You’ve probably heard that there are no shortcuts when it comes to credit repair—that it’ll take years of patiently waiting before your damaged credit regains its former health.
This is sometimes true, but not always. You may be able to repair your credit more quickly, depending on your situation. Read to learn about the most common credit repair methods and how long each one takes.
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What determines how long it’ll take to repair your credit?
Credit repair usually refers to the process of deleting negative information (in the form of derogatory marks) from your credit report and taking other steps to rebuild your credit.
The amount of time that credit repair takes depends on how long you spend getting the negative information removed. The process will require negotiating with your creditors and debt collectors, as well as the credit bureaus that produce your reports.
You can usually expect these negotiations to take between 1 and 6 months. Your score will recover almost immediately once you’re done—as soon as your credit reports are updated with the negative information removed.
If you’re not able to remove the negative marks at all, the credit repair process will take a lot longer. You’ll need to wait until the black marks fall off your credit report on their own, which will take several years.
How long does negative information stay on your credit report by default?
Most negative marks will stay on your credit report for up to 7 years, although certain bankruptcies will stay for 10. 1
How Long Negative Marks Stay on Your Credit Report
|Negative Item||Credit-Reporting Limit|
|Late payment||7 years|
|Collection account||7 years|
|Chapter 7 bankruptcy||10 years|
|Chapter 10 bankruptcy||7 years|
|Hard inquiry||2 years|
Note that negative marks usually stop hurting your credit score significantly before they fall off your report. It’s impossible to predict exactly how long this will take, but in general, after 2–3 years, even severe negative marks will usually have a negligible effect.
However, even after they stop hurting your credit score, these marks will still be visible to lenders and may harm your chances of securing new loans or lines of credit, so it’s best to get them removed if you can.
Credit repair methods (and how long they take to work)
You have several options when it comes to repairing your credit, all of which work in one of two ways:
- By deleting negative information from your credit report
- By counteracting the negative marks with positive information
We’ll look at both in more detail.
1. Deleting negative information from your credit report
There are different ways of removing negative information from your credit report, depending on whether the information is accurate or incorrect.
Disputing errors on your credit report
If there are mistakes on your credit report (such as debts that don’t actually belong to you), you can dispute the items with the credit bureaus to get them removed.
If your dispute is successful, the boost to your credit score will be immediate. However, this method generally only works for genuinely inaccurate items. It’s technically possible to dispute accurate information in the hopes that the credit bureaus won’t be able to verify it (which can happen if your creditors lost your paperwork), but this is a long shot.
The best way to file a dispute is to use a credit dispute letter template. Once you’ve sent the letter to the credit bureaus displaying the error (Equifax, Experian, or TransUnion), they’re required to respond within 30–45 days. 2 If you’re successful, your credit report will be immediately updated.
Removing accurate negative marks
To remove accurate negative marks from your credit report, you need to negotiate with creditors or debt collectors to convince them to alter your account records with the credit bureaus.
This can be a time-consuming process—be prepared for it to take several months, if it’s successful at all.
You have two options for getting accurate negative marks deleted from your credit report:
- Pay for delete: Use a pay-for-delete letter template to offer to pay off your debt if your creditor or debt collector agrees to remove the associated derogatory mark from your credit report.
- Goodwill deletion: Use a goodwill letter template to ask your creditor to delete negative marks out of compassion. This only works for debts you’ve already paid.
As mentioned, persuading lenders to remove accurate derogatory marks usually takes more time than correcting an error directly with the credit bureaus. Even after they agree, it’ll take time for them to update your credit reports because most creditors only report account information once a month. 3
2. Adding positive information to your credit report
In addition to removing negative marks, you can also explore ways to build credit by adding new, positive information to your credit reports. There are special credit accounts designed to help you do this.
Try these options:
- Taking out a credit-builder loan: Some lenders offer special, low-cost loans that are designed for building and rebuilding credit. Search for local credit unions (who are more likely to offer relatively niche loans like this) and ask if they offer credit-builder loans or share-secured loans (SSL) loans.
- Becoming an authorized user: If you can get someone you trust, such as a family member or friend, to add you as an authorized user on their credit card, their credit history may be added to your own credit report (depending on their card issuer’s policies). How long it takes to raise your credit score will depend on the cardholder’s credit. If they’ve used their card responsibly, this influx of positive information can immediately boost your score.
- Getting a secured credit card: This is a type of credit card that requires a security deposit, which your card issuer will keep if you fail to pay back your debts. This minimizes the risk on their end, which means these cards are very easy to get and build credit with even if your credit score is badly damaged. You can browse a few secured credit card options in the list below.
Remember to weigh all the pros and cons before opening a new credit account and only borrow money that you can afford to pay back.
Needless to say, while your credit is recovering, make sure to manage all your existing credit accounts responsibly. Be very careful not to miss any payments, and keep your spending on your credit cards relatively low, as overspending can hurt your credit further.
How long will it take for your credit to recover naturally?
If this is the only credit repair method you’re able to pursue (meaning you weren’t able to remove the negative information from your reports), the process will take several years.
The exact timeline for rebuilding credit depends on several factors:
- What’s hurting your credit score: Not all negative marks on your credit report are equally damaging. As you might guess, severe negative marks (like charged-off debts or bankruptcies) take longer to recover from than minor negative marks, such as 30-day late payments.
- How recently your credit was damaged: Derogatory marks hurt your credit score the most when they’re first added to your credit report. Their negative effects gradually wear off over time.
- Your overall credit profile: If you previously had an excellent credit score before negative marks appeared on your credit report, then it will take longer to get back to where you were than if you had a fair credit score (or a poor one).
As mentioned, most of the time, all but the most damaging negative marks will stop affecting your credit score after about 2 years.
Can you fix your credit faster by hiring a credit repair company?
Professional credit repair companies sometimes suggest that they’ll be able to fix your credit faster and more effectively than you’ll be able to do yourself. If you have severely damaged credit that’s interfering with your life, this might seem like an attractive option to you. But are these claims true?
Unfortunately, the answer is no—there’s no reason to believe that a credit repair company will repair your credit any faster than you’d be able to do on your own.
Credit repair professionals don’t have any special tools or methods that aren’t available to consumers. They’ll use the same strategies that you would have (such as sending pay for delete letters, filing credit disputes, etc).
In fact, it’s possible that using a credit repair company will make the process slower than if you just handled it yourself. Some credit repair companies have caps on how many letters they’ll send for you per month unless you pay for their premium services. Obviously, if you just pursue credit repair on your own, you won’t be held back by any artificial limits like this.
How long does professional credit repair take?
In general, professional credit repair takes about as long as pursuing credit repair yourself. If the company successfully gets the negative items removed from your credit report, the process will take 1–6 months, depending on how much back-and-forth negotiating they have to do with the credit bureaus and your creditors.
However, credit repair doesn’t always work. If the company isn’t able to delete much (or any) negative information, then you’ll have to wait for your score to recover on its own. This will potentially take 2–3 years, and you’ll need to wait 7–10 years for the negative items to fall off your report completely.
Again, this timeframe is the same as if you pursued credit repair on your own, without hiring an outside company.
Note that most credit repair companies operate using a subscription model, where they’ll charge you a set amount per month to continuously file credit disputes on your behalf. Credit repair generally costs between $50 and $100 a month.
These monthly charges can add up quickly. After about 6 months, the company will have probably achieved all they’ll realistically be able to, so think carefully about whether you want to continue your subscription past that point.
Is it ever worth hiring a credit repair specialist?
Even though you probably won’t be able to expedite the credit repair process by working with a professional, hiring one can still be worth it. However, you should be clear about what you’re getting for your money.
Professional credit repair spares you from having to deal with creditors, debt collectors and the credit bureaus on your own. Nobody enjoys filing credit disputes, so you might decide that saving yourself the headache is worth it. Just be aware that, although credit repair companies can save you time and stress, they can’t guarantee faster or better results.