Do you want to repair your credit score but find the process exhausting and time-consuming? If your answer to this question is yes, the solution to your problem is here! You can delegate this task to Credit Repair Companies that specifically operate for this purpose.
However, choosing the best Credit Repair Company can be a puzzling task, as several scams exist in this sector. Hence, it is essential to conduct a thorough analysis, compare and contrast the different contenders in the industry, and pick the best one for you.
This compilation of the best Credit Repair Companies is now available for your reference. If you want to learn more about how Credit Repair Companies work, you can look at the guide attached.
Top 5 Best Credit Repair Companies
- Credit Saint: Best Credit Repair Company Overall
- Lexington Law: Most Experienced
- CreditRepair.com: Best Simple Credit Repair Options
- Sky Blue Credit: Best for Budget
- The Credit Pros: Best for Package Options
#1. Credit Saint: Best Credit Repair Company Overall
Credit Saint emerges as a clear winner among all leading contenders in the niche of credit repair services. It is a company based in New Jersey, U.S., and has been in this field since 2004.
Another noteworthy aspect of Credit Saint is the recognition they are receiving from the Better Business Bureau — an A+ rating since 2007.
Credit Saint will assign all of its clients a personal panel of advisors, who will constantly monitor the credit score and ensure that all of your queries are handled. Initially, they offer a free consultation over the phone and regular customer support for the duration of the entire process.
You will be provided with three packages to choose from based on the degree of repair your profile will require. They include Credit Polish (basic level of repair), Credit Remodel (intermediate level of repair), and Clean Slate (advanced level of repair).
Apart from this, you can also learn better credit management through this process, as you will work closely with the team of experts. This will ensure that you do not face any more hassles in the future.
In addition, all of the packages are loaded with perks. Credit Saint also provides you with a 90-day money-back guarantee if you do not see changes in the score.
Credit Saint provides you with multiple features to help boost your credit score, spanning across different packages. Some of them include credit score analysis and tracker facilities, monthly disputes ranging from five to unlimited, monitoring of Experian credit, and so on.
Credit Saint has one of the lowest fee structures in the entire credit repair industry. The kind of service they provide for the price ensures you experience a complete value-for-money offer.
There is no fixed contract scheme at Credit Saint. This is highly beneficial for the customer, as you can withdraw the services at any point in time, and you will not be charged a penalty.
- Personal Team of Advisories
Each customer will have a specific team of repair experts to concentrate on their case. They will constantly roll out updates regarding your credit repair process progress and help you monitor every modification closely.
- Transparency of the Process
Since you will be in constant contact with your team, you will always stay in the loop. There are no hidden edits in your data, and you can be assured that the process is as transparent as possible.
You can learn further about the necessity of transparency through this guide.
- Customized business plans to suit a vast horizon of customers
- Maximum positive reviews from customers and absence of complaints
- 100% money-back guarantee for 90 days
- Credit monitoring feature
- No policies for cancellation
- Services unavailable in Kansas, South Carolina, and Georgia
- Initial ‘first-time fee’ is relatively expensive
If you prioritize the experience factor of the Credit Repair Company heavily, Lexington Law is your go-to solution. They have more than two decades of experience in credit repair and hold a high reputation in the industry.
You can be assured that repairing your credit is in safe hands since the entire procedure takes place with the expertise of seasoned veterans from the legal department. Paralegals and attorneys are deeply involved in all of the methods applied to your credit repair processing.
This is a feature that is absent in most Credit Repair Companies. Therefore, you can remain worry-free about the legitimacy of your credit repair.
Lexington Law also strives to implement the Fair Credit Reporting Act in your documentation. It enlists the authorization of major credit bureaus to ensure that this scheme is applied duly.
Another exclusive service that Lexington Law provides is the feature of credit mentoring. You will be assigned with a representative with whom you can clarify all of your doubts and problem areas regarding your credit repair progress.
You will also gain access to educational resources related to this niche that will enable you to understand the nuances involved in the domain of credit repair.
- Multiple Scales of Credit Repair
Lexington Law provides you with three options you can opt for based upon your need. Concord Standard, Concord Premium, and Premium Plus are the choices from which you can select.
All of these options have unique features that scale up with each step. You can opt for Concord Standard for basic correction and removal of incorrect items.
Concord Premium is for users who require credit mentoring to track changes in credit history. The InquiryAssist option is another feature that is an add-on under this scheme.
Premium Plus is the ultimate top-of-the-order service you should proceed with if your credit score requires significant corrections.
- Free Initial Credit Report Consultation
This firm offers a free credit report consultation for you to understand their services and methods of operation better.
- Provision of Educational Resources
Since the firm employs attorneys and paralegals, you can receive valuable insight from them through access to resources.
Most Credit Repair Companies do not prefer educating their clients through hands-on knowledge. However, this is possible with Lexington Law, which sets it apart from other companies in this category.
Once you enlist the services of Lexington Law, you will be assigned with an experienced paralegal. They will take you through this entire operation and ensure that all of your issues and doubts are taken care of in a comprehensive approach.
- Free consultation for your credit report
- Customized to suit a wide range of budget plans
- Involvement of actual legal authorities
- Easily accessible customer support
- Longevity in the industry with over decades of experience
- Service tiers are not demarcated clearly
- Does not hold BBB accreditation
#3. CreditRepair.com: Best Simple Credit Repair Options
This credit repair firm shot to fame for its exclusive free credit score analysis feature. The company is relatively new to this industry, having only been established in 2012, and is based in Utah, U.S.
CreditRepair.com will help you with several concerns, including late payments, bankruptcies, collections, charge-offs, foreclosures, and much more. This company also has three different pricing plans available.
All grades of credit repair services include credit monitoring features, which are generally absent in other Credit Repair Companies. Here, even the most basic model will have access to this feature.
CreditRepair.com is also known for its affordable compensation scheme. None of its plans are exorbitantly priced. The monthly subscription fees are priced in an average range, according to several customer reviews.
They also have extensive tools for customers to stay informed about the progress in their credit repair. The multiple features comprise an online dashboard that will update all of the briefings regarding the user’s credit score.
Free mobile applications for Android and iOS are also available for you to stay aware of the proceedings.
- Different Tiers of Services Provided
CreditRepair.com has three different pricing scales: the Direct Plan, the Standard Plan, and the Advanced Plan.
The features included in all of these levels include inquiry assists, score updates quarterly, goodwill intervention, and, most importantly, credit mentoring.
When you opt for the Standard Plan, an additional service you get access to is the FICO Score Inquiry Assist service. You can go for this plan if you have different documents that require looking into simultaneously.
The Advanced Plan provides you with maximized returns that include full-time monitoring from the major credit bureaus, credit score updates regularly, increased desist interventions, and so on.
CreditRepair.com teams up with several recognized brands. For example, they have alliances with Lending Tree, Mint.com, Bankrate, and Credit.com. They have established giants in the domain of finance, therefore boosting the factor of credibility.
- Free Credit Score Analysis
This is the feature that initially brought CreditRepair.com to the limelight. You can get a free consultation for about 15 minutes when you are in the process of analyzing their attributes.
- All-Encompassing Library of Resources
When you visit their website, you can witness an exhaustive collection of articles and guides, which will offer you insight to solve your credit repair issues.
The presence of extensive resources regarding themes like identity theft, debt solutions, savings, and the ill effects of poor credit make this a precious amenity.
- Free consultation call for initial assessment
- Availability of credit mentoring in all price schemes
- Complete customer support with access to an online dashboard and phone application
- Records are incredibly transparent and accessible to users
- Partnerships with reliable firms and organizations
- No money-refund policy
- Additional add-ons are absent
- 24/7 support is unavailable
If your primary requisite while looking for a Credit Repair Company is to receive a complete value-for-money service, Sky Blue Credit will suit you best. They are renowned for their inexpensive yet premium quality packages to aid you with your credit repair process.
Sky Blue Credit has been in the credit repair business for a number of years, with the firm established in 1989. They have evolved through their approach and have a specialized online portal along with offering customer support effectively.
They have the reputation of being immensely customer-friendly, with all their proceedings being compliant with new customers’ requirements specifically. They have helpful refund policies and offer cancellation facilities as well when required.
Some of the services they provide include approaching credit bureaus with disputes, a proficient credit analysis feature, and the feature of score building.
The trustworthy reputation of Sky Blue Credit is further highlighted with an A+ rating from the Better Business Bureau (BBB). Unnecessary purchases and sales gimmicks are entirely avoided as well.
Initially, they also provide you with a free consultation offer to go through your credit score. In case there are no aspects they can help you with, the consultation remains free of cost. Their pricing system is also highly transparent and does not include any hidden charges.
- Singular Credit Repair Plan
Unlike most of the other Credit Repair Companies that provide you with multi-leveled schemes, Sky Blue Credit possesses a single credit plan for all of your requirements.
This will be beneficial for new users who are unsure of what will suit their requirements exactly. The pricing is placed at an average range for this credit repair system.
- Extensive Add-Ons Available
You can opt for multiple add-ons such as goodwill letters, mortgage preparation, debt validation, and cease and desist letters.
Goodwill letters are generally sent to creditors to excuse a one-time fallacy in your report. If you have a decent and straightforward history on your credit report, later on, you can cite this as a reason to remove the derogatory remark.
Sky Blue Credit will also aid you in adjusting your mortgage lender requirements if you are going through buying a house, for example.
- Good BBB customer ratings and reviews
- Offers a 90-day money-back policy if no progress is seen in the credit repair
- 50% off discounts available for couples
- Sends up to 15 disputes in a timespan of 35 days
- Online credit enrollment option available
- Credit monitoring feature is unavailable
- No legal staff and no 24/7 customer support
Credit Pros is not only affordable, but also is an A+ accredited credit repair organization. In addition, it is known for its rapid service proceedings. Credit Pros was established in 2009 in New Jersey by an attorney. With this company, you can take advantage of a diverse range of bonus services at a very affordable monthly fee, thereby making it a hit among the customers.
A central selling point of this credit repair service is the inclusion of credit monitoring under all of the different price points and schemes. The availability of unlimited monthly disputes is yet another popular and widely appreciated feature of Credit Pros.
A free mobile application is available for users to install on iOS and Android to constantly monitor the progress in their documentation and to reach out to customer service for all types of queries.
The contract options are also flexible, as all of the payments can be made monthly.
- Diverse Pricing Plans to Suit Different Needs
You can choose one of three schemes according to the level of repair required in your credit score. The different plans are called Money Management, Prosperity Package, and Success Package.
Credit Sentry monitoring is the credit monitoring system that is present under all of the price plans. You also have an option to utilize this service separately as a singular service.
The different features of this include identity monitoring, finance programs access, debt management, and discounts for prescription medications.
Unlike other Credit Repair Companies that excessively limit the features available for entry-level users to force them to upgrade, Credit Pros places all three levels at a comparatively equivalent level.
The difference in price schemes can be attributed to the different outcomes that customers might require.
- Caters to Different Audiences
The applications that customers can use to access their credit pair tracking are bilingual. Both English and Spanish are available to make it inclusive for customers.
This is yet another unique feature that enhances the relationship between the customer and the company. This feature is available from 9 AM to 8 PM (ET).
- Free first-time consultation facility
- High-use BBB rating ensures quality service
- Presence of credit monitoring under all price structures
- Unlimited credit disputes offered
- Free mobile application with push notifications to keep track of progress
- First-time payment is high
- No money-refund option and limited learning resources
How We Made This List of Credit Repair Services
Since most users are gradually shifting towards automating and outsourcing the grunt work associated with repairing their credit, multiple firms and corporations have entered this field to serve. And, truth be told, at the pace the world is moving, companies such as these are convenient and are here in a time that matters.
As a result, we found ourselves with an extensive index of Credit Repair Companies.
Next, we filtered out all of the credit repair companies that seemed suspicious and illegitimate about their dealings and transactions. Several infamous companies had many complaints and grievances against them for scamming customers.
Warning Signs to Watch Out For
We have mentioned some of the risky and unauthorized specifications that some companies offering credit repair services might hold or state. They include:
Presence of Complaints Against Them
It is best to entirely avoid companies that have charges against them. Corporate commission offices will have details regarding the history of the organization.
Absence of Formal Contracts and Documentation
Proper maintenance of all the records and a standard registration is non-negotiable. If a company does not provide you with these, it is not advisable to associate with them.
Insisting on Interim Payment
The CROA strictly prohibits advance payments.
Offering to Remove Legal Information or Correct Errors
This is an entirely illegal approach to repairing your credit score. You cannot tamper with the existing credit details, even if it is damaging to your credit profile.
Suggesting to Create a New Credit Profile
Certain felonious organizations offering credit repair services recommend creating an entirely new profile and identity if the repair process is extremely tedious. This is illegal, and you will get penalized.
We also did a background check on all of the companies by collecting data from the complaint database of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
The next step we performed in compiling this list was researching all of the leading contenders in the industry to get an idea about their services, customer satisfaction, and overall credibility. These are some of the fundamental factors that we took utmost care of while researching, as they play a significant role.
Features of a Reputable Credit Repair Company
Here, we have listed some of the features of a dependable Credit Repair Company for your reference:
Adhering Strictly to Laws
All reputable Credit Repair Companies will have an active license and insurance. This is a prominent sign of a company that abides by the regulations sincerely. All of the laws for a Credit Repair Company are mentioned here.
Free Consultation Provided
Some companies offering credit repair services will provide you with an overview of their functioning and state the possibilities and limitations as part of a free trial. Thus, you can get a clear idea and base your decision upon this instead of investing your money without a guarantee.
The company needs to provide you with a warranty if the services do not pan out properly.
What We Looked For
Apart from the general features mentioned above, we also looked for several other vital factors that play a deciding role in the plausibility of the company. They are mentioned below:
- Level of professionalism of the company in the association
- Importance that is given to official documentation and particulars
- Favorable customer reviews and recommendations
- Experience, the expanse of clients, and level of establishment in this niche
- Warranty period given by the company
- Money-back guarantee if the company does not produce the desired outcome
- Transparency of the entire process and the promise of only realistic results
We have compiled the best Credit Repair Companies’ reviews based upon all the factors mentioned above.
Why Should You Work With Credit Repair Companies?
- Lower or No Security Deposits
Phone service providers check credit card scores before offering services to you. A bad credit card score implies a higher risk of defaulting payments, and to mitigate the risk, they charge you security deposits. On the other hand, if you have a high credit score, they may not charge you any security deposit.
- Eschew High Insurance Rates
Insurance service providers also check your credit score before deciding which type of services you are eligible to receive, including how much in premiums you must pay. With a low credit score, you are said to be a high-risk client, and thus, they charge you higher in premiums.
You will have to pay cash for products and services because a low credit score will give you difficulty in getting access to a credit card. In addition, some sellers and providers charge higher prices for clients who pay cash.
Your credit score is directly proportional to your credit limit. If you want to increase your credit limit with your providers, you have to mend your credit score. Credit Repair Companies help you with this.
Credit Repair Companies take a huge, irritating burden off your shoulders. Those annoying phone calls, texts, and emails from debt collectors containing the same information are exasperating. Credit Repair Companies step in here.
A bad credit score might be coming in between you getting your dream house. Due to a low credit score, you might not have access to a mortgage or auto loan. A low credit score must be fixed for you to access these facilities and pay lower interest rates.
What Credit Repair Companies Can and Cannot Do
Credit card repair companies promise a lot of things to attract customers. Credit repair services, governed by credit repair organizations, stipulate what they can or cannot do.
What They Can Do
Credit Repair Companies pull your credit from the three credit bureaus and make a credit expert go through it in detail to determine what they can do. Then, after the expert identifies mistakes in the report, including errors in payment history, double entries, and expired negative items, they step in.
Credit Repair Companies can dispute faulty information present in your credit reports, which could be causing a low in your credit score. They communicate to credit bureaus, money lenders, financial institutions, and debt collectors on your behalf.
Good Credit Repair Companies inform you of your right to dispute inaccurate information on credit reports on your own. They also notify you of your right to sue them for any violation of the governing body.
You should be provided with a detailed contract with terms of service, payment, and duration to get results. Before charging you with hidden costs, you must be informed.
What Credit Repair Companies Cannot Do
Credit report companies cannot ask you to dispute accurate negative information on your credit report unless the date can be verified. Likewise, they cannot delete negative information on your credit report. They can only challenge it.
Some Credit Repair Companies ask you to change your identity (i.e., changing your social security number), which is illegal. They cannot charge you until they render services or guarantee a change in your credit score.
They should not ask you to give false information to the credit bureaus to save face. Likewise, they cannot ask you to open new accounts or pressure you into disclosing personal information which is unnecessary for fixing a negative credit score.
What Type of Company Should You Choose?
If the Credit Repair Company is popular and has worked for others, it could work for you too. Most company’s websites have reviews from their previous clients. Referrals from friends or relatives could be useful as well.
Look for companies that operate within the law when you are looking to hire a Credit Repair Company. Some Credit Repair Companies may leave you in trouble with the law to fix your credit score.
Credit Repair Companies must give you a detailed contract, having payment terms, contact details, and what they are and are not doing. Before you can start any business, you must be allowed to read and understand the contract.
If a company gives you a money-back guarantee, they are confident about their ability to help you fix your low credit issues. Conversely, you might waste your money if the company you work with does not offer this facility.
Credit Repair Companies charge their customers for their services every month. If the company is taking too long to show you results, they may be taking advantage of your monthly subscription. Work with companies that give you results and save costs.
Things You Need to Look Out For
When you choose the credit company you want to work with, you need to consider some criteria.
The Credit Repair Organizations Act states that no Credit Repair Company can ask for any fee before providing services. The company could be violating this or scamming you.
Credit repair is a time-consuming process, and if a company asks you to pay a one-off fee, they could be trying to scam you. So, stop working with the company immediately.
It is considered illegal in every state to make false statements regarding credit information. Therefore, the Credit Repair Company could land you in trouble, including legal issues and violating the Credit Repair Organizations Act.
Some Credit Repair Companies might ask you to change or alter your identity by using other information, such as another person’s social security number. They do this so you can escape credit bureaus. This is illegal, and it is not a good idea to work with such companies.
Some companies promise you that they can remove information from your credit report. However, this cannot be guaranteed and might be a selling point to lure you for work.
- Disputing Accurate Information
Legitimate credit companies help you dispute inaccurate information in credit reports or accurate reports that data furnishers cannot verify. If you are requested to do anything otherwise, you must not work with them.
- Withholding Essential Information
Credit Repair Companies are obligated to inform you of your right to sue them if they violate the CROA and dispute your credit information without any charges before you start working with them. If the company fails to provide this information, avoid them.
- Promising Specific Credit Score
If you are guaranteed a particular credit score, it is invalid, for this is too good to be true. Many factors influence your credit scores, causing alterations unexpectedly, and no company can promise a specific credit score.
- Cite Affiliations with Government or Credit Bureaus
Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act, all Credit Bureaus are obligated to act. If a Credit Repair Company claims to have special relationships with these bureaus, it is most likely a scam. This can cause you more problems than solutions.
FAQs on Best Credit Repair Companies
Q1. What is a Credit Repair Company?
A Credit Repair Company is an organization offering services to improve your credit for a fee. They promise to handle all of the heavy lifting included in working with credit report agencies. Credit repair services are different from credit counseling.
Q2. What is a Credit Counselling Agency?
Credit counseling agencies are typically a free resource from non-profit financial education organizations to review your finances, debt, and credit reports. Their goal is to teach you to improve and manage your financial situations by yourself.
Q3. How much does it cost?
It varies from company to company depending on how that company calculates it. However, there is a rule they have to follow. Credit Repair Companies cannot request or receive payment until they provide their customers with guaranteed results.
You might pay a one-time, flat fee or for each derogatory mark, the company strips from your reports according to which company it is. It may start around $35 per deletion and could go on till $750 or more.
The company can also charge you by the month, ranging from $50 to $130 or more. You might also have to give a setup fee or a fee for assessing your reports. First, determine how much work your reports require.
If there are only one or two negative items, you are better off disputing any errors in your credit reports by yourself.
Q4. How do you dispute an error on your credit report yourself?
Errors in credit reports can range from incorrect personal information to credit accounts. It would be best if you rectified these errors at the earliest to avoid future problems. Some common errors include incorrect personal information, wrong loan accounts, incorrect credit limit, account status, payment history, duplicate account, etc.
Starting, you must fill out the form to dispute your errors. Next, you can raise an online dispute with the credit bureau. Go to the dispute resolution section and fill out the form. You will need to submit a nine digit number mentioned on your credit report.
Once you submit the online complaint form, the credit bureau will verify the dispute. Credit bureaus cannot make changes to your credit reports. It takes about 30 days for your dispute to get resolved.
According to the laws, banks have to develop a formal resolution within 45 days of the complaint. You will be notified about the result via email.
Q5. What are some factors contributing to high credit scores?
Some factors include a history of on-time payments, low balances on credit cards, a mix of different credit card and loan accounts, old credit accounts, and minimal inquiries for new credit.
Some factors that cause lower credit scores are missed or late payments, collections, high credit card balances, and judgments.
Q6. How do you improve your credit on your own?
Some ways to improve your credit include reviewing your credit reports on your own for errors. This is a good time for checking reports to detect any suspicious activity, which indicates identity theft.
The top 90% of lenders use FICO credit scores, which are determined by five factors: payment history, credit usage, age of credit accounts, credit mix, and new credit inquiries. Payment history has the biggest impact on your credit score.
It is better to have debts you have already paid, like student loans. It works in your favor if you have paid your debts on time, as they remain on your record. Avoid late payments at all costs.
Some tips for creating a filing system include keeping track of monthly bills, setting due-date alerts, and automating bill payments from your account. You can also charge most or all of your expenses to a credit card to pay the balance in an entire month to prevent interest charges.
- Limit Your Requests for New Credit
Two types of inquiries can appear in your credit history. They are often referred to as “soft” and “hard” inquiries. A soft inquiry may include checking your credit, giving an employer permission to check your credit, credit card companies checking your file, etc. Soft inquiries do not affect your credit score.
However, “hard” inquiries can affect your credit score adversely, and they include applications for a new credit card, a mortgage, an auto loan, etc. In addition, many of them can damage your credit score in only a short period.
Conclusion: Which Is the Best Credit Repair Company?
It is a common question posed by people who want to know if a Credit Repair Company provides valuable services on a tried-and-tested process. A prominent function of credit repair includes removing faulty items from clients’ reports and reducing financial impact.
A Credit Repair Company also outlines the process by writing effective dispute letters and negotiating with creditors. Every company has a different business process to benefit the client. This particular arena can be quite predatory, which is why we were very meticulous in compiling our list of the best Credit Repair Companies. Our pick from the lot would be Credit Saint. Not only is it well-recognized and has great reviews, it also assists each customer with all of their needs.
Companies with incredible track records also have to work within the credit bureau system and cannot assure that the system they use will work for you. The companies must work hard to negotiate with creditors for their clients.
Inside the Highly Profitable and Secretive World of Payday Lenders
When Bridget Davis got started in the family’s payday lending business in 1996, there was just one Check ’n Go store in Cincinnati. She says she did it all: customer service, banking duties, even painting walls.
The company had been established two years earlier by her husband, Jared Davis, and was growing rapidly. There were 100 Check ’n Go locations by 1997, when Jared and Bridget (née Byrne) married and traveled the country together looking for more locations to open storefront outlets. They launched another 400 stores in 1998, mostly in strip malls and abandoned gas stations in low-income minority neighborhoods where the payday lending target market abounds. Bridget drove the supply truck and helped select locations and design the store layouts.
But Jared soon fired his wife for committing what may be the ultimate sin in the payday lending business: She forgave a customer’s debt. “A young woman came to pay her $20 interest payment,” Bridget wrote in court documents last year during divorce proceedings from Jared. “I pulled her file, calculated that she had already paid $320 to date on a principle [sic] loan of $100. I told her she was paid in full. [Jared] fired me, stating, ‘We are here to make money, not help customers manage theirs. If you can’t do that, you can’t work here.’ ”
It’s a business philosophy that pays well, especially if you’re charging fees and interest rates of 400 percent that can more than triple the amount of the loan in just five months—the typical time most payday borrowers need to repay their debt, says the Pew Charitable Trusts, a nonprofit organization focused on public policy. Cincinnati-based Check ’n Go now operates more than 1,100 locations in 25 states as well as an internet lending service with 24/7 access from the comfort of your own home, according to its website. Since its founding, the company has conducted more than 50 million transactions.
What the website doesn’t say is that many, if not most, of those transactions were for small loans of $50 to $500 to working people trying to scrape by and pay their bills. In most states—including Ohio, until it reformed its payday lending laws in 2019—borrowers typically fork over more than one-third of their paycheck to meet the deadline for repayment, usually in two weeks. To help guarantee repayment, borrowers turn over access to their checking account or deposit a check with the lender. In states that don’t offer protection, customers go back again and again to borrow more money from the same payday lender, typically up to 10 times, driving themselves into a debt trap that can lead to bankruptcy.
Jared and Bridget Davis are embroiled in a nasty court battle related to his 2019 divorce filing in Hamilton County Domestic Relations Court. Thousands of pages of filings and 433 docket entries by April 26 offer the public a rare glimpse into the business operations of Check ’n Go, one of Cincinnati’s largest privately-owned companies, as well as personal lifestyles funded by payday lending.
The company cleared $77 million in profit in 2018, a figure that dipped the following year to $55 million, according to an audit by Deloitte. That drop in revenue may have something to do with the payday lending reform laws and interest rate caps passed recently in Ohio as well as a growing number of other states.
The day-to-day business transactions that provide such profit are a depressing window into how those who live on the edge of financial security are often stuck with few options for improving their situations. If a borrower doesn’t repay or refinance his or her original loan, a lender like Check ’n Go deposits the guarantee check and lets it bounce, causing the borrower to incur charges for the bounced check and eventually lose his or her checking account, says Nick DiNardo, an attorney for the Legal Aid Society of Greater Cincinnati. After two missed payments, payday lenders usually turn over the debt to a collection agency. If the collection agency fails to collect the full amount of the original loan as well as all fees and interest, it goes to court to garnish the borrower’s wages.
That devastating experience is all too familiar to Anthony Smith, a 60-year-old Wyoming resident who says he was laid off from several management positions over a 20-year period. He turned to payday lenders as his credit rating dropped and soon found himself caught in a debt trap that took him years to escape.
Two things happened in 2019, Smith says, that turned around his financial fortunes. First, he found a stable manufacturing job with the Formica Company locally, and then he took his mother’s advice and opened a credit union account. GE Credit Union not only gave him a reasonable loan to pay off his $2,500 debt but also issued him his first credit card in a decade. “I had been a member [of the credit union] for just two months, and I had a credit rating of 520. Can you imagine?” he says. Smith says he is now debt-free for the first time in 10 years.
Consumer advocates say Check ’n Go is one of the biggest payday lending operations in the nation. But knowing its exact ranking is difficult because most payday lending companies, including Check ’n Go and its parent company CNG Holdings, are privately held and reluctant to disclose their finances.
Brothers Jared and David Davis own the majority of the company’s privately held stock. David bought into the company in 1995, but CNG got its game-changing infusion of capital from the brothers’ father, Allen Davis, who retired as CEO of then-Provident Bank in 1998. Allen sold off $37 million in stock options and essentially became CNG’s bank and consultant.
By 2005, however, the sons were part of a public court battle against their father. Allen accused Jared and David of treating his millions in CNG stock as compensation instead of a transfer from his ex-wife (and the brothers’ mother), sticking him with a $13 million tax bill. In turn, the brothers accused Allen of putting his mistress and his yacht captain on the company payroll, taking $1.2 million in fees without board approval, and leading the company into ventures that lost Check ’n Go a lot of money. Several years of legal fighting later, the IRS was still demanding its $13 million. CNG officials did not respond to requests for comment for this story.
Jared and David split $22 million in profit from CNG in 2018 and, according to the Deloitte audit, CNG’s balance sheet showed another $42 million that could be split between the two brothers in 2019. Jared, however, elected not to receive his $21 million distribution “in order to create this artificial financial crisis and shelter millions of dollars from an equitable split between us,” according to Bridget’s divorce filing.
Worse, she claims, Jared said they would be responsible for paying taxes out of their personal accounts rather than from CNG’s company earnings, making her personally responsible for half of the $5.5 million in taxes for 2019. She believes it wasn’t happenstance that $5.5 million was wired to Jared’s private bank account in December of that same year. Bridget has refused to sign the joint tax return, and Jared filed a complaint with the court saying a late tax filing would cost them $1 million in penalties and missed tax opportunities.
“For the duration of our marriage and to the present, Jared has full and complete control of all money paid to us from various investments we have made in addition to our main source of income, CNG,” Bridget wrote in her motion. She suspects that Jared, without her knowledge or consent, plowed the money for their taxes and from other sources of income into Black Diamond Group, the fund that invests in the Agave & Rye restaurant chain. Beyond the original restaurant opened in Covington in 2018, “they have opened four other locations in one year,” she wrote, including Louisville and Lexington. (The ninth location opened in Hamilton this spring.) Agave & Rye’s website touts its Mexican fare as “a chef-inspired take on the standard taco, elevating this simple food into something epic!”
In his response, Jared wrote, “We have very limited regular sources of income.” He says he isn’t receiving any additional distributions from CNG, the couple’s primary source of income, “and this is not within my control. The company has declared that we would not make any further distributions in 2020 given economic circumstances. This decision is based on a formula and is not discretionary.” Agave & Rye helped produce $645,000 in income for Black Diamond in 2020 but has paid out $890,000 in loans, he says. Through August 31, 2020, he wrote, the couple’s “expenses have exceeded income from all sources.”
The divorce case filings start slinging mud when the couple accuses each other of breaking up their 22-year marriage and finding new partners. Jared claims Bridget began an affair during their marriage with Brian Duncan, a contractor she employed through her house flipping business. Bridget, he says, paid Duncan’s company $75,000 in 2018 as well as giving him a personal gift of $70,000 that same year. Jared says she also bought Duncan at least one car and purchased a house for him near hers on Shawnee Run Road for $289,000, then loaned money to Duncan. Jared says Duncan has been late in repaying the note.
While Bridget says Duncan has been drug-free for several years, he has a rap sheet with Hamilton County courts from 2000 to 2017 that runs five pages long. It lists a half-dozen counts of drug abuse and drug possession, including heroin and possession of illegal drug paraphernalia; assaulting a police officer; stealing a Taser from a police officer; criminal damaging while being treated at UC Health; more than a dozen speeding and traffic violations; a half-dozen counts of driving with a suspended license; receiving stolen property; twice fleeing and resisting arrest; three counts of theft; two counts of forgery; and one count for passing bad checks.
Bridget has fired back that Jared not only is hiding his money from her but spending it lavishly on vacations, resorts, and high-end restaurants with his new girlfriend, Susanne Warner. Bridget says Jared gifted Warner with $40,000 without Bridget’s knowledge, then declared it on their joint tax return as a “contribution.” Bridget’s court filings include photocopies of social media posts of Jared and Warner globetrotting from summer 2019 to summer 2020: vacation at Beaver Creek Village in Avon, Colorado; cocktails at High Cotton in Charleston, South Carolina, and dinner at Melvyn’s Restaurant and Lounge in Palm Springs, California; getaways at resorts in Nashville and at a lakefront rental on Norris Lake ($600 per night); in the Bahamas at a Musha Cay private residence ($57,000 per night), at South Beach in Miami, and at a private beach at Fisher Island; in Mexico at Cabo San Lucas; in the U.S. Virgin Islands at Magen’s Bay and on a private yacht ($4,500 per night); in California at Desert Hot Springs, the Ritz-Carlton in Rancho Mirage, and Montage at Laguna Beach; and in the Bahamas at South Cottage ($2,175 per night).
For her part, Bridget has gone through some of the top lawyers in town faster than President Trump during an impeachment—six in all, two of whom she’s sued for malpractice. She sent four binders of evidence to the Ohio Supreme Court, asking for the recusal of Hamilton County Judge Amy Searcy and claiming Searcy was biased because of campaign donations from Jared and his companies. Rather than deal with the list of questions sent to her by Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor, Searcy stepped down. Two other judges have since stepped into the fray, and in March Bridget filed for a change of venue outside of Hamilton County, arguing she can’t get a fair trial in her hometown. At press time, a trial date had been set for June 28 in Hamilton County.
The poor-mouthing in the divorce case has reached heights of comic absurdity. Jared claims he’s “illiquid” because he didn’t get his distribution from CNG in 2019. Bridget has received debt collection notices for the nearly $21,000 owed on her American Express card and a $735 bill from Jewish Hospital. There’s no sign yet that anyone is coming to repossess her Porsche, which according to her filings has a $5,000 monthly payment. Each party has received $25,000 a month in living expenses, an amount later reduced to $15,000 under a temporary legal agreement while the divorce case is being sorted out. Court filings show that Jared’s net worth is almost $206 million and Bridget’s is $22.5 million.
In the early 1990s, Allen Davis was raising eyebrows at Provident Bank (later bought by National City), and not only because of his very unbanker-like look of beard, ponytail, and casual golf wear. He was leading the company into questionable subprime home loans for people with bad credit and a frequent-shopper program for merchants, though the bank’s charter barred him from getting involved in full-blown predatory lending practices. With guidance and funding from his father, Jared, at age 26, launched Check ’n Go in 1994 and became a pioneer in the payday lending industry. Jared and his family saw there were millions of Americans who didn’t have checking or savings accounts (“unbanked”) or an adequate credit rating (“underbanked”) but still needed loans to meet their everyday expenses. What those potential customers did have was a steady paycheck.
Conventional banks share a big part of the blame for the nation’s army of unbanked borrowers by imposing checking account fees and onerous penalties for bounced checks. In 2019, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation estimated there were 7.1 million U.S. households without a checking or savings account.
The Davises launched Check ’n Go on the pretext that it would “fill the gap” for people who occasionally needed to borrow money in a hurry—a service for those who couldn’t get a loan any other way. But consumer advocates say the real business model for payday lending isn’t a service at all. The majority of the industry’s revenue comes from repeat business by customers trapped in debt, not from borrowers looking for a quick, one-time fix for their financial troubles.
Ohio’s payday lending lobbyists got a strong hold on the state legislature in the late 1990s, and by 2018 Democratic gubernatorial candidate Richard Cordray could rightfully claim in a campaign ad that “Ohio’s [payday lending] laws are now the worst in the nation. Things have gotten so bad that it is legal to charge 594 percent interest on loans.” His statement was based on a 2014 study by the Pew Charitable Trusts.
The frustration for consumer advocates was that Ohioans had been trying to reform those laws since 2008, when voters overwhelmingly approved a ballot initiative placing a 28 percent cap on the interest of payday loans. But—surprise!—lenders simply registered as mortgage brokers, which enabled them to charge unlimited fees.
The Davis family and five other payday lending companies controlled 90 percent of the market back then, an express gravy train ripping through the poorest communities in Ohio. The predatory feeding frenzy, especially in Ohio’s hard-hit Rust Belt communities, prompted a 2017 column at The Daily Beast titled, “America’s Worst Subprime Lender: Jared Davis vs. Allan Jones?” (Jones is founder and CEO of Tennessee-based Check Into Cash.) In 2016 and 2017, consumer advocates mustered their forces again, and this time they weren’t allowing for loopholes. The Pew Charitable Trusts joined efforts with bipartisan lawmakers and Ohioans for Payday Loan Reform, a statewide coalition of faith, business, local government, and nonprofit organizations. Consumer advocates found a legislative champion in State Rep. Kyle Koehler, a Republican from Springfield.
It no doubt helped reform efforts that former Ohio Speaker of the House Cliff Rosenberger resigned in spring 2018 amid an FBI investigation into his cozy relationship with payday lenders. Rosenberger had taken frequent overseas trips—to destinations including France, Italy, Israel, and China—in the company of payday lending lobbyists. In April 2019, Ohio’s new lending law took effect and, since then, has been called a national model for payday lending reform that balances protections for borrowers, profits for lenders, and access to credit for the poor, according to the Pew Charitable Trusts. New prices in Ohio are three to four times lower for payday loans than before the law. Borrowers now have up to three months to repay their loans with no more than 6 percent of their paycheck. Pew estimates that the cost of borrowing $400 for three months dropped from $450 to $109, saving Ohioans at least $75 million a year. And despite claims that the reforms would eliminate access to credit, lenders currently operate in communities across the state and online. “The bipartisan success shows that if you set fair rules and enforce them, lenders play by them and there’s widespread access to credit,” says Gabe Kravitz, a consumer finance officer at the Pew Charitable Trusts.
Other states like Virginia, Kansas, and Michigan are following Ohio’s lead, Kravitz says. Some states, such as Nebraska, have even capped annual interest on payday loans. As a result, Pew researchers have seen a reduction in the number of storefront lending operations across the country. Even better, Kravitz says, there’s no evidence that borrowers are turning instead to online payday lending operations.
Cincinnati is one of five cities chosen for a grant to replicate the success of Boston Builds Credit, an ambitious effort that city launched in 2017 to provide credit counseling in poor and minority communities by training specialists at existing social service agencies. The program also encourages consumer partnerships with credit unions, banks, and insurance companies to offer small, manageable loans that can help the unbanked and underbanked improve their credit ratings. “Right now, local organizations are all kind of working in silos on the problem in Cincinnati,” says Todd Moore of the nonprofit credit counseling agency Trinity Debt Relief. Moore, who applied for the Boston grant, says he’s looking for an agency like United Way or Strive Cincinnati to lead the effort here.
Anthony Smith is thankful that he’s escaped the downward spiral of his payday loans, especially during the pandemic’s economic turmoil. “I’m blessed for every day I can get paid and have a job during these difficult times, just to be able to pay my bills and meet my responsibilities,” he says. “I’ve always kept a job, but until now I’ve had crappy credit. That doesn’t mean I’m a bad guy.”
Can others worth millions of dollars say the same?
Inside the Highly Profitable and Secretive World of Payday Lenders Source link Inside the Highly Profitable and Secretive World of Payday Lenders
What’s Questionable Credit and Can I Get a Car Loan With It?
Questionable’s definition means that something’s quality is up for debate. If a lender says that your credit score is questionable, it’s likely that they mean it’s poor, or at the very least, they’re hesitant to approve you for vehicle financing. Here’s what most lenders consider questionable credit, and what auto loan options you may have.
Questionable Credit and Auto Lenders
Many auto lenders may consider questionable credit as a borrower with a credit score below 660. The credit score tiers as sorted by Experian the national credit bureau, are:
- Super prime: 850 to 781
- Prime: 780 to 661
- Nonprime: 660 to 601
- Subprime: 600 to 501
- Deep subprime: 500 to 300
The nonprime credit tiers and below is when you start to get into bad credit territory and may struggle to meet the credit score requirements of traditional auto lenders.
This is because lenders are looking at your creditworthiness – your perceived ability to repay loans based on the information in your credit reports. Besides your actual credit score, there may be situations where the items in your credit reports are what’s making a lender question whether you’re a good candidate for an auto loan. These can include:
- A past or active bankruptcy
- A past or recent vehicle repossession
- Recent missed/late payments
- High credit card balances
- No credit history
There are ways to get into an auto loan with questionable credit. Your options can change depending on what’s making your credit history questionable, though.
Questionable Credit Auto Loans
If your credit score is less than stellar, it may be time to look at these two lending options:
- Subprime financing – Done through special finance dealerships by third-party subprime lenders. These lenders can often assist with many unique credit situations, provided you can meet their requirements. A great option for new borrowers with thin files, situational bad credit, or consumers with older negative marks.
- In-house financing – May not require a credit check, and is done through buy here pay here (BHPH) dealers. Typically, your income and down payment amount are the most important parts of eligibility. Auto loans without a credit check may not allow for credit repair and may come with a higher-than-average interest rate.
Both of these car loan options are typically available to borrowers with credit challenges. However, if you have more recent, serious delinquencies on your credit reports, a BHPH dealer may be for you. Most traditional and subprime lenders typically don’t approve financing for borrowers with a dismissed bankruptcy, a repossession less than a year old, or borrowers with multiple, recent missed/late payments.
Requirements of Bad Credit Car Loans
In many cases, your income and down payment size are the biggest factors in your overall eligibility for bad credit auto loans. Expect to need:
- 30 days of recent computer-generated check stubs to prove you have around $1,500 to $2,500 of monthly gross income. Borrowers without W-2 income may need two to three years of professionally prepared tax returns.
- A down payment of at least $1,000 or 10% of the vehicle’s selling price. BHPH dealers may require up to 20% of the car’s selling price.
- Proof of residency in the form of a recent utility bill in your name.
- Proof of a working phone (no prepaid phones), proven with a recent phone bill in your name.
- A list of five to eight personal references with name, phone number, and address.
- Valid driver’s license with the correct address, can’t be revoked, expired, or suspended.
Depending on your individual situation, you may need fewer or more items to apply for a bad credit auto loan. However, preparing these documents before you head to a dealership can speed up the process!
Ready to Get on the Road?
With questionable credit, finding a dealership that’s able to assist you with an auto loan is easier said than done. Here at Auto Credit Express, we want to get that done for you with our coast-to-coast network of special finance dealerships.
Complete our free auto loan request form and we’ll get right to work looking for a dealer in your local area that can assist with many tough credit situations.
Entrepreneur Tae Lee Finds Her Fortune
By Jasmine Shaw
For The Birmingham Times
Birmingham native Tae Lee had plans last year to visit the continent of Africa, the South American country of Columbia, and the U.S. state of Texas.
“I was going to stay in each place for like four to six weeks, and then COVID-19 happened,” she said. “So, I just was like, ‘You know what, I’m just gonna go to Mexico and stay for six months.’”
Once home from Playa Del Carmen, located on Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula, the 33-year-old entrepreneur put the final touches on “Game of Fortune: Win in Wealth or Lose in Debt,” a financial literacy card game for ages 10 and up.
“We created ‘Game of Fortune’ because we realized there was a gap in learning the fundamentals of money,” said Lee. “We go through life not knowing anything about money and then—‘Bam!’—real life hits. Credit, debt, and bills come at us quick!”
Lee believes the game “gives players a glimpse of real life” by using everyday scenarios to teach them how to make wiser financial decisions without having to waste their own money.
“I feel like [financial literacy] can be learned in ways other than somebody standing up and preaching it to you over and over again,” she said. “You can learn it in ways that are considered fun, as well.”
Which is why “we want the schools to buy it, so we can give students a fun way to learn about financial literacy,” she added.
Lee, also called the “Money Maximizer,” is an international best-selling financial author, speaker, coach, and trainer who is known for her financial literacy books, including “Never Go Broke (NGB): An Entrepreneur’s Guide to Money and Freedom” and the “NGB Money Success Planner High School Edition.” The Birmingham-based financial guru focuses on creating diverse streams of income in the tax, real estate, insurance, and finance industries.
For Lee, it’s about building generational wealth, not debt.
Lee got her first glance at entrepreneurial life as a child watching her mother, Valeria Robinson, run her commercial cleaning company, V’s Cleaning. Robinson retired in 2019.
“My grandmother had a cleaning service, too,” said Lee. “So, even though I didn’t start out as an entrepreneur, watching my mom and grandma do it taught me a lot.”
Lee grew up in Birmingham and attended Riley Elementary School, Midfield Middle School, and Huffman High School. She then went on to Jacksonville State University, in Jacksonville, Alabama, where she earned bachelor’s degree in physical education. She struggled to find a career in her field and became overwhelmed by student loans.
“My credit and stuff didn’t get bad until after college,” she said. “I was going through school and taking money, but nobody told me, ‘Oh, you’re gonna have to pay all of this back.’”
Before embarking on her extensive career in money management, Lee had not learned the indispensable lessons that she now shares with clients.
“‘Don’t have bad credit.’ That’s all I learned,” she remembers. “Financial literacy just wasn’t taught much. I learned the majority of my lessons as I aged.”
In an effort to ward off collection calls and raise her credit score, Lee researched tactics to strategically eliminate her debt.
“I knew I had to pay bills on time, and I couldn’t be late with payments,” she said.
Lee eventually began helping friends revamp their finances and opened NGB Inc. in 2017 to share fun, educational methods to help her clients build solid financial foundations.
“People were always coming to me like, ‘How do I invest in this?’ and ‘How do I do that?’ So, I said to myself, ‘You know what, people should be paying to pick your brain.’”
While Lee enjoyed watching her clients reach milestones, like buying a new car with cash or making their first stock market investment, she was also designing “Game of Fortune” to teach the value of legacy building.
“The game gives players the knowledge to build generational wealth, not generational debt,” she said. “It gives you a glimpse of life, money, and what can truly happen if you mismanage your coins.”
Using index cards to create her first “Game of Fortune” sample deck, Lee filled each card with pertinent terms related to debt elimination and credit and wealth building. She then called on a few friends to help her work through the kinks.
Three of her good friends—Barbara Bratton, Daña Brown, and Sha Cannon—were just a few of the people that gave feedback on the sample deck.
“From there I met with Brandon Brooks, [owner of the Birmingham-based Brooks Realty Investments LLC], and four other financial advisors to fine-tune the definitions and game logistics,” Lee said.
Though Lee was unable to land a job in physical education after graduating from college, she now sees her career with NGB Inc. as life’s unexpected opportunity to teach on her own terms.
“Bartending and waitressing taught me that working for someone else was not for me,” she replied. “In order to get the life I always wanted, I had to create my own business.”
In her entrepreneurial pursuits, Lee strives to be an open-minded leader who embraces the need for flexibility.
“COVID-19 has shown me that in entrepreneurship you have to maneuver,” she said. “When life changes, sometimes your business will, too. You may have to change the path, but your ending goal can be the same.”
“Game of Fortune: Win in Wealth or Lose in Debt” is available and sold only on the “Game of Fortune” website: gameoffortune.money. To learn more about Tae Lee and Never Go Broke Inc., visit taelee.money and nevergobroke.money or email firstname.lastname@example.org; you also can follow her on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/nevergobrokeinc) and Instagram (@nevergobrokeinc).
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