Watch out for common red flags. While good credit counseling agencies are transparent about their fees and services, unscrupulous ones can be evasive and pushy. Red flags include demands for payment before services start, failure to provide a contract, insisting on access to your bank account and promises of debt repair that sound too good to be true.
Not all forms of credit are actively bad, and many folks are able to use debt as a responsible means of augmenting their purchasing power. When you're dealing with a million competing priorities, however, it can be tough to keep your finances straight. If your expenses are rising faster than your income, you can only keep up this dance for so long.
Warning: Debt settlement may well leave you deeper in debt than you were when you started. Most debt settlement companies will ask you to stop paying your debts in order to get creditors to negotiate and to collect the funds required for a settlement. This can have a negative effect on your credit score and may result in the creditor or debt collector filing a lawsuit while you are collecting settlement funds. And if you stop making payments on a credit card, late fees and interest will be added to the debt each month. If you exceed your credit limit, additional fees and charges may apply. This can cause your original debt to increase.

Once you have enrolled in a debt management plan, and if you let your debt management plan pay all of your creditors each month, you may never have to worry about your debt again. Your payment is auto-debited from your bank account, and your debt will be gone in just a couple of years. Of course, it is smart to allocate more money to your payments whenever you are able, but that is just a matter of logging onto your debt management company account page and increasing your payment.


In the United States, Credit counseling agencies are loosely regulated by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the nation’s consumer protection agency, which can sue companies that have deceived consumers about the cost, nature, or benefits of their services.[1] Different states may regulate DMPs individually and Attorneys General are empowered to protect state citizens from fraud.[4] Two professional associations represent Credit counselors: the National Foundation for Credit Counseling and the Association of Independent Consumer Credit Counseling Agencies.[6]

Also known as a DMP, a debt management plan is a debt-relief option offered through a debt counseling agency or debt management company. These companies typically are members of organizations such as the National Foundation for Credit Counseling and the Association of Independent Consumer Credit Counseling Agencies. They work with your creditors to come up with a monthly payment solution that works for your situation.


Even better, when you refinance to a lower-rate loan, it lowers your monthly payment. You could continue to pay the higher payments you were making before the refinance to get debt paid off on an accelerated timeline. That $10,000 at 18% over seven years would have monthly payments of around $210 monthly. If you refinanced to a 9% loan with a seven-year repayment period, the required payment would drop to $161. But if you kept paying the $210 you were paying before, you could repay the loan in just five years and pay only $2,418 in interest. You'd make payments for two years less and save yourself $5,252 in interest. 
Receiving automated refund checks is great, it’s like finding money on the ground. As it turns out, stores owe you money all the time, but they don’t pay if you don’t ask. That’s where Earny comes in. They automate everything. Price drop? Get cash back for the difference. Deliveries arrive later than advertised? Get cash back. Effort required? Zero, just how we like it.
Consumers can apply for a debt management plan regardless of their credit score. Once they set up an initial consultation with a credit counseling agency, they will go over the details of their debts and their income with their agency who will come up with an action plan on their behalf. If the consumer decides to move forward with a debt management plan, it can take a few hours or a few weeks to get started. “Once the recommendation for a debt management plan is made, it’s up to you to decide how quickly to enroll,” said McClary.
Checking your credit report for inaccuracies is an important step in your journey to reduce your debt. Remedy: You are allowed a free credit report from each of the major credit reporting bureaus, Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. Split them up, one every four months. Check them closely for incorrect delinquencies and/or balances that hurt your credit score and could make a difference in your ability to buy a house or car, or obtain more credit.
Finally, if you do want to proceed with a debt settlement program I would always advise using somebody local or a debt settlement attorney who can help you in a similar fashion as National Debt Relief and likely save you on fees associated with the settling of your debts without the worry of thinking about whether you are being taken advantage of as attorneys are regulated by their states bar association and are subject to rules of professional conduct in order to maintain their bar license.  Additionally a local attorney can take creditor calls and assist with defending a debt collection lawsuit and settling the case prior to any judgment as part of services offered.
Put a spending freeze on your entertainment costs for a little while. This means no going out to the movies, concerts, mini-golf, bowling or whatever you do for fun that costs money. Instead, challenge yourself to find free ways to stay entertained. Take the kids to the park, go for a walk or a hike, enjoy a free concert, or look for a free event in your community.

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.
Also, there are many not for profit credit counseling organizations who offer services at local offices, online, and on the phone. Many universities, military bases, credit unions, housing authorities, and branches of the U.S. Cooperative Extension Service operate nonprofit credit counseling programs. Local financial institutions and consumer protection agencies may also be good sources of information and referrals.
A Credit Counseling Session is an overview of your total financial situation, which will uncover ways to provide you with debt relief. It can be done on the telephone, online utilizing our industry-leading tool, or in-person. A certified credit counselor will review all of your income, expenses, and debts. Your counselor will then make recommendations to help you get back on track financially (one of which may be a debt management program). For additional information about our credit counseling program, click here.
If you've already fallen behind on your monthly payments or can no longer afford your minimum payments, we want to talk to you. If can't see any way to improve your financial situation without taking a drastic step like declaring bankruptcy, we may be able to help. What's more, we have years of experience with clients who face exacerbating circumstances like divorce, death in the family, unemployment, long-term medical issues and other problems.

The debt consolidation loan interest rate is usually set at the discretion of the lender or creditor and depends on your past payment behavior and credit score. Even if you qualify for a loan with low interest, there’s no guarantee the rate will stay low. But let’s be honest: Your interest rate isn’t the main problem. Your spending habits are the problem.


There are also specific debt consolidation loans available, marketed to borrowers looking to get a handle on debt. In many cases, however, these debt consolidation loans have high interest rates and other unfavorable terms. If you see a loan product labeled as a debt consolidation loan, research very carefully to determine whether the loan is actually a good deal.
Each week when you make a payment, subtract the amount, so you have a new balance. The point of this is to see those numbers getting smaller each week. It’s motivating. We also didn’t list dates for the second debt on the list because as we get to the end of each debt, we might reach just a little further so we can pay it off a week or two earlier.

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.
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You may also be able to obtain a debt consolidation loan if you have more than one student loan. Consolidating multiple student loans, which you can also apply for through StudentLoan.gov, will allow you to have a single monthly payment at a fixed interest rate that's based on the average of the interest rates on the loans you're consolidating. There's no cost to consolidate multiple federal education loans into one loan. However, you may lose certain student loan benefits, such as the ability to defer repayment.
Negotiating a debt relief plan. Trying to work with creditors should come first before bankruptcy. Let the lenders know you aren't able to pay your bills and are thinking about filing for bankruptcy protection unless they're willing to work with you. The creditors may allow you to repay a portion of your debt -- either in a lump sum or over time -- and forgive the rest. 
Get a second job or work overtime, if available. I’ll be blunt, second jobs are no fun, but they sure do help pay the bills. Think of how tired/stressed/soulless you feel after your 9-5 already; now imagine getting in your car, battling rush hour traffic, and putting in another four hours from 6 to 10. Then you get home around 11, just in time to watch the Daily Show and pass out.

Credit score takes a beating. This definitely will happen with either debt settlement or bankruptcy. Even if you eventually reach a debt settlement with a lender, there will be a note on your credit report for seven years that says you missed payments and settled for less than what was owed. Chapter 7 bankruptcy stays on a credit report for 10 years and Chapter 13 bankruptcy is there for seven years. This will make it difficult to get a loan for a home or car at an affordable rate.
The convenient answer is: When your debt is so small that you can handle it yourself by doing a better job of budgeting; or when your debt is so large that there isn’t enough income to pay for basic living needs AND make a payment toward your debt. The truth is that everyone’s circumstances are so different that an interview with a credit counselor is the only way to know whether you qualify for a DMP.
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