When it comes to managing your finances, thoroughly researching any company you work with is of the utmost importance. This couldn’t be truer than with credit repair companies.
According to the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC), credit repair scams are incredibly common. There have been several recorded cases of criminals setting up false credit repair schemes designed to steal Social Security numbers, and some completely legitimate companies have been accused of violating consumer rights by charging illegal fees and making false promises to customers. Even those with a clean record often face high volumes of consumer complaints for a variety of reasons, such as overpriced services and failure to deliver results.
The FTC makes it clear that no credit repair company is authorized to perform any action you can’t do on your own for free. Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act, you’re legally entitled to access your credit report for free once per year or if you’ve been the victim of identity theft. Additionally, the law dictates that you can dispute inaccuracies on your report and have negative information removed after a certain number of years. The FTC offers a clear, step-by-step guide on how to do this without paying a credit repair company.
At the end of the day, many people still choose to work with a credit repair company because they feel overwhelmed by the dispute process and are willing to pay for expert help. There are a number of ways in which credit repair companies can provide value, such as spotting errors on your report that you might otherwise miss. The FTC advises that reputable companies will also help you achieve long-term financial success that goes beyond your credit report by providing budgeting help and free educational materials.
So how do you tell a legitimate credit repair company from a scam? That’s the question we set out to answer in our series of credit repair reviews. We looked at some of the most popular companies and closely examined their services, pricing structures, and reputations to determine whether or not they offer value. In this guide, we’ll walk you through the methodology we used to evaluate each company and explain why each factor that we examined is important when dealing with credit repair.
Credit Repair Methodology
Credit repair is a complex service that involves many moving parts. What’s more, no two credit repair companies offer the exact same approach. To get a fair evaluation of each company we reviewed, we broke our scoring sheet down into five categories as listed below.
Within each category, we ranked each company on specific aspects of their service on a scale of 1 (lowest) to 5 (highest). We then took the weighted average of all scores according to the importance of each in deciding whether or not to work with a credit repair company. The percentages used to weigh each category are outlined in the following table.
|Reputation and Customer Satisfaction||11%|
|Costs and Fees||50%|
In the end, each company received an overall rating from 1.0 to 5.0, with 5.0 being the best possible score and 1.0 being the worst.
The following sections will give a more detailed breakdown of the specific data points we used to evaluate credit repair companies in each category.
Unlike other financial industries such as insurance, there is no authoritative body that rates the stability of credit repair companies. With this information unavailable, we used the next best measure of evaluating stability: number of years in business.
The number of years a credit repair organization has been in business is important because it demonstrates that the company has achieved long-term stability. Not only does this mean the company isn’t likely to go out of business before completing the services you paid for, it also means they’ve gained years (or even decades) of experience helping others in your situation. A credit repair company that has been around for a long time is likely to have earned enough respect from customers to continue attracting business.
Based on industry averages, we scored each company’s number of years in business using the following scale:
|Excellent (5)||More than 25 years in business|
|Great (4)||Sixteen to 25 years in business|
|Good (3)||Eleven to 15 years in business|
|Fair (2)||Six to 10 years in business|
|Poor (1)||Five or fewer years in business|
Company Reputation and Customer Satisfaction
In credit repair, a company’s reputation says a lot about the type of experience it provides to customers. There are many channels for regulating authorities and consumers to file complaints about a credit repair company, both official and unofficial. We looked at complaint data from three of the most recognized third-party sources:
- Consumer Financial Protection Bureau complaints and actions
- Better Business Bureau reviews
- Google reviews
Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Complaints and Actions
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) is a government agency that acts as a consumer advocate in financial markets related to banks, loans, and credit. One of the CFPB’s core functions is to field complaints that result from unfair practices. Complaints are published in a database on the CFPB website that anyone can access.
While the CFPB doesn’t verify the specific facts in complaints, the bureau does refrain from publishing those that don’t meet strict criteria. If a credit repair company has accumulated many complaints, it’s usually a good sign that something in the business’s practices doesn’t sit well with consumers. The CFPB has the power to take enforcement action against the company if it investigates a complaint and finds that the law has been violated.
In reviewing each credit repair company, we looked up the number of complaints they had received in the CFPB database and assigned a score based on the following ranges:
|Excellent (5)||No complaints within the past three years|
|Great (4)||No complaints within the past year|
|Good (3)||One to five complaints within the past year|
|Fair (2)||Five to 10 complaints within the past year|
|Poor (1)||Ten or more complaints within the past year or enforcement action|
Better Business Bureau Reviews
Contrary to what many consumers believe, the Better Business Bureau (BBB) is not an official government agency, but a private nonprofit that independently evaluates companies and fields customer complaints. The BBB allows companies to pay a fee for official accreditation and assigns ratings to all businesses, regardless of accreditation status.
In recent years, the validity of BBB ratings has been called into question by journalistic investigations that found discrepancies based on whether the business had paid for accreditation. Knowing this information, it’s important to take BBB ratings with a grain of salt.
Ultimately, we chose not to include BBB accreditation status or agency ratings into consideration when calculating companies’ overall score. However, we did include each company’s average customer review score. Customers can leave a review for businesses on the BBB website without filing a complaint, giving a score of 1 to 5 based on their experience with the company. We factored in these reviews based on the following point system:
|Excellent (5)||5 stars|
|Great (4)||4 stars to less than 5 full stars|
|Good (3)||3 stars to less than 4 full stars|
|Fair (2)||2 stars to less than 3 full stars|
|Poor (1)||Less than 2 full stars or no reviews|
A company’s Google profile is a common place for customers to go when they want to leave a review for a business they’ve interacted with. These reviews often appear when you search a company’s name using the Google search engine. Reviews consist of a star rating on a scale of 1 to 5 and an optional section for the customer to write a more detailed explanation of the score they gave.
In our methodology, Google reviews were assigned scores based on average star rating as follows:
|Excellent (5)||5 stars|
|Great (4)||4 stars to less than 5 full stars|
|Good (3)||3 stars to less than 4 full stars|
|Fair (2)||2 stars to less than 3 full stars|
|Poor (1)||Less than 2 full stars or no reviews|
A credit repair company’s dedication to customer experience is often a strong indicator of the quality of services they provide. When credit repair organizations don’t put enough effort into providing a good experience, customers tend to have difficulty contacting the company and getting updates on their case status. Since most credit repair services are now offered digitally, this generally means providing a helpful, easy-to-use website and virtual tools like an app or customer portal.
Taking all of this into account, we evaluated customer experience by looking into these three areas:
- Website content
- Website usability
- Digital accessibility
In the digital age, your first interaction with any company is often through its website. Credit repair companies use their websites to attract customers by providing information about their services and the benefits of credit repair. Unfortunately, not all companies are honest, and some publish inaccurate information that may mislead customers into thinking the company can do more than it really can.
While reviewing credit repair companies, we looked for three key items that illustrate the quality of information being presented:
- Price disclosure
- Online resources
- FAQ page
One of the most common complaints about credit repair companies is that they aren’t upfront about their pricing, leading some customers to inadvertently accrue charges they weren’t aware of. Companies that value transparency should publish their pricing clearly online so that customers know exactly what they can expect to pay for services before they call.
For each credit repair company, we looked for pricing information on their website and assigned the following points:
|Excellent (5)||Price disclosed online|
|Poor (1)||Price not disclosed online|
A truly reputable credit repair company should approach fixing your credit as a multi-stage solution. In addition to disputing credit errors, the best companies will also provide resources that cover big-picture financial planning and debt management. Most companies that offer resources do so for free, demonstrating value to potential customers who are thinking about signing up for services.
We evaluated credit repair companies’ online resources based on this scale:
|Excellent (5)||Free app or interactive tool|
|Great (4)||Free e-books and/or videos|
|Fair (2)||Basic information|
Credit repair can seem daunting for those who have never disputed an error on their report before. It’s completely normal to have questions about how the process works and what to expect along the way. To answer these questions transparently, credit repair companies should have an FAQ page that provides in-depth answers to questions not only about the credit repair process, but also the company’s specific practices such as pricing and policies.
Companies were given the following points depending on whether or not they had an FAQ page:
|Excellent (5)||Has an FAQ page|
|Poor (1)||Does not have an FAQ page|
The information included in a credit repair company’s website is important, but it won’t do you any good if you can’t locate it. We gave companies more points if they had dedicated resources to designing a responsive website that made it easy to find what you’re looking for.
We made our website usability analysis as objective as possible using these criteria:
|Excellent (5)||Intuitive design, interactive tools, easy to locate information|
|Great (4)||Well-designed, highly informative but few tools|
|Good (3)||Average design, includes useful information|
|Fair (2)||Design lacking, information is difficult to find|
|Poor (1)||Outdated design, poor experience, missing key information|
The technology available today enables companies to offer much more than just a website. We rewarded credit repair businesses for making additional technologies available that help customers more easily navigate the credit repair process. These technologies are:
- Online customer portal
- Mobile app
- Web chat
Online Customer Portal
An online customer portal is a tool that customers can access using a username and password. Upon logging in, customers might find information such as important documents, dispute status, and updates from the credit repair specialist handling their case.
The credit repair companies we reviewed earned the following points for the presence or absence of a customer portal:
|Excellent (5)||Has an online customer portal|
|Poor (1)||Does not have an online customer portal|
Mobile apps are another trend in technology that make a big difference in the credit repair experience. Since most consumers spend more time on their phones than their computers throughout the day, a mobile app can make it easier to receive information and access resources.
Our rubric assigned points to companies with mobile apps using this scale:
|Excellent (5)||Has a mobile app|
|Poor (1)||Does not have a mobile app|
Not everyone wants to pick up the phone or wait for an email every time they have a question. Web chat is a convenient customer service channel that tends to be much faster and more efficient than traditional contact methods.
The companies we reviewed were rewarded for having a web chat as follows:
|Excellent (5)||Has a web chat|
|Poor (1)||Does not have a web chat|
Credit Repair Services
Credit repair isn’t a one-size-fits-all service. Most companies offer several different options which might include different credit repair options, tiered service levels, and additional non-credit repair offerings. To further explore the scope of services available, we broke them down into two main categories:
- Credit repair service packages
- Additional services offered
Credit Repair Service Packages
No two credit repair services are the same. Credit repair organizations often split their services into tiered packages that vary by the number or type of services included. For example, some companies may ask you to pay more for unlimited disputes per month, while others exclude services like credit monitoring from base packages but offer them in premium plans.
Some companies offer just one service package while others let customers choose from several different options. No matter how many choices a company makes available, not all of them include the same scope of services in their monthly fee.
To create a standardized method of evaluating credit repair service packages, we looked at data in three main areas:
- Variety of service packages offered
- Whether credit monitoring is offered
- How many monthly disputes are included
Service Packages Offered
Every credit repair customer has a different set of needs. While some only have one or two minor errors to remove from their report, others require significant help with a major discrepancy. Ideally, a credit repair company will offer packages at various price points so that customers don’t overpay for a full-service option they don’t need.
The credit repair companies we reviewed were given points for the number of service packages they offered according to this scale:
|Excellent (5)||More than three service packages|
|Great (4)||Two or three service packages|
|Good (3)||Single service package|
Credit monitoring is a type of service that tracks your credit report and notifies you if there are any significant changes you should know about. If you need credit repair services, chances are you should also enroll in credit monitoring so that you’re always up to date on changes to your report as they happen.
Unfortunately, not all credit repair companies include credit monitoring in their service packages. Some even make credit monitoring mandatory but require customers to pay an additional fee for this service, often through a third party.
We used the following points system to grade credit monitoring availability from each company:
|Excellent (5)||Credit monitoring included|
|Great (4)||Additional charge|
|Good (3)||Not offered or not disclosed|
Monthly Disputes Included
Each time a credit repair company contacts a credit bureau on your behalf to contest inaccurate information, the company counts this as a dispute. Some credit repair companies place a limit on the number of disputes they’ll file on your behalf in a given month. If you have a lot of information to dispute on your report, this could mean it takes much longer than planned to have it all corrected.
Keep in mind that there are three major credit bureaus, each of which requires disputes to be filed separately. Credit repair companies almost always count disputes per credit bureau, even if the same information is being called into question. For example, if the same misspelling appears across all three of your credit reports, the credit repair company will count that as three individual disputes.
We looked at the number of disputes included per month with each credit repair company and rated them using this scale:
|Excellent (5)||Unlimited with all plans|
|Great (4)||Unlimited with higher-tier plans|
|Good (3)||Limited number of monthly disputes (>30)|
|Fair (2)||Limited number of monthly disputes (<30)|
|Poor (1)||None or not disclosed|
As we’ve discussed, credit repair is often a single part of a much larger effort to repair your finances. This might involve debt management and/or refinancing your current loans, both of which are offered by certain credit repair companies. If a company offers this, you may find it easier to come up with a more comprehensive financial plan for your personal credit issues.
Oftentimes, credit repair services are required by someone’s business, which falls outside the scope of what credit repair companies offer to individuals. To meet this demand, some credit repair providers have additional services tailored to business owners who need help improving their business’s credit.
Companies were awarded a point if they offered the following additional services:
- Debt management
- Financing and loans
- Business services
Costs and Fees
Costs and fees made up 50% of our overall weighted score when evaluating credit repair companies. This is because cost is one of the main pain points for credit repair customers who may already be in a difficult financial situation.
We evaluated the cost of credit repair services based on five key points:
- Fee structure
- Cost of services
- Money-back guarantee
- Cancellation policy
There are generally three different types of fee structures with credit repair companies. Some ask for a one-time fee that covers the entire cost of all agreed upon services, no matter how long they take. Others charge customers by the month for the duration that it takes to address all disputes. However, some companies charge both a one-time fee to get started (often called a “discovery fee”) and a monthly fee as services continue.
Since customers tend to pay more when companies charge both types of fees, we graded fee structure using the following system:
|Excellent (5)||Either a one-time or monthly fee|
|Poor (1)||Both a one-time and monthly fee or not disclosed|
Cost of Services
Once a credit repair company’s fee structure has been determined, it all boils down to how much they charge for services. We gathered pricing information from all the companies we evaluated and compared them to one another, creating separate tiers for both one-time and monthly fees.
Average one-time fees usually fall in the range of $51 to $100, although some companies charge more and others less. Points were assigned for pricing using this scale:
|Great (4)||$1 to $50|
|Good (3)||$51 to $100|
|Fair (2)||$101 and up|
|Poor (1)||Not disclosed|
Typical monthly fees we saw started between $71 and $90 for the most entry-level service package, although some are cheaper and others more expensive. Companies were rated based on the following price brackets:
|Great (4)||$1 to $70|
|Good (3)||$71 to $90|
|Fair (2)||$91 and up|
|Poor (1)||Not disclosed|
There are certain claims that credit repair companies cannot legally make according to the Credit Repair Organizations Act. For example, companies can’t guarantee results in their marketing materials in order to attract customers. This is because there’s no way to completely guarantee a certain outcome from the credit dispute process, even if you hire a credit repair company.
However, some companies offer money-back guarantees if no results are seen within a certain period of time. This is essentially a way for the company to stand by their services and give customers their money back if no successful disputes are made.
We looked into the money-back guarantees advertised by each company we reviewed and gave points using these criteria:
|Excellent (5)||Results guaranteed within 30 days|
|Great (4)||Results guaranteed within 31-60 days|
|Good (3)||Results guaranteed within 61-90 days|
|Fair (2)||Results guaranteed within 91+ days|
|Poor (1)||No money back guarantee or not disclosed|
As with most services, some credit repair companies offer discounts to those who qualify. Discounts vary by company, but common ones include military discounts and reduced pricing for couples who sign up for services together.
Our credit repair review methodology rewarded the companies that offered discounts based on this points scale:
|Excellent (5)||Discounts available|
|Poor (1)||No discounts available or not disclosed|
If you’re enrolled in credit repair services and want to cancel your monthly subscription, there are generally two factors to note. First, some companies charge a fee to those who cancel before a certain period of time has elapsed. Second, many require customers to give notice a specific number of days before their next billing period, typically 30. If a credit repair company has this type of policy, you may be charged for an additional month after you cancel.
By law, credit repair companies must allow customers to cancel and have all their fees refunded within the first three days of signing up for service. Since this is required of every company, no additional points were given to those that advertised this type of policy.
Our rating system gave points to companies based on how customer-friendly they made their cancellation policy. Points were assigned using the following guide:
|Excellent (5)||No cancellation fee or notice required|
|Great (4)||No cancellation fee, notice required|
|Good (3)||Cancellation fee, no notice required|
|Fair (2)||Cancellation fee and notice required|
|Poor (1)||Legal minimum (first three days) or not disclosed|
Shopping for Credit Repair Companies
No consumer financial industry is immune to pitfalls, but credit repair is particularly known for being rife with scams. While there are plenty of respectable credit repair companies, you should use extreme care when shopping for a service provider.
The FTC maintains up-to-date information regarding the credit repair industry on its website, including specific warnings as potential scams come to light. The agency recommends avoiding companies that show any of these five red flags:
- Asking for payment before any work has been performed
- Instructing you not to contact the credit bureaus
- Suggesting that you dispute information you know to be accurate
- Telling you to provide false information to a lender or financial institution
- Failing to explain your legal rights during the credit repair process
When dealing with a credit repair company, you are entitled to certain rights outlined by the Credit Repair Organization Act. The company should provide a written contract up front that includes the following information:
- The full cost you will pay
- How long services will take
- Any guarantees the company offers
- A clause entitling you to cancellation and a full refund within three days
If a credit repair company doesn’t meet the above guidelines, the safest bet is to walk away and look for a more reputable organization. However, if you’ve already paid and are unhappy with the services provided, you can file a complaint with the FTC.
Federal Trade Commission. “Credit Repair Scams.” Accessed September 25, 2020.
WRAL. “Feds: Wake family stole identities, ran up debt in bogus credit repair operation.” Accessed September 25, 2020.
Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. “CFPB Takes Actions Against Credit Repair Companies for Charging Illegal Fees and Misleading Consumers.” Accessed September 25, 2020.
Federal Trade Commission. “Credit Repair: How to Help Yourself.” Accessed September 25, 2020.
Federal Trade Commission. “Disputing Errors on Credit Reports.” Accessed September 25, 2020.
Federal Trade Commission. “Credit Repair: How to Help Yourself.” Accessed September 25, 2020.
Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. “Enforcement Actions.” Accessed September 25, 2020.
CNN. “CNNMoney Investigates the Better Business Bureau.” Accessed September 25, 2020.
U.S. House of Representatives, Office of the Law Revision Counsel. “Subchapter II-A – Credit Repair Organizations.” Accessed September 25, 2020.
What You Need to Know to Fix Your Credit
To hear Steve Weisman tell it, credit repair is part police work and part legal expertise.
“Legitimate credit repair companies,” Weisman says, “are knowledgeable about finding mistakes in credit reports and knowing how to provide evidence sufficient to persuade the credit reporting agencies to remove such false information.”
While it may not qualify as an episode on NCIS, Weisman, who is a noted lawyer, college professor, and one of the country’s leading experts in cybersecurity, identity theft and scams, paints a picture of a process not unlike a criminal investigation. In this case, the “crime” involves damage to you and your credit caused by false information.
Weisman, author of 50 Ways to Protect Your Identity and Your Credit, agreed to an exclusive interview with Investopedia on the subject of credit repair including how to find and hire the right credit repair agency or even whether to attempt to repair your credit on your own.
Defining Credit Repair
Investopedia: Let’s start with the basics. What, exactly, is credit repair?
Weisman: Credit repair is the process by which incorrect negative information on your credit report is removed from your credit report which will result in your credit score going up. A poor credit score can affect your ability to get a loan, rent an apartment, get a job, purchase insurance and more.
It is important to emphasize that no credit repair agency can legally remove accurate negative information from your credit report although there are a number of companies that attempt to do that. By law negative information stays on your credit report for seven years and bankruptcies for ten years.
Investopedia: Is this something credit repair companies only can do or can people repair their credit by removing incorrect information themselves?
Weisman: Credit repair companies help people get inaccurate information removed from their credit reports. They have no more power or authority to do that than individual people do, but some people prefer to have credit repair companies do the work for them.
Initiating Credit Repair
Investopedia: How does the credit repair process start? How do you know you may even be a candidate for credit repair?
Weisman: If you get your credit score and it is not particularly good, you can hire a credit repair company to go through your credit report to determine what was the cause for the low score.
Credit Repair versus Credit Counseling
Investopedia: We often see ads on TV for credit counseling. Is that the same as credit repair or different?
Weisman: Different. Credit counseling agencies attempt to negotiate plans with your creditors to accept reduced payments. Some of these companies are partially funded by the credit card companies themselves who see this as a win-win situation for their customers and themselves.
However, these credit counseling agencies are not credit repair companies. Credit repair companies work for their individual clients who hire them to correct their credit reports and thereby enhance their credit scores.
Investopedia: So, do credit repair companies ever offer credit counseling or vice versa?
Weisman: Credit repair companies do not generally provide credit counseling and vice versa. They each perform separate services.
The Effectiveness of Credit Repair
Investopedia: Does credit repair really work? In other words, are credit repair companies effective at what they do?
Weisman: Legitimate credit repair companies can do a good job of working with the major credit reporting agencies Equifax, Experian and TransUnion, to remove false negative information from your credit report and consequently increase your credit score.
Many credit reports have mistaken information that can reduce your credit score. Among the mistaken information that commonly appears on credit reports are accounts that are behind in payment that do not belong to you, bankruptcies of other people with similar names, misspellings of names that result in someone else’s negative information appearing on your report, negative information that is more than seven years old and debts that cannot be validated and verified.
Investopedia: Do credit repair companies only work with credit reporting agencies or do they sometimes work with creditors or others in the chain?
Weisman: While generally credit repair companies primarily work with credit reporting agencies, they also may work directly with creditors in order to have the creditors change what they report to the credit reporting bureaus. Credit repair companies may work extensively with creditors in order to induce them into correcting inaccurate information reported to the credit reporting bureaus or to negotiate a settlement with the creditor by which the creditor reports to the credit reporting bureaus that particular debts have been paid satisfactorily.
Credit Repair Timeline and Cost
Investopedia: Once the process of credit repair starts, how long does it generally take?
Weisman: How long credit repair takes depends on how much needs to be corrected and how promptly the credit reporting agencies respond to requests to correct the reports.
The law requires credit reporting agencies to investigate claims of mistakes and respond within 30 days of receiving notice by someone trying to fix their credit report, however, sometimes this time period can be extended if the credit reporting agencies require more information or documentation to complete their investigation. It is not unusual for credit repair to take many months to be completed.
Investopedia: What’s the cost of using a credit repair company?
Weisman: Legitimate credit repair companies will typically charge monthly fees of between $79 and $129 and some charge a set- up fee.
Evaluation and Regulation Credit Repair Companies
Investopedia: Who regulates credit repair companies and how does a consumer know if a particular credit repair company is legit?
Weisman: The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) regulates credit repair companies and is the place consumers should go if they have a problem with a credit repair company. In order to determine if a credit repair company is legitimate, you should check with the FTC to see if any complaints or legal actions have been made against them.
Investopedia: What about legislation or laws that protect people from scam credit repair companies?
Weisman: The Credit Repair Organizations Act (CROA) requires credit repair companies to provide you with a written contract that details the services they will perform for you and explain your rights under the law, notify you of a three day right to cancel your contract with the credit repair company, inform you of how long it will take to perform their services and explain in detail the total cost to you.
Most importantly, they cannot charge you before they have completed their services. This is the biggest indication of a scam credit repair company. The scammers generally charge large upfront fees before they perform any services.
Investopedia: Is there anything else about the CROA guidelines people should know?
Weisman: The CROA also provides you with the right to sue in federal court a credit repair company that violates the law and obtain not just compensatory damages (money to compensate you for your losses), but also punitive damages (money to punish and deter the scammers from harming other people).
The End of the Process
Investopedia: How can you tell that your credit has been repaired?
Weisman: You can determine if your credit has been repaired by checking your credit reports and credit scores with each of the three major credit reporting agencies, however, you should regularly follow up checking your credit report and credit scores because sometimes inaccurate information that harms your credit score is removed after being disputed, but reappears on your credit report thereby lowering your score later.
Alternatives to Hiring a Credit Repair Company
Investopedia: Are there alternatives to using a credit repair company?
Weisman: The alternative to using a credit repair company is to do it yourself. Again it is important to note that a credit repair service cannot do anything that you cannot do for yourself.
Some people, however, prefer to have the work done for them rather than do it themselves particularly if they are unfamiliar with the process.
Common Misunderstandings About Credit Repair
Investopedia: What do you think are some common misunderstandings people have about credit repair?
Weisman: I believe that the most misunderstood aspect of the credit repair industry is (the belief) that true negative information can be legitimately removed from your report.
People also believe credit repair companies have more power to take actions to remove negative information from credit reports than individual consumers do. Finally, I don’t think people appreciate how much mistaken information commonly appears on credit reports.
Investopedia: Given all that, are there things credit repair companies do noticeably better than their clients can do on their own?
Weisman: Yes. Legitimate credit repair companies are knowledgeable about finding mistakes in credit reports and knowing how to provide evidence sufficient to persuade the credit reporting agencies to remove such false information.
Investopedia: What should people know about credit repair that we didn’t ask?
Weisman: Credit repair is a process that should continue. Even after your credit report has been corrected and your score increased, you should regularly review your credit reports at each of the three credit reporting agencies and check your credit scores regularly so that if a problem arises, you can deal with it in a timely fashion rather than having to deal with it in an emergency such as you have applied for a loan and just learned that your credit score is low.
Reliable and Sincere Credit Repair Services from James Warren Group Inc. – Press Release
The Credit Guru Credit Repair Review
Look at The Credit Guru’s website and you’ll find several enticing claims: credit dispute secrets the bureaus don’t want you to know about, settled debts for less than you owe, and better credit in as little as three months.
If these sound too good to be true, they just might be. Unfortunately, assertions like this rarely come to fruition—a lesson that many customers learn the hard way after losing hundreds or thousands of dollars in useless fees.
If claims like these have you thinking about hiring The Credit Guru to repair your credit, read our review that breaks down the good and the bad by evaluating services, pricing, reputation, value, and more.
- Free initial consultation: The Credit Guru’s initial phone consultation is offered free of charge, although you’ll need to supply your own credit reports.
- Two service package options: Customers can choose the right package and price range for their needs.
- Offers multiple discounts: Discounts are available for couples, military service members, and client referrals.
- Dedicated case management team: Each credit repair customer has a personal service team assigned to their case.
- Financial coaching available: Clients of The Credit Guru who choose the premium service package can benefit from a personalized credit repair plan to help raise their score from multiple standpoints.
- Expensive fees: Monthly prices start at $89.00, and that’s not including a $149.95 setup fee.
- Makes questionable claims: The Credit Guru’s marketing language includes a few claims we found to be potentially misleading.
- No educational materials: Many credit repair companies now offer free resource libraries to help customers improve their finances, but The Credit Guru hasn’t made a significant investment in consumer education.
- Lack of digital tools: You won’t find modern conveniences like an online portal, web chat, or mobile app with The Credit Guru.
- Strict cancellation policy: Customers only have five business days to cancel their membership and receive a refund. To discontinue monthly service, notice needs to be sent at least 15 days prior to the next billing cycle.
Types of Services
The Credit Guru makes two service packages available at different price points. Where most competitors create a strong distinction between their plans, however, The Credit Guru doesn’t offer much extra to those who upgrade.
All things considered, The Credit Guru’s regular service package is no more or less than what you’d expect from basic credit repair. The plan includes copies of your credit reports, unlimited monthly credit disputes, and phone and email from a dedicated case management team. Monthly account reviews are available, although the customer must request them.
The Credit Guru’s premium service package offers everything included in the regular package with three key differences:
- Credit disputes are processed every two weeks instead of once per 30-day billing period.
- Monthly account reviews are conducted automatically without the customer needing to ask for them.
- Each customer is provided with a personalized credit improvement plan that walks them through additional ways to build credit outside of the dispute process.
The only credit repair services offered by The Credit Guru are included in the two packages listed above. No optional add-ons like credit monitoring are available to further customize plans.
The Credit Guru may be one of the oldest credit repair firms, but the company hasn’t done much to keep up with industry trends. Many credit repair companies have adopted new digital technologies in recent years, providing customers with conveniences like online account management, web chat, and even mobile apps.
Customers who sign up with The Credit Guru will find themselves limited to traditional email and phone service. While those who prefer a more personalized experience may find themselves perfectly happy with their dedicated case management team, tech-savvy customers who are used to faster service could end up feeling frustrated.
Much of The Credit Guru’s website appears to be out of date; we found several pages and blog posts that hadn’t been refreshed since 2017 or earlier. But the information contained within the site raises a few red flags due to some troubling claims the company makes.
For example, The Credit Guru uses language claiming that the credit bureaus “don’t want you to use a credit repair company,” which isn’t accurate since the credit bureaus have nothing to gain from denying credit disputes. There’s also a particularly worrying claim that paying down past due bills won’t repair your credit, suggesting that a better option is to have The Credit Guru settle debts on your behalf for less money.
Credit repair companies sometimes offer to settle debts for their customers if they can’t be disputed as inaccurate. Those who agree don’t always realize the potential negative consequences of the debt settlement process. In some cases, customers end up owing more than they began with due to the high fees involved. Debt settlement can also ding your credit score more significantly than if you simply took the time to pay off the debt in full.
There isn’t much information available on The Credit Guru regarding customer feedback. While the company has a C+ rating with the Better Business Bureau (BBB), it’s hard to say what this rating is based on since the company has no reviews or complaints registered. Nothing is on file with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). The company does have a five-star rating on Google, although too few reviews exist to give this rating much weight.
If you have a complaint about the services of a credit repair company, you can file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) or call 877-FTC-HELP.
The Credit Guru’s services don’t require a long-term contract. Customers are billed on a monthly basis and can cancel anytime. However, you’ll need to notify the company that you’d like to terminate your package at least 15 days prior to your next billing period to ensure you won’t be charged. The company states that most customers retain services for an average of three to eight months.
Unfortunately, The Credit Guru doesn’t offer a money-back guarantee if you don’t see any results after paying for services. Their refund policy is quite strict; you’ll need to request one within the first five days to have your fees returned, which is just two days longer than the legal minimum laid out in the Credit Repair Organizations Act (CROA).
By law, credit repair companies aren’t allowed to bill customers for services that haven’t yet been performed. If a credit repair service asks for payment in advance, find a more reputable company to work with.
Considering the services included in each package, The Credit Guru’s fees are exceptionally high. The regular service costs $149.95 upfront and $89.00 per month. For the premium service, you’ll be charged $199.95 in setup fees plus $129.00 per month. Most credit repair companies with fees in this range include a much broader scope of services, such as credit monitoring, identity theft insurance, and other value adds.
One positive note is that The Credit Guru is good about offering discounts. Couples who sign up together will only pay $269.95 in combined setup fees for the regular service plan and $369.90 for the premium service, a discount of about $30 in each case. Savings are also offered to military members and those who refer another customer.
The Competition: The Credit Guru vs. The Credit Pros
Similarly named competitor, The Credit Pros, is a credit repair company that also prices its services quite high, although not to the same extent as The Credit Guru.
But The Credit Pros’ entry-level plan, priced at $119.00 upfront and $69.00 per month, offers a comparable service lineup as The Credit Guru’s most expensive plan that costs nearly twice as much. The most premium package available from The Credit Pros also includes credit monitoring, debt management, identity theft protection, and discount programs, none of which are even offered by The Credit Guru. It’s easy to see that The Credit Pros is the winner between the two.
|The Credit Guru||The Credit Pros|
|Services Offered||Credit repair, financial planning||Credit repair, monitoring, identity theft protection, financial planning|
|Customer Service Touchpoints||Phone, email||Phone, email, client portal|
|Upfront Fee||$149.95 to $199.95||$119.00 to $149.00|
|Monthly Fee||$89.00 to $129.00||$69.00 to $149.00|
Given The Credit Guru’s outdated tools and limited services, it’s hard to see why anyone should pay the company’s lofty prices. Much more affordable options are available from competitors, many of which include even more valuable services. Even if value wasn’t a factor, we’re concerned about some of the misleading claims The Credit Guru uses to make its services seem more appealing to potential customers.
How We Review Credit Repair Companies
To help consumers avoid the pitfalls of the credit repair industry, we review credit repair companies using a rigorous set of criteria. Our quantitative scoring system analyzes each firm’s plan offerings, cost structure, customer service, and reputation within the industry. We assign each company points based on their performance in every area to calculate an overall score on a scale of zero to five.
Learn more: Read our full Credit Repair Review Methodology here.
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