Watch out for common red flags. While good credit counseling agencies are transparent about their fees and services, unscrupulous ones can be evasive and pushy. Red flags include demands for payment before services start, failure to provide a contract, insisting on access to your bank account and promises of debt repair that sound too good to be true.
For example, when you initiate a debt management plan, you may be asked to close credit card accounts. Doing so changes your credit utilization ratio — the comparison between the total amount of credit you have available versus the amount you're actually using. Closing accounts lowers the amount of credit you have available (your credit limit), which increases your credit utilization rate and negatively impacts your credit score.
There are many ways to get out of credit card as well as medical debt or to get help with loans. Find a list of solutions below. You can consolidate it, enter into debt reduction or credit card hardship programs, reduce the interest rates on any loans or even completely eliminate it. Most lenders are willing to offer some form of assistance to borrowers, and non-profit agencies can also assist. Various options, including some that are free, are available to help consumers reduce the amount of debt that they have.
To qualify for National Debt Relief, you must have at least $7,500 in debt and a demonstrable financial hardship that you cannot recover from. Financial hardship includes a divorce, unemployment, loss of income, the death of a spouse and unpaid taxes. National Debt Relief uses this proof of your financial hardship as leverage to negotiate with your creditors.

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.

Companies like Consumer Credit Counseling Service can help you get better interest rates and lower payments, but at a price. When you use one of these companies and then try to get a Conventional, FHA, or VA loan, you will be treated the same as if you had filed Chapter 13 bankruptcy. Mortgage underwriting guidelines for traditional mortgages will consider your credit trashed, so don't do it. Real debt help is found only in changing your behavior.


Although a debt settlement company may be able to settle one or more of your debts, these programs can be very risky and have serious negative financial consequences for consumers. Additionally, some debt settlement companies deceive consumers by making promises they do not keep and engaging in other illegal conduct (like charging fees before obtaining any settlements, in violation of the TSR). For information, read Coping with Debt and Settling Credit Card Debts.


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.
Pay off any past due debts first so that you’re current on all accounts, which prevents late fees or continuing damage to your credit. When deciding how to prioritize debt, you can also consider which ones present a greater “risk” or cost to you than others. If you suddenly were unable to make your loan payments on a car, for example, your vehicle might be repossessed. This could have far-reaching effects if you became unable to get to work on time, or at all. So, while they aren’t always the most expensive debt, paying off a car loan can provide greater security.
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.
Auto loans: Auto loans are secured debt guaranteed by your vehicle. For 60-month auto loans, the national average interest rate was 4.21% as of July 2018. Rates are low, so early payoff doesn't always make sense. However, it's a bad idea to continually have a car loan, so paying off the debt early and saving your car payment to buy your next car in cash is smart. 
McClary advises following the 50-20-30 rule of budgeting: Allocate up to 50 percent of your budget to fixed expenses like mortgage, rent and car payments; 20 percent to savings; and 30 percent to variable expenses, especially discretionary spending for things like hobbies, recreation and dining out. That 30 percent zone is the first area to target for cutting back, McClary says.
It’s important to remember that all debt consolidation companies receive negative reviews from clients who don’t feel that they got the results they wanted. You will always see a mixture of negative and positive reviews, so try to take an even-handed approach. According to most people who have left National Debt Relief reviews, National Debt Relief can help you find medical debt relief, business debt consolidation and other strategies that quickly repair your financial circumstances. Some people are beyond the abilities of National Debt Relief, but chances are you can get the assistance you need.
Some people take out home equity loans to get the money to pay off various debts. That can be effective if the home equity loan features a lower interest rate. This can be a powerful strategy, as it tends to feature lower interest rates and often-deductible interest, but  it does reduce your home equity and put your home at risk, so don't do it unless you will have the discipline to pay off the home equity loan. If you use the money to pay off credit card debt but then proceed to rack up more credit card debt, it may not have been worth it.
This only happens in the first month of the program. After that, your payments are made on time according to the new schedule. As a result, most people see their scores improve because they have low credit scores starting out. That one month of “missed” payments is usually a drop in the bucket compared to all the other payments that might have been late or missed while you were struggling.
If you're unable to pay your creditors, filing for bankruptcy can help you get a fresh start by liquidating your assets to pay off your debts or create a payment plan. But you should first consider other debt management options. Bankruptcy information stays on a credit report for 10 years and can make it difficult to get credit, buy a home, get life insurance, or sometimes get a job.
It’s important to remember that all debt consolidation companies receive negative reviews from clients who don’t feel that they got the results they wanted. You will always see a mixture of negative and positive reviews, so try to take an even-handed approach. According to most people who have left National Debt Relief reviews, National Debt Relief can help you find medical debt relief, business debt consolidation and other strategies that quickly repair your financial circumstances. Some people are beyond the abilities of National Debt Relief, but chances are you can get the assistance you need.
Depending on how serious are your financial woes your counselor may recommend a debt management plan (DMP). The way this would work in brief is your counselor will determine how much you can pay and then negotiate with the creditors on your behalf. The negotiation can be for longer terms or lower monthly amounts determined by what payments you could afford to make. In some cases your counselor may attempt to negotiate a reduction in your interest rates. If all or most all your creditors agree to your debt management plan you would stop paying them. Instead, you would send one payment a month to the credit-counseling agency and it will distribute the money to your creditors per your DMP. The biggest downside to one of these plans is that they typically take five years to complete. You would most likely be required to give up all the credit cards that are in your plan and would be strongly urged to not take on any new credit until you’ve completed your plan. These are the biggest reasons why nearly half of those debtors who sign up for DMP never successfully complete it.
The average length of a DMP is 3-5 years, but is shorter for clients who decide to aggressively deal with their debt. Many clients pay down debt faster by using income tax returns, inheritance money or some other unexpected source of income. There is no penalty for paying the debt off early. You can make additional payments while on the plan and pay off your debt faster.
A debt management plan (or DMP) is one way MMI can help you resolve your credit problems and repay your debt. A debt management plan is recommended for those individuals who need more than advice and could benefit from a structured repayment plan. Through a debt management plan, you are able to make one convenient monthly deposit to MMI which is then disbursed to each of your creditors.
It definitely sounds like you are in a tough spot. Can you make minimum payments until you get a place to rent and then try to resolve your debt? In addition, it would be a good idea for you to check out credit counseling as that may allow you to lower your payments, pay your debt in full, and avoid the kind of damage to your credit that settlement will do. (I am not opposed to settlement – it can be helpful in certain situations. But it definitely will affect your credit scores for some time.)
In addition to using the free services from a non-profit, or working with the lender, there are steps that you can take yourself that can help you reduce your debt. It often combines budgeting as well as working out a solution with the lender. Some of those assistance programs range from payment plans to interest rate reductions or forbearance. It is also important for families to know the difference between bad debt and good debt, so when someone should borrow money or not. The fact is that families, no matter their income, need all the assistance they can get in order to become debt free and pay outstanding bills.

I know it’s fab to live in New York City or Los Angeles or San Francisco but if you’re going to be forever in debt and never able to retire, it’s not worth it. I know it takes money to move so you can choose from our other options; finding a cheaper place, getting a roommate, moving back in with your parents until you’ve saved enough to make a move.


Free advice from credit counseling agencies is available. Several different organizations, all of which are non-profits, operate across the country. A number of agencies operate regionally as well. They provide a number of low cost or free debt reduction programs, offer ways to improve credit scores, can advise on filing for bankruptcy, offer budgeting services, and in general provide information on ways to gain control of your bills. Find a listing of non-profit credit counseling agencies.
Personal loans:Personal loans are for a fixed amount of money from banks, credit unions, and online sources. Average personal loan rates range from 10% to 28%, depending on credit. When rates are very high, early and aggressive debt payoff is important. If rates are reasonable, you may wish to prioritize other money goals before putting extra money toward repaying early. 
Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington, Wisconsin, Wyoming.
Within five days after a debt collector first contacts you, the collector must send you a written notice that tells you the name of the creditor, how much you owe, and what action to take if you believe you do not owe the money. If you owe the money or part of it, contact the creditor to arrange for payment. If you believe you do not owe the money, contact the creditor in writing and send a copy to the collection agency informing them with a letter not to contact you.

Try to manage your debt yourself. Even without the help of a credit agency, you can make a household budget, reduce unnecessary expenses, and prioritize your debts. You can also call your creditors to request them to waive late fees, reduce interest rates, and/or work with you on a payment schedule. You can also ask about debt re-aging, also known as rollback or curing. This process can report past-due accounts as current, which can help you avoid delinquent status.[3] Many times creditors will be happy to work with you if you make a good-faith effort to pay them.


I have been with NDR almost a full year and am happy with my results. They have settled 3 of my 5 accounts so far and I have received letters from these companies saying what the settlement was for. Also about the credit situation, they tell you when you sign up that it is a negative impact on your credit, you would have to be stupid to think your credit is going to be fine when you're settling with one of your creditors for half the price they lent you. NDR in my books on a scale of 1-10 is a perfect 10, I'm very satisfied with my results and glad I've found someone that is willing to help people that are sinking in debt
I’ve only been in the program a few weeks. I’m rather disappointed with their csr. At first they treat you like you’re golden and give the impression that they actually care. Once I signed up I tried reaching out to the lady who originally helped me,she completely ignored me and has not replied to any of my emails. It just feels awful being tossed to the side like garbage after initially being treat with attention and support.
Finally, you should know there’s a chance your credit can still suffer. Technically, entering a debt management plan shouldn’t hurt your credit score. But if your debt management company ever misses a payment on your behalf, your score will take a hit. Also, prospective lenders may shy away from making loans if they see a notation on your credit report that you’re in a debt management program.

On the flip side, the Debt Management Plan is designed to be paid off with regular monthly payments over approximately four years (our clients use an automated payment system so their consolidated debt payments are transferred electronically). These timely payments over the course of years have a very positive impact on the client’s payment history, which is the largest factor in calculating one’s FICO score. (That also means, of course, that if a client is late with their Debt Management Plan payments, there will be significant negative impact on his/her score.)
Dealing with the IRS can be a very daunting task to take on alone. Fortunately, tax specialists exist to help guide you through the process of eliminating tax debt. By using DebtHelp.com, you will be able to connect with top tax experts in the US and regain control over your taxes, rather than having your taxes control you. Browse our quick guide to tax debt, our large archive of tax articles, and then use our solution finder to contact a tax specialist.
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.)
ClearPoint Credit Counseling has been in business for 50 years, and their wide range of educational offerings includes “ClearPoint U,” a series of free, on-demand online courses on personal finance topics. The company has 50 branches across the U.S. and is accredited by the BBB, NFCC, and COA. Their website is polished and easy to navigate, but is a bit less transparent about fees and potential reductions in interest rates than their competitors.
If you're looking for help dealing with high interest rates and difficult-to-manage debt, you may be wondering if debt settlement is a good option for you. Some debt settlement companies advertise that they will negotiate with lenders on your behalf to get your payments reduced. While debt settlement may make it easier for you to pay off your debt, it does have some significant credit consequences.
Let’s be real: Kids grow out of clothes at the speed of light. It’s not worth it to go into debt for your two-year-old’s wardrobe. Check out consignment stores that sell pre-loved outfits in good condition. If you’d rather shop online, no problem. Sites like thredUP and Swap.com are great resources to get adult and children’s clothing at a fraction of the cost.
I have read many blog posts, but this one seemed to spark something in me and re-motivate me to pay off my debt. I know that I am not alone in this, but I can do this on my own. I’m ready to refresh my system of repayment, earn more cash, and limit my spending activities. With Christmas around the corner, it’s hard not to push getting seriously about paying off debt until the new year, but I know if I can manage it now, I can do it all year. And that’s one less month I’ll be in debt.

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.

A debt management program consolidates your debt without you having to take out a loan. In other words, you don’t need a loan to pay off a loan. It is administered by a nonprofit credit counseling agency like InCharge Debt Solutions, which offers financial education alongside the program so that consumers learn from the experience and aren’t likely to repeat it again.

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National Debt Relief recently refunded part of the money that was saved in my account before I terminated my agreement with the company. I found this action on their part to be quite surprising and very much appreciated. This leads me to believe that they do have the best interest of their customers at heart. I have chosen to work with another company in becoming debt free and am very thankful for the services provided to me from National Debt Relief.
Find a good credit counselor. Almost all DMPs are administered by consumer credit counseling agencies--so much so, in fact, that the terms "credit counseling" and "debt management" are often used interchangeably. Thoroughly researching the agency is the most important thing to do before deciding to enroll in their debt management program. The FTC has put together a simple guide to help you get started and choose the right plan.
Great article. We are in the process of paying down debt, and the freedom we feel in watching that number decrease is a beautiful thing! Doing something RIGHT AWAY is key because, as your chart above shows, the greater the amount of money going into paying debt, the less you have to spend (even on the things you truly need!), so the debt pile increases and you never get out from under it. Everyone can do something NOW to see a shift in that picture. It all starts with an earnest desire to confront and change. Thanks for sharing.
I have been with NDR almost a full year and am happy with my results. They have settled 3 of my 5 accounts so far and I have received letters from these companies saying what the settlement was for. Also about the credit situation, they tell you when you sign up that it is a negative impact on your credit, you would have to be stupid to think your credit is going to be fine when you're settling with one of your creditors for half the price they lent you. NDR in my books on a scale of 1-10 is a perfect 10, I'm very satisfied with my results and glad I've found someone that is willing to help people that are sinking in debt
Kalkowski recommends finding a nonprofit rather than a for-profit agency. Reputable companies may be accredited or certified by one of three organizations: The National Foundation for Credit Counseling, the Financial Counseling Association of America or the Council on Accreditation. Consumers can also check the Better Business Bureau for company ratings and reviews or discuss the matter with trusted friends and family members who may be able to make a recommendation.
I doubt that would be the case. The main impact will be from closing those accounts. FICO doesn’t take into account that you are in credit counseling when calculating your credit score. In other words, you don’t get penalized specifically for credit counseling like you would for, say, a late payment or bankruptcy. Plus you’ll hopefully be learning how to live debt free so you don’t have to rely on credit cards again.
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:

High-interest credit card debt: Credit card debt is revolving debt; you charge as much as you want up to your credit limits and make monthly payments. The average interest rate on credit cards was close to 17% as of July 2018. Because credit card debt provides no benefit and rates are substantially higher than investments typically produce, aggressive early payoff is smart. 


Also, there are many not for profit credit counseling organizations who offer services at local offices, online, and on the phone. Many universities, military bases, credit unions, housing authorities, and branches of the U.S. Cooperative Extension Service operate nonprofit credit counseling programs. Local financial institutions and consumer protection agencies may also be good sources of information and referrals.


Not all consumers are able to complete debt relief programs for various reasons, including their ability to save sufficient funds. The use of debt resolution services could negatively impact your credit and may result in legal action on the part of creditors or collectors for unpaid balances. Consumers enrolled in debt consolidation programs who fail to adhere to the terms of their debt management plan (DMP) may forfeit the benefits of debt relief and revert to the terms of their original creditor agreements. Read and understand all program materials prior to enrollment. Please contact a debt relief specialist for complete program details.
You may also be able to obtain a debt consolidation loan if you have more than one student loan. Consolidating multiple student loans, which you can also apply for through StudentLoan.gov, will allow you to have a single monthly payment at a fixed interest rate that's based on the average of the interest rates on the loans you're consolidating. There's no cost to consolidate multiple federal education loans into one loan. However, you may lose certain student loan benefits, such as the ability to defer repayment.
I entered a DMP (Money Management Intl) 4 years ago with a pile of debt and am now a month away from being debt free. I will say the service wasn’t exactly what I expected going into it – the DMP was very hands off and didn’t provide much in the way of real conselling. They don’t even explain the process very well, so it’s worth doing a little research on your own. That said, I’m not sure I could have tackled my debt without the reduced interest rates and the one-payment structure.
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