If you are working with a credit counselor and think you’ll miss a payment, they can take proactive steps to mitigate consequences and create a plan to get you back on track. They can even negotiate to have additional late payments or late fees reduced or waived if you miss a payment. The key to making this work is being completely open and honest about your situation and speaking with your credit counselor as soon as you realize your payment will be late.
Find out how payments will be disbursed to your creditors. Fraudulent debt management companies are notorious for sending payments late and getting their clients into trouble with creditors. Make sure the agency will send your payments to creditors on time and within the correct billing cycle. Ask how soon they will disburse your payment after they receive it, and find out how you can track the payments made. They should send you a statement each month or have some way for you to look it up online.
If you're not able to secure a lower interest rate from your current credit card company, you may be able to transfer outstanding credit card balances to a card with a lower or zero interest rate (called a balance transfer credit card). Credit card companies often offer promotional rates for a limited period in exchange for you transferring a balance from an existing card to a new one. You'll need to meet the balance transfer card company's qualifications, and will probably need to pay a transfer fee that equals about 3 percent of the balance you're transferring.
DMP: If you search the internet for “debt management plan,” you’ll come up with perhaps hundreds of companies and non-profit agencies willing to help you formulate a debt management plan. Some of these are for-profit companies, and some claim to be non-profit. Your best bet is to go with an affiliate of the National Foundation for Credit Counseling, which is truly non-profit, experienced, and respected. The NFCC website has a search function that will help you find an affiliated agency, or search for Consumer Credit Counseling of [your city or region].
A chance to start over. The anxiety of dealing with debt everyday crushes people’s spirits. Choosing the debt-relief option that gives you a way out of debt is a life-changing experience. Nothing feels better than second chance, an opportunity to right the wrongs and prove you’ve learned from experience. Bankruptcy, despite its reputation, will do that. A successful Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy breathes life back into consumers. It brings hope that the lessons you’ve learned about finances can take the stress out of your life.
Consumers with multiple sources of debt – credit cards, mortgage, student loans, etc. – often try and address each one every month. Bad move! Remedy: Go back to your budget, trim spending to bare bones on everything but essentials, and create a $100 (or preferably $1,000) surplus that goes directly at the credit card with the highest interest rate. When that’s paid off, go after the card with the next highest interest rate and keep going until all credit card debt is eliminated.
Are your credit cards reported as current now? (Paid on time?) If so, then settling them probably will hurt your scores as they will likely be reported as settled for less than the full balance, or as a partial payment. You can certainly talk with them and see whether they would be willing to settle without that, but in our experience that is typically how it works.
Avoid outrageous upfront fees. A small initial fee (up to $50 or, in rare cases, as much as $100 if you have a lot of debt or high income) is normal, but large upfront fees are out of line. If any agency asks for a fee (or donation) make sure that you know what it will cover, and get it in writing. Find out if you'll have to pay any additional fees to start the program. Don't get tricked into paying one "consultation fee," and then an "application fee" or "an enrollment fee." If you're truly unable to pay, look for an agency that is willing to waive the fee or spread it out (without charging additional fees for doing so).
Debt management plans from Consumer Credit Counseling Services and other third party organizations exist that can help you find solutions to debt problems. They help with mortgages, loans from banks, credit cards, and much more. These not for profit credit counseling agencies offer a host of solutions, including debt management plans, assistance with negotiating, and information on other programs that may aid you. Consumer Credit Counseling Services are often free to use.
The other method is called laddering, which is Clark’s preferred method because it will save you the most money over time. The way it works is you list your debts, starting with the highest interest rate card first and end with the debt with the lowest interest rate. This method makes the most mathematical sense, because you will save the most money in interest over time. Regardless of which process you choose, the key is to stick with it.
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Visitors to Credit.com are also able to register for a free Credit.com account, which gives them access to a tool called The Credit Report Card. This tool provides users with two free credit scores and a breakdown of the information in their Experian credit report, updated twice monthly. Again, this tool is entirely free, and we mention that frequently in our articles, because we think that it’s a good thing for users to have access to data like this. Separate from its educational value, there is also a business angle to the Credit Report Card. Registered users can be matched with products and services for which they are most likely to qualify. In other words, if you register and you find that your credit is less than stellar, Credit.com won’t recommend a high-end platinum credit card that requires an excellent credit score You’d likely get rejected, and that’s no good for you or Credit.com. You’d be no closer to getting a product you need, there’d be a wasted inquiry on your credit report, and Credit.com wouldn’t get paid. These are essentially what are commonly referred to as "targeted ads" in the world of the Internet. Despite all of this, however, even if you never apply for any product, the Credit Report Card will remain free, and none of this will impact how the editorial team reports on credit and credit scores.
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.