Debt settlement companies, also sometimes called "debt relief" or "debt adjusting" companies, often claim they can negotiate with your creditors to reduce the amount you owe. Consider all of your options, including working with a nonprofit credit counselor, and negotiating directly with the creditor or debt collector yourself. Before agreeing to work with a debt settlement company, there are risks that you should consider:
Weigh the pros and cons of signing up for a DMP. While credit counseling is free and does not affect your credit score, enrolling in a DMP may be expensive in the long run and negatively your credit if debts are settled for less than their original value.[4] You will also not be able to use your credit cards for the duration of your time enrolled in the DMP.[5] However, you also need to keep in mind that working with a credit counselor or debt management company can provide some unique benefits. There are plenty of creditors who won't work with you directly but will work with you through a DMP. Similarly, the "concessions" given to you by the creditor (lower interest rates and waived fees) might be better and help you save more money in the long-term if you opt to go through a credit counseling agency.
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Yes, but this is a real commitment of time and resources. Here is how it works. List all your debts (except your mortgage) from smallest to largest. Pay the minimum due on all debts, but the smallest. Attack the smallest debt with as much money as you have available — $100 a month, for example – until it is paid off.  When that is paid off, take the $100 a month, plus whatever the minimum you were paying on the second smallest debt, combine them and go after the second debt. Keep repeating until you have gone through each debt. The idea is to gain momentum in your bill paying by having success.

If you're interested in starting a debt management plan, you'll first need to find a credit counselor. The Federal Trade Commission recommends you never agree to any debt management plan until a reputable credit counselor has thoroughly reviewed your financial situation with you. The U.S. Department of Justice maintains a state-by-state list of approved credit counseling agencies, so you can search for someone near you.
I’ve done some research on debt consolidation loans from financial institutions, and have found one for a $10,000 loan @ $197/month for 5 years, fixed rate of 6.99%. This will allow us to consolidate all of our credit card & medical bill debt (normally costing around $1000-1500/month) and allow us the cash to get her car fixed, paying one low monthly cost. Once we get her car fixed we are going to start paying more than the $197/month to pay the loan off quicker.
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Our debt counselors must complete intensive financial counseling and become certified by the NFCC. Besides being certified, many of InCharge’s credit counselors have over 10 years of experience as a financial counselor. They’ve helped people through every kind of financial downturn, from losing a loved one to catastrophic illness, to job loss. They can help you too.
You should take the time to shop around. FICO says there is little to no impact on your credit score for rate shopping as many providers as you’d like in a single shopping period (which can be between 14-30 days, depending upon the version of FICO). So set aside a day and apply to as many as you feel comfortable with to get a sense of who is ready to give you the best terms.

Union members and AFL-CIO debt management plan - Union Plus wants to remind members and organized labor that they offer a debt management plan to help members. Individuals are able to consolidate their bills at a lower interest rate, enter into payments plans, and otherwise pay down their bills. They will also reimburse participants in this program some of the monthly fees that may be due. More on Union member debt consolidation..

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: 
Most nonprofit agencies are members of either the National Foundation for Credit Counseling or the Financial Counseling Association of America. Both of these groups have certification requirements to ensure a standard level of education and quality among counselors. They also require accreditation, in which an outside body checks that standards of practice are being met.
For many consumers who realize "I need help with my debt" and who come to us with questions like "How do I manage credit card debt more effectively," we often suggest a debt management program. Under this approach, you'll make one payment each month to us and we'll pay all your creditors for you. This ensures timely payments, simplifies your finances and lets us work with your creditors to reduce interest rates and finance charges.
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This is where it helps to talk to a professional. Consumer credit counselors understand all the options available to pay off credit card debt. They can impartially evaluate your debt, credit and budget to help you identify the best solution for your needs. You get an unbiased, expert opinion on your best course of action so you can move forward with confidence.

Balance-transfer cards can help when trying to pay off credit card debt, because you can transfer thousands of dollars owed to a new card that offers a very low initial interest rate -- often 0%. That interest rate will be in effect for between six and 21 months, after which a more standard interest rate will apply. That standard rate will not necessarily be a great one, so you should seek cards that will charge you relatively low interest rate ranges following your teaser-rate period. Your credit score is likely to influence the interest rate you're given after the 0% rate expires, so this is another reason to get your score as high as you can.
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But with the help of her credit counselor, she worked out a plan that got her out of debt in just 3 years. When she saw her credit card balances going down, she knew she made the right decision. With the money she’s saving, she plans to make a great down payment for a brand new car. And she looks forward to not stressing about how she’ll be able to afford the payments.

“The first thing a person needs to do is take a close look at how they got into debt in the first place,” advised Carolyn McClanahan, M.D., CFP, who began her career as a physician and is now founder of a financial planning group called Life Planning Partners LLC, based in Jacksonville, Fla. “They should identify what triggered the situation or any bad habits that might have led to their debt, so that they don’t repeat those things going forward. Then, they need to make an actionable plan to figure out how to get out of debt.”
The top benefit is that you are on a plan that should eliminate debts in 3-to-5 years and you will stop receiving harassing calls from debt collection agencies. Convenience is another plus. You make only one payment a month for your debt payment plan as opposed to numerous payments with numerous deadlines. You receive free educational material that should help you better understand how to manage debt. Finally, you can always call a credit counselor and receive free advice should your situation change.
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