If you choose to do your counseling over the telephone, we’ll connect you with a certified credit counselor who will do the following: collect information about your income, assets and expenses. They will then pull a copy of your credit report and review your debts with you. Based on your income, assets and debts, your credit counselor will make a debt relief recommendation to you which may include bankruptcy, a debt management program and/or recommendations for how to reduce items in your budget to help you pay off your debt faster.
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.
In addition to only spending money you already have, those changes include saving up money for emergencies, planning for regular and irregular expenses (including fun things), saying no or getting creative until you’ve got the money for stuff you want, and asking for help. They include tracking your spending to see if you’re getting enough value, taking responsibility for your actions and inactions, and making different choices than the ones that got you into debt. They include being honest with yourself and anyone else you share finances with.
There are four other popular options that you could discuss with your creditors. The first is to have your interest rates reduced. If you have high interest debts of, say, 15% or higher and could get them reduced to maybe 12%, you would end up with much lower monthly payments, which could make it possible for you to meet your obligations. A second option worth discussing would be a timeout period of two or three months during which you would no longer be required to make any payments. This would give you time to get your finances reorganized and to save money that might allow you to catch up on your payments. A third possibility would be to have some or all of your credit card debts converted into repayment programs. You would likely be required to give up your credit cards but in turn you would have fixed payments for a fixed amount of time after which you would be completely debt-free.
While your credit score may suffer if you’re falling behind on monthly payments before you get your debt management plan set up, starting your plan should provide some relief. Your credit score should increase as you begin making regular monthly payments and your debt balances drop. Experian does note that you may see some negative side effects when accounts are closed, usually due to changes with your credit utilization rate or credit mix.