Key takeaways

  • Working with a credit repair company is not the only way to start mending your damaged credit.
  • If a credit repair company isn’t right for your needs, consider handling the credit repair process on your own or working with a credit counselor.
  • Credit repair doesn't mean overnight results — even if a company advertises otherwise.

While credit repair can be a means to improve credit, the process of working with a credit repair company isn’t right for everyone — and it isn’t your only option. Consider the alternatives to see if one may be a better fit for repairing your credit and expanding your access to financial products.

Do it yourself

The DIY approach to credit repair requires you to do the heavy lifting involved with restoring your credit health. It’s true that a credit repair company likely has experience in working with cases like yours. Still, it can’t do anything you can’t do on your own.

Even better, repairing your own credit will cost a fraction of the price — likely no money at all. That said, you must do a little legwork. You’ll get copies of and study your credit report, file disputes for any errors found and await results.

While it may feel intimidating, DIY credit repair will help you avoid additional monthly fees and, ideally help you better understand your credit health.

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  • Can help you avoid additional fees.
  • Step-by-step guidance is available.
  • Can be empowering to handle it on your own.
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  • Requires more time than hiring someone.
  • Can be challenging to communicate with credit bureaus.
  • Removing disputes must be done in a very specific manner.
Best for
DIY credit repair is best for a patient consumer whose budget is already too tight to add on another expense.

Improve your payment history

Your payment history accounts for 35 percent of your total credit score — it’s the single biggest factor. So, if your credit score is on the lower end, improving your payment history may provide a significant boost.

Your payment history includes any credit-related products, like credit cards, mortgages, auto loans and personal loans.

To do this, you must pay your bills on time, get current on past-due accounts and communicate with your lenders if you might miss a payment to make arrangements. It’s also wise to enroll in automatic payments to avoid potential late fees.

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  • Can create a better monthly payment routine to ensure you don’t fall behind.
  • Will reduce or eliminate fees for late payments.
  • No cost to an outside company outside of repaying missed bills.
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  • Can be a long process.
  • Requires time for your score to see improvement.
  • No additional expert support.
Best for
Improving payment history is best for those whose main driver of poor credit is missed payments and who are eager to take control of their finances.

Consider debt consolidation

Debt consolidation is a process of combining multiple accounts into a single one to streamline repayment. One way to do this is through a debt consolidation loan.

Using this type of loan to consolidate revolving debt, such as credit cards, could lower your credit utilization ratio. Credit utilization accounts for 30 percent of your FICO score.

This works because your debt won’t count against your revolving credit limits anymore. You’ll have the best results if you leave your old, paid-off credit accounts open.

Consolidating debt can also make it easier to stay on top of repayment, as you will only have to worry about a single due date.

You could also save money in the long run, as these loans tend to have lower interest rates than most credit cards. You’ll want a credit score of 670 or higher to have a better chance of securing a competitive rate. But even with a lower score, you may find better rates than your existing ones — prequalify to find out.

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  • Can streamline repayment, making it easier to pay on time.
  • Could make debt more manageable by lowering your overall interest rate.
  • Could speed up debt repayment by having a set timeline.
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  • Good-to-excellent credit required to secure the lowest rates.
  • Some lenders may charge origination fees.
  • Could lead to an increased debt load if poor financial habits aren't addressed.
Best for
Debt consolidation is best for those who struggle to handle multiple debt payments and are willing to stay committed to a repayment plan, while modifying spending behaviors.

Work with a credit counselor

If a traditional credit repair company is not the right option for you, a credit counselor can be a viable alternative. This approach still allows a professional to do the bulk of the legwork for you. But you’ll also get the benefit of more attentive guidance and can be offered by nonprofits, often at no or minimal cost.

You will work with a trained professional who will take a close look at your current spending habits, debt load and credit reports. Based on their analysis of your financial health, you will receive a tailored action plan to address your financial issues. One approach here may be a debt management plan (DMP), which focuses on making your balances on unsecured debts more manageable so you can pay them off sooner.

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  • Advice tailored specifically to your financial situation.
  • Potential to address and fix consistent financial missteps.
  • The counselor may help with creditor negotiations.
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  • Some companies require a monthly payment for service.
  • If your debt is more or less under control, it may not help.

Best for
The ideal candidate for credit counseling is someone who is willing to learn and adapt their spending habits.

When should you consider a credit repair company?

Credit repair companies work to improve your credit for a fee. They seek inaccuracies in your credit report and file disputes with the credit bureaus.

These issues may include closed accounts that appear open, incorrect account balances and accounts that don’t belong to you, among other issues. Though this is something you can do yourself for free, it can be time-consuming.

Hiring a credit repair company may be a good idea if:

  • You’ve been diligent with your payments and your credit hasn’t improved.
  • You’d rather have a professional handle it and can afford the fees.

It’s also worth noting that credit repair companies can only fix actual mistakes. For instance, imagine a history of late payments is dragging down your score. If there’s proof those payments were in fact late, the credit repair company can’t dispute them.

Make sure you understand what credit repair companies can and can’t fix before signing up for this service.

The bottom line

If you find yourself in need of credit repair, you are not alone. But if working with a credit repair company feels intimidating or doesn’t quite fit your needs, there are other options.

Consider a DIY approach, focus on improving your payment history, consolidate debt or work with a credit counselor to improve your credit profile and overall financial health so you can meet your credit score goals.