Bankruptcy is a last-ditch attempt to settle debts. It is a legal proceeding through which you liquidate all assets in order to wipe out debt (Chapter 7) or persuade creditors to approve a repayment plan over a 3-to-5 year time frame to eliminate debt. There are severe consequences for both, including a drop of as much as 200 points in your credit score and the bankruptcy action remaining on your credit report for 7-to-10 years. A debt management program is not a legal proceeding. A notation that you are in a DMP could appear on your credit report, but there should be little impact on your credit score until you complete the program. At that time, you could expect your credit score to improve, sometimes dramatically.
In fact, certain aspects of a debt management plan will have a positive impact on your credit score. These aspects are the amounts owed, payment history, and inquiries for new credit.  Your payment history, which makes up 35% of the FICO credit score, will have a positive impact assuming your payments are made every month. In terms of amounts owed, which makes up  30% of the Fico score, this aspect will be positively impacted as the accounts are paid down.
Tip: If you are having trouble making payments on your debts, a credit counselor may be able to help you with advice or by organizing a “debt management plan” for all your debts. Typically, under a debt management plan you make a single payment to the credit counseling organization each month or pay period and the credit counseling organization makes monthly payments to each of your creditors. Under debt management plans, credit counselors usually do not negotiate any reduction in the amounts you owe–instead, they can lower your overall monthly payment. They do so by negotiating extensions of the periods over which you can repay a loan and by asking creditors to lower the interest rates  and waive certain fees.
The exception? If you take out a loan from your retirement account to consolidate credit card debt, you’re more likely to see your credit improve. Retirement account loans aren’t reported to credit reporting agencies, so your credit reports will show less debt with no new loan. However, retirement loans carry their own risks, so proceed with caution.

Debt consolidation loans can help you pay off bills as well. They are a type of personal loan in which you can consolidate all types of outstanding debts as well as other expenses, including credit cards, other higher priced borrowing, and medical bills. The individual will take out a new loan, at a lower interest rate, and use that money to pay off other accounts. This will reduce your monthly payment, and therefore will save you money. Debt consolidation loans are just one option available to help consumers get better control of their finances.

Debt settlement is a process by which you can greatly reduce or maybe even eliminate the total amount of debt you are currently paying or committed to pay in the future. Solutions are available for various types of accounts, including credit card, medical, and even personal loans. Learn about debt settlement companies as well as the process that is available.
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.

A recent credit counseling study has produced significant research findings for the debt relief industry, showing that it is effective in helping people pay off more debt and faster. Researchers at Ohio State University compared two groups of financially distressed people with similar characteristics. The first group received credit counseling and the second did not. Those who received the service reduced their credit card debt by nearly $6,000 within 18 months of counseling. Those who had not received counseling, reduced their debt by only $3,600. Additionally, counseled participants’ available credit ratio was 19% higher than non-counseled available credit. Download the NFCC OSU Credit Counseling Statistics Final Report – 2016.
One of America's leading nonprofit debt consolidation companies, American Consumer Credit Counseling (ACCC) provides credit consulting services and debt management solutions to consumers who are struggling with credit card bills and other types of unsecured debt. Unlike some debt relief companies, we can help you consolidate your credit without having to take a credit consolidation loan. If you're wondering how to consolidate debt in the more prudent, effective way, contact us for a free consultation with one of ACCC's consolidation counselors. Be sure to check out our debt consolidation reviews to hear from our customers what makes ACCC such a trusted and effective debt consolidation company.
Does This Affect My Credit? Yes, debt negotiation will negatively affect your credit temporarily and it can be improved after you have completed the program and you are debt free. The effects are not as severe as bankruptcy. If you are already behind on your bills, your credit score will already be lower so the effects of our program may not be as severe. You have to decide if it’s better to resolve your debt now at a lower cost and then rebuild your credit.
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The debt consolidation loan interest rate is usually set at the discretion of the lender or creditor and depends on your past payment behavior and credit score. Even if you qualify for a loan with low interest, there’s no guarantee the rate will stay low. But let’s be honest: Your interest rate isn’t the main problem. Your spending habits are the problem.
Over time, the debt reductions that we're able to secure could enable you to begin building up a store of savings or adding to your existing retirement account. For many past clients, our program was a turning point: Before enrolling, they lived paycheck to paycheck and could still barely afford to make ends meet. After successfully completing our debt settlement plan, they finally had the means to prepare and save for the future. It's the least we can do to help.
Today, I have no consumer debt. By choice, I’m not debt-free. I do have a mortgage on my primary residence even though I could pay it off. I also did not pay off my student loans early. In these cases, I’m using debt conservatively and consciously to advance my financial goals. But all the nasty stuff—credit cards, personal loans, and an auto loan—is long gone.
Another gray area involves paying to become an authorized user on someone else's credit card. Winkfield says he's heard of people paying $1,500 a month for this service. Credit repair companies solicit people to "rent" their good credit score to others by adding authorized users to their credit cards. The credit repair agency gets a cut of the monthly payment in exchange for setting up the arrangement. The credit account will appear on the report of an authorized user and factor into an improved credit score. Known as piggybacking, the practice isn't illegal, but may violate the terms of service for card issuers.
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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