How long it takes to repair your credit score depends on what happened to it. If your credit score is low as a result of an error or identity theft, the process can take months. If you have financial difficulties due to late or missed payments, this may take longer.
How long does it take to correct errors on your credit report?
If you have a low credit score, the first thing you should do is check for errors. It could be your own account information being misreported, the credit bureaus confusing you with someone with a similar name, or even identity theft.
If you notice an error and file a dispute, the credit bureaus have 30 days to investigate it. If they need more time, they can extend the deadline by 15 days by notifying you. Once the investigation is complete, they must notify you of the outcome within five days. If the credit bureau confirms that the negative information on your report is incorrect, it will correct it immediately.
In some cases, the credit bureau may deny your dispute. A common scenario is when an identity thief has enough personal information about you that the credit company believes it’s you. In these circumstances, you may need to redo the dispute process with additional supporting documents or take further legal action.
How long does credit repair services take?
If you choose to use a credit repair service, they generally do two things. One is to dispute the errors as described above. Another is trying to extract accurate negative information.
Some lenders will remove accurate negative information as a goodwill gesture for a long-term customer with temporary financial problems or in exchange for paying off a loan. A common tactic is to pay for deletion where you agree to pay all or part of the debt in exchange for the creditor removing the delinquent account comment from your credit report.
Lenders are under no obligation to remove accurate information from your credit report or to negotiate at all. Policies and procedures vary by credit policy but usually involve letters back and forth to get everything in writing.
On average, credit repair takes about three to six months. Your score should gradually improve throughout the process each time the creditor agrees to make a modification in your favor.
How long will it take to rebuild your credit?
If you have negatives on your credit report that you cannot remove, you will need to repair your credit report by rebuilding a positive credit history over time. This includes basics like paying on time and not opening too many new accounts.
Most negative items stay on your credit report for up to seven years. A bankruptcy can stay on your credit report for up to ten years, although many creditors stop filing Chapter 13 bankruptcy after seven years.
How do credit repair companies work?
While credit repair companies don’t do anything you can’t do yourself, they play an important role for people who feel overwhelmed by trying to fix their credit on their own.
Some legitimate reasons consumers may turn to a credit repair company include removing fraudulent accounts from their credit report, correcting erroneous credit accounts that belong to someone else, and filing a false bankruptcy report.
Legitimate credit repair providers help consumers by reviewing consumer credit reports, identifying information that is unfavorable to consumers, interviewing consumers, and obtaining documents from consumers to determine if any derogatory information is false.
From there, they typically draft a letter to the credit bureaus disputing the errors. The dispute letter should identify the error with specificity, briefly explain why the disputed information is false or misleading, and state what the credit report should have said instead.
Here are some steps credit repair companies can take on your behalf:
Obtaining a copy of your credit report from the three credit reporting agencies: Experian, Equifax and TransUnion
Reviewing your credit report to identify problems and the best course of action to fix them
Helping you use federal consumer protection laws to protect you and your credit from unfair debt collection practices
Analyzing your credit score and educating you on how to improve it
Negotiating with your creditors on your behalf
Disputing inaccurate information on your credit report and working to have it removed Working to correct incorrect credit limits that may increase or decrease credit utilization and adversely affect your credit score
What to Know Before Hiring a Credit Repair Company
While it may seem appropriate to have a third-party company handle your credit issues, it’s important to keep your expectations in check. Credit repair companies can help improve your credit score over time, but they have limitations.
Credit repair companies can’t do anything you can’t do yourself.
Credit repair agencies will work with your creditors and credit bureaus to improve your credit and remove negative information, all steps you can take yourself without paying for credit repair.
You can call your lenders and negotiate with them yourself. You don’t need a credit repair firm for that. In fact, many lenders don’t even allow a third party to negotiate on the customer’s behalf.
Accurate information cannot be extracted from your credit report.
Credit repair companies can work hard to remove inaccurate information from your credit report, but they cannot remove negative but accurate information from your report. They cannot promise to remove information from your reports.
Credit repair companies cannot provide budgeting or money management advice.
While credit repair agencies aim to get you out of debt and repair your credit, they do not offer the same services as credit counseling agencies.
Credit counseling agencies offer a more holistic approach to solving your money and credit problems, focusing most of their efforts on helping you budget, manage your money better, and cut costs.
On the other hand, however, credit counseling services do not take the same steps as credit repair agencies to raise your credit score or fix negative marks on your credit report. Before you choose another service, it helps to educate yourself about both options.
You can cancel your contract within three days without penalty.
According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), if you experience buyer’s remorse about purchasing the services of a credit repair company, you have the right to terminate your contract within three days without paying any fees or penalties.
Improving your credit can take time.
Whether you do it yourself or hire a credit repair company, improving your credit is not an overnight fix.
Credit bureaus have 30 days to check for errors and five business days to update you on the results of the check. In some cases, it may take longer. For example, if you receive a new copy of your credit report and file a dispute, the credit bureaus have 45 days to investigate. Patience and persistence are key during this process.
How to choose the best credit repair company
If you don’t have the time to work on your credit yourself and have the extra funds to hire a credit repair company, here’s what you need to consider before signing an expensive contract.
Research any regulatory action
If a credit repair company has a history of violating federal laws, you may want to be wary of doing business with it.
Since regulatory actions and lawsuits are public record, you can find that information on government websites like the FTC and CFPB. In fact, the CFPB even has a complaint database that you can search for specific companies.
Check for violations of the Credit Repair Organization Act
All credit repair companies must comply with the Credit Repair Organization Act. This means you’ll want to check that any credit repair companies you’re interested in follow these guidelines:
Cannot provide misleading information
No advance payment is required
A written agreement must be provided
Gives customers the right to cancel their contract
If you find any potential compliance issues, it’s best to stay away from that company.
Compare plans for features and fees
As with getting a personal loan or credit card, it’s important to shop around and compare credit repair companies for prices and fees.
Many credit repair companies offer tiered plans that come with different features and benefits. Typically, credit repair companies will charge a one-time set-up fee as well as a monthly fee for the entire process.
However, remember that repairing your credit, contacting your creditors, and disputing errors on your credit report are completely free if you choose to do it yourself.
How to repair your credit yourself
Credit repair can be done on your own without incurring any additional costs or hiring a company.
According to the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), you can freely dispute any errors on your credit report. Credit bureaus have 30 days (sometimes 45 days) to investigate any incorrect information you dispute.
Instead of relying on a credit repair company to pull your credit reports for you, you can get a free copy of your credit report from all three agencies online at AnnualCreditReport.com.
It’s important to check reports from all three credit bureaus — Equifax, Experian and TransUnion — because they can vary. If you find an inaccuracy, you can challenge the error online, by phone, or with an individual credit union.
There are other steps you can take to improve your credit, including paying off overdue debts, making all of your payments on time, and reducing your consumption by paying down what you owe.