Here’s how balance transfers work: As a way of attracting new customers, credit card companies will let you transfer a balance—in other words, a debt—from one credit card to a new credit card at 0 percent interest for a certain number of months. For example, if you were to transfer a $2,000 balance from one card (15 percent APR) to a new card (0 percent APR for 12 months), you could save up to $300 in interest.
The other method is called laddering, which is Clark’s preferred method because it will save you the most money over time. The way it works is you list your debts, starting with the highest interest rate card first and end with the debt with the lowest interest rate. This method makes the most mathematical sense, because you will save the most money in interest over time. Regardless of which process you choose, the key is to stick with it.
This is paramount to mapping out a plan to pay off your debt. There are two approaches that are worth considering. The first is where you list your debts smallest to largest regardless of the interest rate. This is the method that we used to pay off $52,000 in debt in 18 months and it worked great because it helped us build momentum. When we paid off our first debt it put wind in our sails. Even though we had higher interest debts, this gave us something that was very powerful: the belief that we could get out of debt quickly if we stuck to the plan.
A debt settlement plan in which you repay less than you owe hurts your credit. If your score is around 680 at the time you settle your debt, you could lose between 45 and 65 points. If your score was around 780, you'd lose between 140 and 160 points. However, it won't hurt your score as much as bankruptcy. For a 680 score, bankruptcy could take off 130 to 150 points, and for a 780 score, bankruptcy would cause a drop between 220 and 240 points. While the drop to your score is dramatic and it could take several years to recover, debt settlement could provide much-needed relief if you're struggling to pay bills.
The good news is that, by choosing a nonprofit credit counseling agency, you can end up with an affordable option that will leave you better off. Despite the monthly fees these plans charge, debt management can help you save thousands of dollars through reduced interest rates and creditor concessions. Plus, you get valuable advice and financial guidance all along the way when you choose to work with a nonprofit credit counseling agency versus a for-profit agency who is “not directed to provide coaching or advice,” said McClary.
Avoid outrageous upfront fees. A small initial fee (up to $50 or, in rare cases, as much as $100 if you have a lot of debt or high income) is normal, but large upfront fees are out of line. If any agency asks for a fee (or donation) make sure that you know what it will cover, and get it in writing. Find out if you'll have to pay any additional fees to start the program. Don't get tricked into paying one "consultation fee," and then an "application fee" or "an enrollment fee." If you're truly unable to pay, look for an agency that is willing to waive the fee or spread it out (without charging additional fees for doing so).
Afterward, a National Debt Relief specialist will contact you to discuss options and require that you provide proof of your debt balance, income, assets and basic necessity expenses. Any proof that you are struggling with financial hardship needs to be provided during the initial financial review to assess whether a debt settlement program is right for you.
While maybe not as widely known, this may be the leading non-profit organization to call for debt management plans, help for paying loans, and other credit counseling in western Texas. They can help qualified individuals refinance their debts and pay off outstanding bills over a period of time using DMPs, consolidation, or so called hardship programs. Services are offered in Spanish too.
In order to put your problems with credit and student loan debt behind you, one option is to schedule an appointment with a certified consumer credit counselor. A credit counselor can assist in determining a solution for your credit and debt issues. Get financial reviews, counseling sessions and plans to help solve your financial situation. The NFCC’s certified consumer credit counselors are located in each of the 50 states in the country, as well as Puerto Rico. Each member agency is accredited by the Council on Accreditation.
Why don’t you qualify for IBR or PAYE? Is it because your income is too high to reduce your payments? If that’s the case, and you’ve exhausted all your options, then I am at a loss in terms of what to suggest other than to encourage you to continue to pay as much as you can and check back into those programs from time to time to see if requirements have changed. Student loan debt is an enormous problem and for many there is no simple solution.
Great article. We are in the process of paying down debt, and the freedom we feel in watching that number decrease is a beautiful thing! Doing something RIGHT AWAY is key because, as your chart above shows, the greater the amount of money going into paying debt, the less you have to spend (even on the things you truly need!), so the debt pile increases and you never get out from under it. Everyone can do something NOW to see a shift in that picture. It all starts with an earnest desire to confront and change. Thanks for sharing.
This should really only be explored a last resort for debt relief before you file for bankruptcy. If you’ve tried everything else and haven’t had any success, then you can consider a debt settlement plan where you settle your debts for less than the full amount owed. This can cause significant damage to your credit score and results may vary, but it may be your best option if your situation is truly critical.
In today’s challenging and still weak economy, banks and credit card companies are more likely than ever to forgive or cancel credit card debt free of charge. They offer customers a number of assistance programs and related counseling services. They really do this selfishly, as they would rather settle with the consumer vs. see them file bankruptcy, as in that case they receive nothing. More on credit card assistance programs.
It is difficult, if not impossible to gain control of your finances unless you have a budget. People think it’s too much work … until they get $20,000 in credit card debt and wonder how in the world that happened! Remedy: Develop a realistic budget that addresses financial needs like housing, food, health care, insurance and education, but still creates room to make payments on debt. Put away the credit cards and only pay with cash. That might mean reducing (or eliminating) things like dining out, entertainment, shopping for new clothes, cars or electronics, but if you’re serious about eliminating debt, operating with a budget and paying cash is a great start.
Most debt management plans have participants send a monthly payment to the credit counseling agency. The agency then distributes it to creditors. They also negotiate lower interest rates, and may be able to have fees waived and can help reduce or eliminate the number of collection calls a person receives. Keep in mind, most plans take 36 to 60 months to complete. Credit counseling agencies may also help consumers review credit reports and dispute errors.
However, outside of these types of package services, there is little difference with the actual debt management service provided. If money is already tight and you can’t afford the bills you have now, there’s little reason to add another. You’re usually better off going through a nonprofit agency in order to keep fees low and ensure your plan is affordable.
It is also important to be aware of any debt settlement and debt relief and elimination scams that may be going around. Always research the companies or the debt relief programs you are interested in and make sure they are offering legitimate and reliable services. Also, make sure that the debt consolidation program you work with informs you of all the risks that may be associated with the particular programs they are offering.
Chapter 7 bankruptcy allows you to discharge most debts, which means the debt disappears after bankruptcy proceedings. But there are strict income limits to be eligible -- generally your income must be below the median in your state -- and you might have to turn over some of assets to be sold so proceeds can be used to repay creditors. Your house, a very low-value automobile, and tools used for business are usually exempt from being sold.