Instead of diving into debt settlement, a better option might be to talk to a nonprofit credit counselor. Credit counseling organizations can help you better understand tactics for managing and reducing your debt, including creating and following a budget. Credit counseling may not have the negative impact of debt settlement (though if you choose a Debt Management Plan, it could appear on your credit report).


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.

DMP: The fact that you’re participating in a DMP isn’t calculated into your credit score, although it will be noted on your credit report. That said, other consequences of the DMP will have an effect. For instance, closing your accounts will affect the amount of credit you have available and could impact your credit history, both of which figure into the credit score algorithm. To learn more about how credit scores are calculated, visit Learn How Debt Affects Your Credit Score.
Consolidate with a home equity loan. If your total debt load, including credit card, medical, and other unsecured borrowing seem insurmountable for you to pay off, then you can use a home equity loan to consolidate and even pay off these bills. While there are some potentially major risks if you do not do this correctly, the approach is an option. A home equity loan can help you eliminate your higher interest, unsecured debt and improve your financial situation.
Most reputable credit counselors are non-profit and offer services at local offices, online, or on the phone. If possible, find an organization that offers in-person counseling. Many universities, military bases, credit unions, housing authorities, and branches of the U.S. Cooperative Extension Service operate non-profit credit counseling programs. Your financial institution, local consumer protection agency, and friends and family also may be good sources of information and referrals.
Credit card forbearance programs are offered by companies. Once again, the major lenders including Chase, Bank of America, Citibank, Discover Card, and others offer credit card forbearance programs that may allow consumers to delay monthly payments from six months to over a year. These programs may also lower interest rates, reduce a customer’s minimum monthly payment, or waive all fees.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, American Consumer Credit Counseling is impressively detailed with their FAQs and discussion of debt management. They offer a debt management calculator that allows potential clients to input their creditors and outstanding balances to get an idea of the savings they may realize. Established in 1991, the company does business in all 50 states and is accredited by the BBB, AICCCA, and ISO. Their fees are also low ($39 to enroll, and from $5 to $35 monthly). However, they will only deal with unsecured debt, and the site pushes the debt management plan a bit more heavily than other competitors.

Credit.com’s journalism is largely supported by an e-commerce business model. Rather than rely on revenue from display ad impressions, Credit.com maintains a financial marketplace separate from its editorial pages. When someone navigates to those pages, and applies for a credit card, for example, Credit.com will get paid what is essentially a finder’s fee if that person ends up getting the card. That doesn’t mean, however, that our editorial decisions are informed by the products available in our marketplace. The editorial team chooses what to write about and how to write about it independently of the decisions and priorities of the business side of the company. In fact, we maintain a strict and important firewall between the editorial and business departments. Our mission as journalists is to serve the reader, not the advertiser. In that sense, we are no different from any other news organization that is supported by ad revenue.
Advantage Credit Counseling Service (CCS) is a Non-Profit Credit Counseling agency that educates consumers about debt management, bankruptcy, and how to properly manage credit. We’ve been helping people take control of their finances since 1968. As a 501(c)3 organization, our agency provides professional, meaningful and confidential consumer education, credit counseling, and develops effective debt reduction programs. We are specialists in teaching individuals about wise money management and the responsible use of credit.
One of the most effective ways to budget to eliminate debt is using the cash envelope system. This is where you place a predetermined amount of money in different envelopes labeled with different spending categories. Anytime you spend within a category, the money must come from the corresponding envelope. When the money is out, it’s all out, and you can’t overspend.
A debt management program is different from debt consolidation in that it consolidates your payments but not your loan (you are not taking out a new loan as you would in debt consolidation). These programs enable debtors to work one-on-one with a financial professional to get your financial obligations under control and are created for consumers by nonprofit credit counseling agencies.
As you read through each item, you'll probably think "This will only save me $5 or $10 a month." If you can cut back on 10 different things and save even $100 a month, that's an extra $100 you can put towards your debt. Not all of these will apply to you and that's ok. Adopt as many as you can, even if it means making a small sacrifice. The more of these you can adopt, the more money you'll have to accomplish your goal.
The services provided by credit counseling services are nothing consumers can't do by themselves. "You could do it, but it's an involved process," says Kyle Winkfield, partner with financial firm O'Dell, Winkfield, Roseman and Shipp in the District of Columbia. The benefit of using an agency is that they have experience in negotiating debt payments and disputing incorrect information on credit reports. Paying an expert to do these tasks not only saves a person time, but can minimize the stress of having to navigate unfamiliar territory. "If you find a good one, they are worth more than they charge," Winkfield says.

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.
One factor I have not seen mentioned here is what I learned when entering the field of sales. A job is just that; a means to an end. A job produces a predictable income stream, which is why we were taught that j.o.b. = Just Over Broke, or, where most people are comfortable remaining for the majority of their working lives, whether out of habit, fear, or ignorance of what opportunitieseee are available to them.
NerdWallet recommends the 50/30/20 budget: Keep essential expenses, like housing, to 50% of your income. Then allocate 30% for wants, and use 20% for savings and debt pay-down. Since you’re focused on paying off your debt, you may decide to use money from your wants category to make extra debt payments. That will wipe out debt faster and help you save on interest.
Negotiate credit card debt as well as outstanding loans - While it is possible to contact a credit card card company and negotiate yourself, unfortunately getting the best deal you want or that you may need won't necessarily be easy, if it can be done at all. If you do try to negotiate yourself rather than using a professional counselor, find a do it yourself approach to negotiate and get out of debt.
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]
I am 37 and have amassed $45,000 in credit card debt (over three cards). I have student loans, a mortgage loan, and an equity line of credit. I have never been late with any payments. However, I am a bit stressed with the high credit card debt. Would it be wise to file for chapter 7 on the credit card debt only while keeping my mortgage, equity line of credit, and student loan payments?
With it being the third month and nothing had been settled yet I did respond to one of my creditors explaining to them the situation. Disturbing thing is that when I asked her why they hadn’t contacted clear one advantage I was told that they had never received anything from them that’s why they were reaching out to me. At that time I was able to settle the account with my creditor got the direct contact number for the woman that I spoke with and immediately contacted Clear One Advantage.
Hi. We have about $45k in debt , 10 of which is a trailer loan. Daughter is in first year of college. If I decide to see a credit counselor would it hurt her chances of getting fafsa ??? Loans in her name I believe because she is over 18, but we don’t want her owing a lot just coming out of college either, and we have a son graduating in a year as well. This has stressed me out to even thinking of claiming bankruptcy but I’m not going to go to that extreme…..help!! Suggestions? Owe $300k on house, own all cars.
The rule also specifies that the consumers’ money set aside to pay debts be maintained in an account at an insured financial institution; that the consumer owns the funds and any interest accrued; that the debt settlement company does not own, control or have any affiliation with the company administering the account; and that the provider does not exchange any referral fees with the company administering the account, the FTC says.
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Chapter 13: Most debts are discharged. Some debts that are not dischargeable in a Chapter 7 case have to be paid in full in a Chapter 13 plan. To keep your secured debts like a car loan or mortgage, you have to continue making monthly payments. There are circumstances in which you can add your car into your plan payment. You can also use the plan payment to catch up past due house payments and prevent a foreclosure.
It will decimate your credit scores and stay on your credit report for up to 10 years even as you restore your credit history. That’s no small thing, because poor credit history can affect your eligibility for certain jobs, your chances of getting an apartment lease, and how much you pay for car insurance. When your credit is already bad, a bankruptcy may allow you to rebuild your credit much sooner than continuing to try to repay. (Learn more about when bankruptcy is the best option.)
According to research, more than half of American consumers (57%) don’t have enough cash to cover an unexpected expense of $500 or more. Remedy: It’s impossible to predict unemployment, car accidents or busted plumbing, which is why every home needs an emergency fund. Experts say put 3-6 months of expenses aside for emergencies. It might take a while to get there if you’re focused on paying off debt, but again, it has to be part of your monthly budget. Set aside at least 5% of your income in an emergency fund, at least until you have three months of expenses covered.
Avoid high monthly fees. Most debt management plans charge a nominal monthly fee to cover the administrative expenses. Depending on the number of creditors you have, the monthly fee may vary, but it generally should be between $2-5 per creditor or, at most, not more than $50 per month.[7] Make sure the agency doesn't charge any other maintenance fees (i.e. an annual fee) in addition to monthly fees.
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.
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.
Absolutely. InCharge is proud to offer an online credit counseling option where you enter your information and receive a personalized debt relief solution without ever having to speak to a person. If a debt management program is recommended, you can add or delete credit accounts, choose a payment due date and set-up automated payments, all without having to call in to a counselor.
Credit counseling organizations are usually non-profit organizations. Typically, their counselors are certified and trained in the areas of consumer credit, money and debt management, and budgeting. Counselors discuss your financial situation with you and help you develop a personalized plan to solve your money problems.  Here are some examples of what credit counselors might do: 
What Does National Debt Relief Do? National Debt Relief is a leading debt negotiation company with a BBB A+ rating and thousands of positive client reviews. So what does that mean? We negotiate with your creditors to get a reduction of your outstanding credit card balances. We get your creditors to agree to a lump sum payoff amount and they will forgive the rest of your balance. Debt negotiation is one of the most effective choices available to consumers if you qualify. It’s a great choice if you have more debt than you can pay off in a 2 – 3 year time frame or are experiencing a financial hardship that has you falling behind (or just about to be) on your monthly payments.

The fact is, more than half of Americans actually spend more than they earn each month, according to a Pew Research study, and use credit to bridge the gap. So it’s easy to see how so many people are struggling with debt — and why some choose to bury their heads in the sand. For many in debt, the reality of owing so much money is too much to face — so they simply choose not to.


Credit counseling. Most businesses in the debt-relief industry offer free credit counseling services. Certified credit counselors help consumers build an affordable budget and learn how to live with it. Counselors teach them the debt-relief options available and offer advice on which one best suits their situation. This is an overlooked aspect of many debt-relief services. It increases the financial literacy of consumers by leaps and bounds.
InCharge does not report your participation in a debt management program or plan to the credit bureaus, however your creditors might. Your credit score may decrease when your credit cards are closed and then increase as you make consistent on-time payments over the course of the program. Every person’s credit situation is different. In order to better understand how a debt management program may affect your credit score, learn more about how credit scores are calculated.
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