Browsing Tag

credit history

Expenses

Credit Saint or Credit Sinner? Review of Credit Services Site

December 11, 2016

I’ve been asked to review another Credit Services website, this one is called Credit Saint (CreditSaint.com) and aims to provide a range of credit history repair services, using these words “It means we have the power to offer more service for less money. Combining credit restoration and correction with debt settlement and our latest offerings “mortgage rewards, and auto rewards”.

What is CreditSaint.com? How does it work?

These days there are any number of credit repair agencies busy beavering away at reducing the debt load of the average American with promises such as free debt settlement. This could be seen as a good thing, but as you would guess, there are any number of services, very little regulation, and quite a large demand. Judging by the prices this company are charging, there seems to be a very lucrative market in arranging and rearranging individuals financial and credit related affairs.

credit saint

It’s into this crowded market that Credit Saint LLC has entered. Founded in 2004, Credit Saint LLC has been providing a range of credit related services offline to customers. In fact, the Better Business Bureau rates this company as a “BBB Accredited business since 10/23/2007” and notes the original date. So it’s clear that Credit Saint is now trying to expand its market reach by going online.

Books to Help Repair Your Credit


The Website: Credit Saint Dot Com

A cursory view of the website reveals much about their online strategy: cram as much information into the space as possible, write lots of text, don’t forget to include email, forums, live help, reviews, testimonials, FAQs, programs, appointments, … and so on. Now I’m no expert in credit card related affairs as you’d suspect, but surfing this website, I noticed a number of issues. As an observer and motivated buyer, I’m looking to know three basic things:

  • Can I trust this company/website?
  • Will they be effective in reducing or helping me control my finances?
  • How affordable are they?

So can the website provide this basic information? let’s see…

i. Can I trust this company?

There are a number of ways that a website can take to increase both trust and the appearance of trust: the most obvious being ways to contact with the company in person via phone, email, fax or chat. It’s quite easy to find chat, email and phone numbers, but for a snailmail address, you have to scroll to the bottom of the page. Seems odd but at least it’s there. In addition, there is a Privacy Policy. But I failed to find a number of standard pages: disclosures, TOS, and Sitemap. All of these would help a lot to build trust. There is however a minimal XML sitemap. It was reassuring to see that this company also resorted to using https:// which is the secure way when loading the Get Started page.

affordable

This is where I came across the first of the problems with the website: as I clicked through the options to see how responsive the server was I repeatedly got the following 400 Bad Request:

bad request

While the error didn’t occur 100% of the time, I found it frequent enough to warrant mentioning in this review. It’s likely that there’s an error in the URLs, which is perhaps the simplest and most common error. However, I couldn’t verify that this is the case. Unfortunately, this is not the only issue that I need to raise. I also found lots of links that don’t work, on the lefthand sidebar, and on other places throughout the website, even simple links back to the ‘homepage’.

Another major error: security seems apparent as I mentioned, but I really wonder. Have they checked or changed the default passwords for their accounts? What about their FTP account? What about the admin account(s)? I’m not so sure.

ii. Will they be effective in reducing or helping me control my finances?

Given the range of offerings that this website has, I’m tempted to say ‘mmm’. Why? For one simple reason, this website tries to do TOO much: it sells (many products) to clients, it sells to affiliates, it manages employees, it handles the client end, and it also has client managers, which suggests that the business is similarly lacking in focus. While this may or may not be true, it’s always going to be the impression that counts, and as objective outsider, I feel that there are just too many things going on in this website to help ME with MY problems, esp. when some of those things don’t work properly.

When a company goes online, it really risks whatever equity it has built up in its reputation. Why? If your site is simply for show, you risk your image if you launch before you’re ready. That’s important enough. But this website has gone live and isn’t ready. It isn’t even really a beta yet, either. And there are problems with its reliability even before it’s taking business. Remember: Credit Saint is a commercial website, it’s aiming to attract online business. Yet I’m concerned.

iii. How affordable are they?

Taking a look at the charges, I’m surprised how high these charges can be, perhaps that’s because I’ve never used such a service. The base service charges from about $40 per month right up to $99. But I guess when you need things like Collection Removal, Charge Off Removal, Identity Theft Removal, etc.. the money could be worth it as it could save you much more than you’re spending. I do like the fact that the charges are placed upfront, are readable and understandable, and the client can choose an appropriate service for their situation. I think it’s much better for a company to state their charges clearly. Too many websites hide the prices away in the small print if you can find them at all! Whether they are affordable is really upto the client, but as the BBB point out:

Everything a credit repair clinic can do for you legally, you can do for yourself at little or no cost. (source: BBB’s BBB Reliability Report for  Credit Saint, LLC)

Of course, we could do a lot of things for ourselves – gardening, cleaning the car, changing the oil – the truth is we feel more comfortable asking someone (an ‘expert’) to mow the lawn, clean the car, change the oil, write our will, … it’s engrained in the modern world. It’s to this market that I think these charges apply, though it would be nice to see more explicit disclosures on the website, especially about commissions gained from recommending products, services, etc..

What do they say about doing things in haste?

Well, if you forgot, take a look at this site: it bears all the marks of a site made in haste and as such, I feel that I can’t particularly recommend clients using this website until it’s ready. If you do decide to use their service, please contact them via their phone. Why? I’ll give you five good reasons:

1. Amateurish and disorganized

The site is very amateurish, really. It’s quite surprising how many things are just not done. The sidebars alone are enough to give you a headache: the links jump about from page to page, many links don’t work (try ‘Disability’ for example) at all, and others take you to error pages. An other example: the contact information is inconsistent throughout, and is all over the place – sometimes you can find a fax number, sometimes you can’t. The address is on the bottom of the page. Where else? And all the time I was online, lunchtime in most states in the US, the live help was OFFLINE! I only once saw someone come online. Another great idea poorly implemented are the forums: why on earth would you add forums hosted on another URL when you can install them on your own URL on a subdomain at little or no extra server cost. You can also theme them similarly, and integrate them far more closely: I’m thinking Joomla and SMF integration here.

2. Design of site

I noted a number of issues that need to be resolved. To improve SEO of the Credit Saint site, I would suggest at least three steps that the webmaster should look at. First, so many of the pages have generic names: index-4.html etc.. This means nothing to man, beast or Google. At least give the URL a real slug so that we can tell what we are looking at. Secondly, none of the pages have any keywords anywhere or the title tag or the description tag. This is an obvious task that needs to be done. Thirdly, there is no proper sitemap. I had a look at the sitemap.xml which really had no information at all. Not surprisingly, since the site has been online since 2006, there are only 2 pages indexed in Google. Of course, having a duplicate site doesn’t help either. An independent site scored this website saying: “The page at creditsaint.com scores 2 out of 5 for its utilization of web technologies which includes analytics, frameworks, syndication and document formatting.” (InvestorBlogger did *much* better – but I KNOW there’s still room for improvement!).

3. Dynamic vs. static

Initially, I thought I was looking at a Joomla site, but I began to suspect that the site was actually coded by hand. So I took a look at the source code. I was shocked to see the entire site is made in tables, including a pagewide table of 742px. Wow! No wonder site optimization is so difficult: the design looks very Web 2.0 but it’s all Web 1.0. I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s got accessibility issues as well. But a dynamically generated site would have other advantages such as it makes incorrect links easy to update everywhere, it is easier to integrate forums, payment carts, shopping modules, etc. that are INTEGRATED into the theme more fully, and create an enhanced and themed experience. Right now, this is missing.

Focus, focus, focus.

In summary, this website desperately needs focus. It needs to answer one simple question, and one simple one only: who is the primary market for this website? All the rest can be handled on subdomains or other domains. This would lead to much greater clarity on the designers and make the task much more manageable. As it is, it’s very much a mishmash of ‘handcoded’ pages, forums, e-commerce and guestbooks (what’s with that?), and an unhappy one at that.

I just looked at the original remit for this review, and I noted the remit asked me to include the tagline “Credit Saint removed my ID Theft”, along with four key words: credit repair, credit restoration, free debt settlement, and credit saint. It’s no surprise then that when I searched for Identity Theft on the website, all I found was those two key words and a link that didn’t work.

I was originally asked to do this site as a review. I didn’t intend it to be a full review. I do hope that the webmasters find the comments useful. I’ll be happy to add or edit the content as mistakes come to light, as I’m sure they will.

More Self Help Reading


Update 1: Though this was intended to be a sponsored ‘review’, Blogsvertise provided no indications of the type of ‘review’ that was required, neither did the advertiser. However, on receipt of this review, it seems that the advertiser doesn’t feel that this review is ‘acceptable’.

Blogsvertise asked me to rewrite the ‘review’ and dress it up, but in all honesty, I can’t. I stand by my comments 100%. Please draw your own conclusions about what kind of service this company really offers.

With payment outstanding from Blogsvertise, this was the last post I did for them. Payment is still unpaid. Blogsvertise is untrustworthy.

Update 2: I’ve noted that the website has made a number of significant improvements all round, in terms of usability, it’s much simpler to use, much of the dead weight has gone, it’s clear the owners have taken on quite a lot of these suggestions. Good for them.

Update 3: Much of the content of this review is no longer valid. All links to Credit Saint have now been removed because this review is now 6 years old.

Resources

Ovation Credit Services: Does it deserve a standing ovation?

July 30, 2008

After yesterday’s post on the credit card habits of bloggers, and the results of the survey, a staggering 23% of the bloggers did not know their FICO score. While I’m sure that this was at least partly because some of us lived outside the US, I wondered why the others did not check.

In this paid post I look at checking your credit rating through one particular website, and answer one simple question: how easy or difficult is it to do this the first time? Welcome to Ovation Credit Services, a website that specialises in finding and repairing credit reports so that clients get a better deal when they want to purchase that LCD TV or new 4×4!

ovation credit services

Finding information

To start this process, let’s see how you would go about finding out about information about credit scoring: Ovation provides extensive learning pages through the menu on the top right including, downloadable books, videos, a glossary, and general information pages. While there’s no mention of the individual credit reporting services, there is a general description of how the websites calculate your actual credit score and the weightings used, the various laws, and general customer queries.

The Website: Speedy, Responsive and Lots of Trust Building

Clicking through the website extensively to provide this review, I noted that the website is responsive, and fast. In fact, the homepage is quite large, but when saved to my disk only showed 257Kb. That size means that the website should load quickly even on slower or dialup connections. Each page loaded smoothly, and I didn’t find any out of date links at all. Moreover, I was surprised at how smooth the website seemed in Firefox. It’s important that websites adequately cover the major browsers, and it’s amazing how many sites don’t even bother with making their site compatible with the #2 browser.

In addition, it was easy to access the Privacy Policy, Disclaimers, Terms and so on, each of these was clearly linked in the footer of the page (which is where I found one non-active link under “Credit News”). The website has gone to a lot of trouble to enhance its reputation and trust with a number of features: including a no-risk refund policy, special deals, BBB credits and links to its record on BBB which is where you find out that the business started in 1976.

Loose Ends: Crowded HomePage and out of date blog

There are also a number of ways to contact the company, including a snail mail address, a telephone number and online chat, all of which add to the impression that this is a solid company with a reputation. However, there are some loose ends, including a blog that seems to be linked to some pages of the website: at Credit Repair Blog. It looks like the blog hasn’t been updated in about a year. Having worked with a blog on a credit card website before, they can be very useful to draw additional traffic and rankings to your main site, and such results can be very effective if the blog is written well. I’d strongly suggest reviving the blog and integrating that to the main site.

I also feel that the frontpage is really trying to do TOO much as there are 15 clickable boxes below the graphic above. I like the way the boxes light up when users mouse over them, but that there is too much there and this suggests perhaps a lack of focus at the moment on exactly WHO is going to use the website. I’d suggest trimming this area to just seven: the five boxes in the first row, the last page wide box, and all the others can be moved to a slideshow area where users click arrows to see the next offer situated where “No Risk Refund” is currently.

And so,…

In conclusion, though this service is not cheap and may not be suitable for all those who need good credit reporting, the website goes to some lengths to create both an impression of trustworthiness and value for money. I’d like to take a look around inside the site and the report areas to see what they have to offer. I’ll be contacting them to find out more. So stay tuned.

Sponsored by Ovation Credit Services.