Note: Federal regulations require credit card issuers to disclose on your credit card statement how long it will take to pay off your estimated balance if you make minimum monthly payments. Estimates may be rounded up to the next $100. This debt calculator uses your actual credit card balance, so the results may vary from the estimate shown in your credit card statement.
McClary says the best time to go to creditors for help is before the situation is out of control. Don’t wait until an account is about to be closed because you’ve had several months of late or missed payments. Tell the creditor you’d like to pay down your balance faster and want to know what services are available to help you manage your debt better.
Nobody wants to declare bankruptcy, and it is true debt management provides a viable alternative to becoming legally destitute. However, enrolling in debt management or credit counseling is actually a prerequisite to filing bankruptcy. So even if you find yourself still unable to pay all of your creditors, bankruptcy is then an option for you after you have tried debt management.
The company is clear about average fees ($40 for setup and $25 monthly, not to exceed $75 and $50, respectively) as well as average interest-rate and payment reductions on its website. They also publish detailed “transparency reports” that include debt management dropout rates, savings rates, and client satisfaction rates tracked over several years.
Today, I have no consumer debt. By choice, I’m not debt-free. I do have a mortgage on my primary residence even though I could pay it off. I also did not pay off my student loans early. In these cases, I’m using debt conservatively and consciously to advance my financial goals. But all the nasty stuff—credit cards, personal loans, and an auto loan—is long gone.
The company has an A+ rating with BBB, where there are currently more than 130 customer reviews. Of the lowest ratings, complaints are centered on National Debt Relief’s customers sales and marketing tactics. Some complaints were also about representatives not being upfront or clear about the potential negative consequences of entering a debt relief program, like your credit score plummeting. Between 2015 and 2018, 77 complaints were filed against National Debt Relief on BBB. Out of this number, 36 are marked as resolved and closed and 41 marked as answered.
“You ideally want to start by paying off the debt with the highest interest rates first,” McClanahan said. Specifically, look for credit card debt with the highest interest rates, and begin to chip away at that. Also keep in mind that credit card debt, though concerning, is a common type of debt. In a recent report, MagnifyMoney found that Americans paid back $110 billion in interest and fees in 2018, up from the $98 billion in interest paid the year before. Although it might seem overwhelming, others have found their way out of the debt — and it’s likely that you can, too.
This is the last-ditch solution if your financial situation has become so overwhelming that there doesn’t appear to be a way out. Bankruptcy offers a “fresh start” though with lots of restrictive conditions. You can file for either a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, which cancels your debts, or a Chapter 13 bankruptcy, which sets up a 3-5 year repayment plan to eliminate your debts.
Another obstacle that trip up so many is thinking you'll make progress on debt repayment by making your minimum payments. Yes, it minimizes inconvenience and will seem easier than other strategies, but it's costly. Imagine, for example, you owe $20,000 on your credit card(s) and that you're being charged a 25% interest rate. If your minimum payments are 3% of your balance, you'll be starting out paying a whopping $600 per month, meaning you'll have to come up with $150 per week. If you can't, your balance will be growing, digging you deeper in debt. In that situation, it can take more than 30 years to pay the debt off, with your total payments exceeding $63,000 -- all for a $20,000 balance owed.
When evaluating whether a credit agency is legitimate, Kalkowski cautions against being too trusting of promises made by company representatives. "A lot of these people are so nice," she says. They may pressure people to sign up immediately, if for no other reason than to get peace of mind. While they may seem caring, Kalkowski stresses, "These people are not your friends. They are out to make a buck."
It depends — is your credit in enough shape to qualify for a lower interest rate on a consolidation loan? Will you be able to make the monthly payment associated with the loan? Unlike a credit card, where you can pay the minimum, an installment loan locks you into a payment each month for a set period of time. You can also consider a balance-transfer credit card, which could help you save on interest. More info on the pros and cons of all those options here:
Speaking with consumer credit counseling agencies is just the beginning. Next, you have to determine whether the services are actually what you need, or if you can accomplish more on your own. Remember, credit counseling doesn't do anything that you can't do; they simply provide guidance for the best approach to managing your debt. You can contact creditors and negotiate the payment terms of your account. Anybody can do this on their own, but sometimes people need a little extra help staying on track.
You must be able to demonstrate financial hardship, so that the company can negotiate with your creditors and show you are eligible for debt relief. Some examples of financial hardships, according to the company’s website, are a recent job loss, a separation or divorce which has led to a reduction in income, death of a spouse, unexpected medical bills, student loans or IRS taxes.
We typically recommend fixing the rate as much as possible, unless you know that you can pay off your debt during a short time period. If you think it will take you 20 years to pay off your loan, you don’t want to bet on the next 20 years of interest rates. But, if you think you will pay it off in five years, you may want to take the bet. Some providers with variable rates will cap them, which can help temper some of the risk.
The second thing that you can do is trim your expenses. Go over each line item on your budget and ask yourself, “how can I make this number smaller?” It may involve cancelling services that you rarely use like a gym membership, Netflix subscription, etc. It might even involve reducing the amount of times that you eat out at restaurants each month. The amount that you slash depends upon your commitment level to getting out of debt. The more committed you are, the easier it will be for you to give up some of the unnecessary amenities in life. You might not even need to sacrifice much if you can find these items or services for less. Check out Clark’s Free and Cheap List to help you with this process.
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.
Who’s it best for? Face-to-face counseling isn’t an option with all debt management companies, but it is with GreenPath. The company has offices in Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Massachusetts, Michigan, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New York, Ohio, Tennessee, Texas, Wisconsin, and Wyoming. If you want a personal touch, the company could be worth a look. It’s also willing to include some secured debt in the debt management program.
Debt avalanche. The debt avalanche is a twist on the debt snowball. Instead of paying extra on your lowest debt to get that paid off ASAP, you pay extra on the loan with the highest interest rate. When that loan is paid off, pay more on the debt with the next highest rate, and so on until all debt is paid. The big benefit: You save a lot of money by getting rid of high-interest debt first. The downside is, it may take you much longer to pay off your highest-interest debt than your loan with the lowest balance. And it's harder to stay motivated if you don't see debt disappear.
However, there are impacts to your credit that don’t affect your score. While on a Debt Management Plan, a client’s credit report will have a notation that he or she is currently enrolled in a Debt Management Plan. While that notation is active, they will not be granted new credit. Plainly, this is an impact to one’s credit that should be considered. But the notation goes away when the Debt Management Plan is complete, and doesn’t have a lasting impact on one’s credit.
DISCLAIMER - Debt.com does not provide direct debt adjustment services, but, upon request, acts as a locator service for BBB registered companies. It is ultimately up to you to determine whether the companies that we may introduce you to are appropriate for your situation. For debt consolidation programs, where permissible by law, companies may charge a one-time enrollment fee typically from $25 up to $75 for account establishment and for debt relief proposals submitted on your behalf to each of your creditors. Monthly program administration fees will vary from $5 but no greater than $75 depending on your state of residence and/or the number of creditors who agree to accept proposals and become enrolled in the program. Fees subject to change if permissible by law. For debt settlement programs, by law, you may not be charged any fee until a debt settlement is arranged on your behalf, you approve the settlement, and at least one payment is made towards the settlement. Each program offered by independent financial service providers is unique so ask them for their complete details of the program and fees.
We all know that didn’t happen, and soon enough, the debt caught up with me. As I approached my 26th birthday, I maxed out with debt of around $80,000. All of a sudden, I couldn’t keep borrowing my way out of trouble anymore. At the same time, I realized that the stress of barely making my monthly payments and owing twice what I earned in a year was taking its toll.
What Makes Me a Good Candidate for Debt Negotiation? A debt negotiation program is certainly not for everyone. Qualified candidates are those who have a legitimate financial hardship, which has caused them to fall behind on their payments to creditors, or will cause them to fall behind in the near future. National Debt Relief will not welcome anyone into the program that has the intentions of defrauding, deceiving, or swindling their creditors. We only represent consumers who are truly in need of our services and stand to significantly improve their financial situation.
When it comes to student loan debt, you might consolidate federal student loans into one loan through the Department of Education's Direct Consolidation Loans. Also, or alternatively, you might take out a private loan to consolidate debts -- that's generally referred to as refinancing student loan debt. The advantages of consolidating can include lower monthly payments (if you extend your payment period) and getting out of default, while drawbacks can include less flexibility and a longer payback period -- which can mean more interest paid, overall.
There are assistance programs for car owners that have poor credit scores. Programs can help them make a payment on an existing loan or debt obligation. Or if someone has bad credit (or no credit history) and they are in the market to purchase an automobile, then assistance is available with that as well. Find a list of programs that help families with poor credit either buy a car or make a payment.
No guarantees. Lenders usually want to work with you, but they can choose not to. This is especially true with debt settlement. You may contribute to the fund used to make a settlement offer for 6-8 months and then find out the lender won’t accept the offer. If you choose this route, be sure to get a written agreement from the lender that they will work with you.
Without a proven track record of success, we simply wouldn't be in business. In fact, National Debt Relief only enrolls clients who have a strong chance of benefiting from our debt settlement program. We predicate our reputation on our ability to help consumers move past their debts and begin rebuilding their financial lives - not on our ability to enroll as many clients as possible or charge unnecessary fees.
No. All eligible unsecured debt must be accounted for in a debt management plan, even those bills that you typically have no problem making payments on. The credit counseling agency in charge of your debt payment plan will want a full accounting of income and expenses in order to arrive at an accurate amount available to make the monthly DMP payments so be prepared to include all eligible debts.