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When it comes to credit repair, there can be a lot of value in hiring a trusted professional to handle the process on your behalf. Yet that doesn’t mean that paid, professional credit repair services are the perfect fit for everyone.
There are also free credit repair options you can try on your own. You can send your own dispute letters to the credit bureaus. You can try to negotiate with debt collectors on your own. You can come up with a plan to rebuild positive credit for the future.
Where to get Free Credit Repair
Credit repair is a term used to describe the process of disputing incorrect, questionable or outdated information on your credit reports. This is a right given to you under the Fair Credit Reporting Act. For most people, the goal of credit repair is to see those errors removed from their credit reports and hopefully improve their credit scores as a result.
Of course, that’s not how credit repair always works out. Sometimes disputed items may be accurate and would not get removed from your credit reports. Other times, disputed items might be deleted, but your credit scores could remain the same.
If you’re only interested in free credit repair services, most likely you’ll need to manage the dispute process on your own. That’s also your right under the FCRA. You do not have to pay anyone to initiate a dispute with the credit reporting agencies — which are Equifax, Experian and TransUnion — if you want to handle the process yourself.
There are credit repair companies that will review your credit reports, prepare dispute letters and provide other services on your behalf. However, these businesses typically charge a fee for their services.
How can I fix my own credit?
If you want to try to repair your credit on your own, follow these steps:
- Get a copy of all three credit reports.
- Comb them carefully for errors.
- Submit disputes to each of the three credit bureaus through their websites.
Get a copy of all three credit reports. The best way to start is to request a copy of all three of your credit reports. You can claim a copy of your credit reports once every 12 months at AnnualCreditReport.com. You can also call (877) 322-8228 or mail an Annual Credit Report Request Form to:
- Annual Credit Report Request Service
- PO Box 105281
- Atlanta, GA 30348-5281
Look for errors. After getting your reports, comb through them carefully for errors. Make a list of any suspicious or questionable information you find. Here are a few examples of credit reporting mistakes you might encounter:
- Incorrect balances
- Inconsistent payment statuses (for example, a late payment status on one credit report appears as on time with the other credit bureaus)
- Accounts you don’t recognize
- Outdated negative information
Dispute them by letter or through dispute forms online. If you discover incorrect items on your credit report that you wish to dispute, you can either create a letter to send to the credit bureau reporting the information or simply submit disputes online via the credit bureaus forms.
If the incorrect information appears on more than one report, you’ll need to send dispute letters or fill out dispute forms at multiple credit bureaus.
You can find free dispute letter templates on the Federal Trade Commission website and mail them to the credit bureaus at one of the following addresses:
- Equifax Information Services LLC
- P.O. Box 740256
- Atlanta, GA 30374
- P.O. Box 4500
- Allen, TX 75013
- TransUnion LLC
- Consumer Dispute Center
- P.O. Box 2000
- Chester, PA 19016
You can also submit disputes online, although you may be forced to select more limited reasons for your dispute:
How can I get things removed from my credit report fast?
The FCRA sets rules regarding how quickly the credit reporting agencies have to move when you file a dispute. In most cases, they must complete the investigation within 30 days of receiving your dispute. Occasionally, the time frame is extended to 45 days.
If your dispute is successful, meaning the information you disagree with is found to be incorrect or unverifiable, the offending item has to be deleted from your credit report or corrected within typically a 30-day window.
But just because you dispute something doesn’t automatically mean it will come off your credit report. If an item is verified as accurate, it can stay on your credit report as long as the FCRA allows, which is generally seven to 10 years.
You can’t change the law to remove legitimate negative information more quickly from your credit reports. But you can stay vigilant in your credit monitoring efforts. If an error or mistake appears on your reports, as unfortunately happens for many people, timing can be critical. The faster you catch a credit reporting problem, the sooner you stand a chance of being able to resolve it.
Why should you repair your credit?
It can be tempting to try to sweep credit problems under the rug and pretend like they don’t matter. But in reality, your credit can have a massive impact on your overall financial well-being.
When you earn good credit, it can make it easier to qualify for loans, credit cards and other types of financing. Not only that, but good credit has the potential to save you tens of thousands of dollars over your lifetime. For example, your credit score can impact the annual percentage rate for interest on a loan. Even a slight score difference could mean thousands of dollars saved or lost over the course of a loan agreement or mortgage term.
Beyond the world of financing, good credit can make your life easier. A solid credit rating could save you money on auto insurance and homeowner’s insurance. Clean credit reports (never scores) even have the potential to help you when you’re searching for a job or applying for a promotion, depending on where you live.
How to create a plan to repair your credit
Repairing your credit is a marathon, not a sprint. The following steps can help you get started:
- Review your three credit reports for errors. Whether you decide to fix your credit on your own or hire professional credit repair help, you need to know where you stand.
- Establish positive credit, if needed. Be careful not to go crazy with new credit applications. However, if you have little to no positive credit accounts, opening a credit builder loan and/or a secured credit card might be a good place to start.
- Manage your current accounts well. You should always pay on time — no exceptions. Also, if you have a credit card, your best bet is to pay it in full each month to save money and keep your credit utilization rate low.
- Continue monitoring your reports. Check your progress with all three credit bureaus frequently. You should also keep an eye out for any errors or fraud at the same time.
The best piece of advice you can follow when it comes to repairing your credit is to not wait until the last minute. Improving your credit takes time. You might not need to apply for a mortgage or buy a new car today, but you’ll be thankful you didn’t wait until the last minute when you need to rely on your credit in the future.