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.
Credit limitation: Like a balance transfer, a personal debt consolidation loan is usually only a viable solution for consumers who have a good credit score. The higher you score, the lower the interest rate you can qualify for on the loan. APR of 5% is ideal, but anything below 10% may be enough to provide the relief you need. If you can’t qualify for a rate below 10%, look for other options.
Often, one of the first things that people ask when they come to us is "what are my credit card debt options?" Typically, consumers want help consolidating debt, which means taking out a new loan to pay off a number of other debts. The hope is that with a lower interest rate on a new loan they'll save money, and with just one loan payment to make, they'll stay current with their creditors more easily.
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.
Credit score is not a factor with credit counseling. The initial consultation, even with a credit check, won’t affect your score. There is no minimum score requirement to enroll in a debt management program. In addition, when done correctly the program has either a neutral or positive effect on your credit. In other words, if you still have good or excellent credit, this program won’t set you back.
Global criticism of credit counseling comes primarily from predatory practices that take advantage of debtors that are already struggling. These practices include failing to meet required standards, charging unlawful or unreasonable fees, failing to provide affordable solutions for consumers, and neglecting to make customers aware of free debt services available elsewhere.
When evaluating whether a credit agency is legitimate, Kalkowski cautions against being too trusting of promises made by company representatives. "A lot of these people are so nice," she says. They may pressure people to sign up immediately, if for no other reason than to get peace of mind. While they may seem caring, Kalkowski stresses, "These people are not your friends. They are out to make a buck."
Debt settlement companies also charge a fee for their "service." Most of the time, settlement fees cost between $1,500 to $3,500. Fraudulent debt settlement companies often tell customers to stop making payments on their debts and instead pay the company. Once their fee is accounted for, they promise to negotiate with your creditors and settle your debts. Sounds great, right? Well, the debt settlement companies usually don’t deliver on helping you with your debt after they take your money. They’ll leave you on the hook for late fees and additional interest payments on debt they promised to help you pay!
This is a form of assisted debt consolidation that works extremely well if you have a large volume of debt and a less-than-perfect credit score. You enroll in a program through a credit counseling agency, who works out a payment plan that works for your budget. Then they negotiate with your creditors on your behalf to reduce your interest rates. Total monthly payments are typically reduced by 30-50% and most people complete the program within 60 payments or less.
If you need help getting out of debt, American Consumer Credit Counseling offers debt management services that can help you find your way out of debt – usually within five years. As a non-profit organization, our professional credit counselors are experts at delivering solutions for individuals and families who need help getting out of debt. Since our founding in 1991, we've helped tens of thousands of people, showing them how to pay off debts, reduce credit card debt and live life debt-free. With the lowest rate structure of any debt management program, our services are affordable and convenient. If you're ready to seek help getting out of debt, contact us today to set an appointment for a free consultation.
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.
Debt settlement sounds like a sexy option to consolidate debt. Who wouldn’t want to pay half of what you owe on credit card debt? But this is considered a desperation measure for a reason. The ads boasting that settlement companies like National Debt Relief can get 50% of your debt forgiven, don’t tell the whole story. That figure doesn’t include the fees you will pay, the penalties you incur while settlement negotiations take place and whether a creditor will even accept the offers made. Do all the math before you choose this option.
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.
However, not all credit counseling agencies are created equal. While some are accredited nonprofits, others are for-profit ventures that charge high fees and use questionable tactics, such as asking clients to dispute legitimate debts on credit reports or pay to become an authorized user on a stranger's credit card. Unscrupulous agencies may drain the wallets of already cash-strapped families and fail to address the underlying issues like budgeting, which are needed to ensure long-lasting financial success.
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.
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.
A debt management plan is a carefully constructed payment schedule that consolidates credit card and other unsecured debts into one affordable monthly payment. Borrowers in a debt management program agree to stop using credit cards in exchange for lower interest rates and more affordable monthly payments. Nonprofit debt management programs enable borrowers to repay their debt in 3-5 years.