two ways:

Pay-for-performance

With pay-for-performance, or pay-for-delete, you’ll pay a fee each time an item gets removed from your credit report. The arrangement can be attractive as you know you’ll only pay if something changes. However, you have three credit reports and getting the same negative mark removed from all three reports can lead to three charges.

Monthly subscription

You’ll pay a flat monthly fee for as long as you enroll in the service. It can take several months to see changes in your report as you have to send disputes, wait for responses, and potentially send follow-up letters before something changes. Some companies may also base how many items they dispute at a time on your level of subscription

Avoiding credit repair scams

While legitimate credit repair companies help many consumers, there are also scammerspreying on people who are already in a tough situation. These companies may take your money and do nothing, or wind up leaving you worse off.

Credit repair company red flags

Here are a few red flags that could indicate a company is actually running a credit repair scam. Watch out if the company:

  • Doesn’t offer you a contract: If you’re paying for a service, the company should have a written contract that goes over what they’ll offer, what you must do, how much you’ll pay, and how to cancel the agreement. You have the right to request this contract.
  • Doesn't explain your rights: You have the right to dispute inaccurate information on your credit reports for free. A good credit repair company shouldn’t shy from this, it should explain how the services they offer are worth the fees you’ll pay.
  • Promises a result: Credit repair companies can’t get accurate information removed from your credit reports, even if that information is hurting your credit.
  • Promises a specific score increase: Companies shouldn’t promise that your credit scores will increase by a specific number of points.
  • Offers to create a new credit identity: Some companies may tell you about an alternative to your Social Security number, such as a credit privacy number (CPN) or secondary credit number (SCN). At best, these numbers are often made up. At worst, they may be taken from someone else (such as a child or deceased person), and using the number could be a crime.
  • Tells you to dispute accurate information or dispute everything: You shouldn’t dispute an item if you’re certain it’s correct.
  • Doesn’t have a three-day waiting period: Under federal law, credit repair companies must give you three days to change your mind, cancel your contract, and get a complete refund.
  • Asks for an upfront fee: Credit repair organizations aren’t allowed to charge you an upfront fee for their services, and you should avoid any organizations that try to. Many companies have an enrollment, discovery or first-work fee. It’s not a red flag on it’s own, but you should only have to pay this fee after the waiting period and after a company completes an initial assessment or sign-up process.

If you come across a scam or believe you’ve been scammed, you can contact your state’s Attorney General and the Federal Trade Commission.

What determines your credit score anyway?

If you’re looking into repairing your credit, it’s worth understanding what credit scores are, how they’re calculated, and how credit scoring is separate from credit reporting. While you don’t need to learn everything, knowing the basics can help you understand what’s happening behind the scenes when you hire a credit repair company.

It starts with a credit report

Credit scores are based on the information in one of your credit reports from Equifax, Experian, or TransUnion. The three companies are for-profit competitors and each bureau maintains its own databases. As a result, it’s common for there to be differences between your credit reports from each bureau.

Credit scoring models analyze the report

A credit scoring model—basically, a computer program—analyzes your credit report and determines a score based on the information it finds. There are many different credit scoring models, as these programs periodically get updated and different models are created for different types of lenders. As a result, you may find a variety of credit scores depending on which model is being used and which credit report it analyzes.

Important scoring factors

While your credit report may contain hundreds or thousands of pieces of information, they’re not all relevant to your credit scores. For example, your name and address aren’t scoring factors.

Fortunately, many commonly used credit scoring models from FICO and VantageScore use similar major categories to determine your scores. If you understand these, and what’s good or bad within each category, you can take steps to improve all of those credit scores. These negative marks are also what credit repair companies look for.

  • Payment history: On-time payments help your credit, while falling behind will hurt it. The further behind you fall, the worse for your credit. Late payments, defaults, repossessions, charge-offs, and collection accounts are all negative marks related to payment history.
  • Public records: Right now, only bankruptcies appear in this section. In the past, credit bureaus would also include civil judgments and liens. All three of those public records are negative marks.
  • Credit usage: Using a large percentage of your available credit limits on your credit cards can hurt your scores. Paying down credit card balances and lowering your utilization can help improve your scores. It’s something you’ll need to do on your own, but should be part of your credit repair journey.
  • Length of credit history: Having a long history with credit accounts is better for your scores. Sometimes you can increase this by becoming an authorized user on someone else’s credit card.
  • New accounts: Applying for and opening new accounts can lead to hard inquiries and decrease the average age of your accounts. It can hurt your scores a little, but it’s often a necessary step back before you can use the accounts to help your credit.

A credit repair company will address these categories in different ways. They may be able to dispute and remove negative marks within certain categories. With others, they could advise you on the best ways to improve your scores overall.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is credit repair?

Credit repair is the process of removing inaccurate and unverifiable items from your credit reports by disputing them with the three major bureaus (Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion) or creditors. Removing or correcting inaccurate negative marks could improve your credit scores.

Is credit repair worth it?

If you have poor credit, fixing your credit and actively taking steps to build positive credit may make it easier to qualify for better terms on loans and credit cards. A good credit history can also be important when you apply for a rental or employment.

Can I repair my credit on my own?

The federal Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) gives you the right to send disputes to the credit bureaus on your own and for free, and the bureaus generally have 30 days to investigate and respond. However, if you don't want to spend time fixing your credit on your own, hiring an expert to handle the credit repair process can give you peace of mind and save you time.

How can credit repair help me?

A credit repair service can save you the time that you’d otherwise spend preparing and filing disputes, and following up with the bureaus or creditors. They may even catch inaccurate information that you may have missed if you dispute on your own. And, they can use their knowledge of consumer rights and experience dealing with the credit bureaus to assist you with your specific financial situation.

Credit repair companies may also be able to guide you through the credit building process, helping you find accounts that you can open to build positive credit and explaining how different actions can impact your credit scores.

How much will my credit score increase?

Promising specifically score increase is illegal and should be a red flag if you’re looking for a credit repair company. Credit repair companies can’t remove negative information that’s being accurately reported, and won’t always improve your credit. When it can help, the number of points will depend on your credit history, what changes, and what steps you take during the process.

How long will it take to see results?

In general, it takes between 30 and 45 days to begin to see any changes in your credit scores. There’s often an initial waiting and onboarding period when you start with a credit repair company. And, even after they send disputes, credit bureaus and creditors have at least 30 days to respond. Many credit repair companies say their clients stay with them for about three to six months overall.

How much does credit repair cost?

Credit repair services often charge a setup or first-work fee, plus a monthly subscription or a fee for each negative mark they help get removed from your credit reports. The initial fee may range from $20 to several hundred, and the monthly prices often start around $70 to $80. Higher monthly subscriptions may come with more services or benefits.

Avoid any credit repair company that asks for you to pay upfront without providing any services first. The Credit Repair Organizations Act (CROA) and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) prohibit this practice.

What items can be removed from my credit report?

Credit repair companies focus on removing questionable, inaccurate, or unverifiable negative items from credit reports.

These may include collection accounts, late payments, charge-offs, bankruptcies, repossessions, and foreclosures. But remember, credit bureaus are only going to remove items if they are inaccurate or can't be proven.