'You can't buy a reputation': Al Antle offers advice on how to rebuild your credit

The executive director with Credit Counselling Services of Newfoundland and Labrador says the business of credit repair is complicated — and it's not something that consumers need to fix their finances.

Credit Counselling Services of N.L. executive director says you don't need a third party to help

Al Antle, executive director of Credit Counselling Services of Newfoundland and Labrador, says you can fix your credit without the help of a third party. (Bruce Tilley/CBC)

The executive director of Credit Counselling Services of Newfoundland and Labrador says the business of credit repair is complicated — and it's not something that consumers need to fix their finances.

"You can't buy a reputation," Al Antle said.

"You do not need a third party … to act on your behalf."

Antle said credit repair is similar to the payday loan business.

"It's a legitimate business. However, is it the kind of thing that you want to make your first choice?" he asked.

"At the end of the day, the services provided, you can do yourself."

Building your reputation

Antle outlined the steps people can take to rebuild their credit.

"It's not complicated. You find a financial institution that offers a secured credit card, you establish an initial rapport with that financial institution. You ask the questions: 'What do I need to do? What's the timeframe?'" he said.

"And then make your decision based on what you learn in your conversation with the financial institution."

Antle suggested those looking to repair their credit should save the appropriate amount of money needed for a secured credit card.

Al Antle says consumers trying to fix their credit should speak with a financial institution that offers a secured credit card. (Matt Cardy/Getty Images)

If you maintain the payments on that card, Antle said, it will be reported automatically to the national credit bureaus, Equifax and TransUnion.

Antle offered some suggestions for staying on track:

  • Make sure to follow the rules, by always paying on time.
     
  • Try to pay the balance owing — otherwise, you are living outside your means.
     
  • If you can't pay in full, at the very least, pay the minimum amount.
     
  • Never allow yourself to become overdue on a payment.

Antle said, in this day and age, it's very important to maintain your credit rating.

"[Without a credit card,] you can't book a hotel room, you can't rent a car, you can't book an airline ticket," he said.

"You're so limited by not having a credit rating that having one and working on one and maintaining one is as important as having a job to earn an income to pay your debts to start with."

Do your homework

Antle said people who are experiencing money troubles should take matters into their own hands.

"Find out what you don't know. If you choose to get in bed with an organization... with a credit repair company, do your research first before you give them five cents," he said.

Antle advised doing a few things before signing into any contracts:

  • Look for consumer testimonials (not the ones posted on the company's website).
     
  • Check with the Better Business Bureau to see if there are any complaints.
     
  • Check with Service NL's consumer affairs division.

Antle said if you're involved in a dispute with a company, it is best to approach the province's consumer affairs division.

Buyer beware

Service NL says the Consumer Protection and Business Practices Act protects consumers in the province from unfair practices.

When there's a dispute, Service NL recommends the consumer try to work things out with the business, while keeping track of what happens in writing.

If that doesn't settle things, the department says the consumer can make a formal complaint with the consumer affairs division, where an officer can help with voluntary mediation, or guide the consumer through other options, like small claims or filing a criminal complaint.

In terms of consumers who are seeking financial or debt solution services, Service NL suggests reading all of the fine print before signing any agreement.

"It is also wise to deal only with companies or businesses that are registered in this province and/or regulated by the provincial or federal government," a statement from the department reads.

About the Author

Jen White

CBC News

Jen White is a journalist with CBC News in St. John's.