Over time, your small balances should disappear one by one, freeing up more dollars to throw at your larger debts and loans. This “snowball effect” allows you to pay down smaller balances first — logging a few “wins” for the psychological effect — while letting you save the largest loans for last. Ultimately, the goal is snowballing all of your extra dollars toward your debts until they’re demolished — and you’re finally debt-free.
If you’re looking specifically for a nonprofit credit counseling agency to work with, explore NFCC member agencies, all of which are nonprofit. NFCC member agencies are required to meet eligibility criteria that ensure they are accredited by a third party, upfront about included fees and provide consumers with counseling and financial guidance that can help them improve their finances over time.
As a debt junkie for almost ten years, I ran up credit card after credit card living like my salary was about four times its actual size. Stupid things I bought on credit included flying lessons, weekends in Las Vegas, and a brand new pickup truck. Hey, I never said I wasn’t having fun. (Remember, I’m on the other side of 25 now, so I started college pre-recession… during the dot-com boom. Back then, I actually thought I could graduate with a sociology major and find a $75k a year job—because I knew people who did!)
For example, when you initiate a debt management plan, you may be asked to close credit card accounts. Doing so changes your credit utilization ratio — the comparison between the total amount of credit you have available versus the amount you're actually using. Closing accounts lowers the amount of credit you have available (your credit limit), which increases your credit utilization rate and negatively impacts your credit score.
Settlement has big risks, though, including steep fees (15% to 20% of what the company is able to save you is typical). You may also sustain damage to your credit score and receive harassing calls from creditors while you’re saving up for the program. You’ll also have to pay taxes on forgiven debt. Most debt settlement companies are for-profit companies, while most debt management companies are nonprofits.
You cannot use your existing credit cards while you’re on a debt management plan, nor can you open new accounts. McClary also said that if you do manage to open new credit card accounts during your debt management plan, existing creditors who find out may stop participating in your debt management plan and reset your account to its original terms and interest rate.
Both are possible solutions to problems with debt. A debt management program is not a loan. It consolidates unsecured debts and tries to lower monthly payments through reductions on interest rates and penalty fees. A debt consolidation loan is actually a loan, with interest charges and monthly payments due. With a debt consolidation loan, you would have to qualify to borrow the amount needed to pay off your debt. The interest rate is normally fixed and, depending on your credit score and history, may need to be secured with collateral like a home or car. Debt consolidation loans usually run 3-5 years.