The company is clear about average fees ($40 for setup and $25 monthly, not to exceed $75 and $50, respectively) as well as average interest-rate and payment reductions on its website. They also publish detailed “transparency reports” that include debt management dropout rates, savings rates, and client satisfaction rates tracked over several years.
It’s true that many people get into debt because they lose their jobs. But some people get into debt despite having well paying jobs. It’s good to share information so that people have a plan to save while they have a job so they can weather a job loss. And for those who accumulate debt beyond their means while employed, it’s good to give them a plan of action to “right the ship.” Hope you find something that helps you weather your storms.
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In the United States, Credit counseling agencies are loosely regulated by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the nation’s consumer protection agency, which can sue companies that have deceived consumers about the cost, nature, or benefits of their services. Different states may regulate DMPs individually and Attorneys General are empowered to protect state citizens from fraud. Two professional associations represent Credit counselors: the National Foundation for Credit Counseling and the Association of Independent Consumer Credit Counseling Agencies.
Get everything in writing. Before enrolling in a plan, make sure you get a contract. Get all verbal promises in writing, and read the contract very carefully to make sure the terms are the same as those you discussed. Watch very carefully for hidden fees. If a company won't send you a contract before you make your first monthly payment, don't pay them and go elsewhere for help.
No guarantees. Lenders usually want to work with you, but they can choose not to. This is especially true with debt settlement. You may contribute to the fund used to make a settlement offer for 6-8 months and then find out the lender won’t accept the offer. If you choose this route, be sure to get a written agreement from the lender that they will work with you.
Over time, your small balances should disappear one by one, freeing up more dollars to throw at your larger debts and loans. This “snowball effect” allows you to pay down smaller balances first — logging a few “wins” for the psychological effect — while letting you save the largest loans for last. Ultimately, the goal is snowballing all of your extra dollars toward your debts until they’re demolished — and you’re finally debt-free.
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.
It’s hard at first, because most of us aren’t used to doing that. (Especially if we’re living on a low income.) But it’s absolutely doable, and gets easier with practice. And once you start paying stuff off, it becomes even easier because your money isn’t flying out the door to service debt. You have MORE money available, which makes things easier still. It’s the exact opposite of a vicious circle.
Credit card forbearance programs are offered by companies. Once again, the major lenders including Chase, Bank of America, Citibank, Discover Card, and others offer credit card forbearance programs that may allow consumers to delay monthly payments from six months to over a year. These programs may also lower interest rates, reduce a customer’s minimum monthly payment, or waive all fees.
Get a second job or work overtime, if available. I’ll be blunt, second jobs are no fun, but they sure do help pay the bills. Think of how tired/stressed/soulless you feel after your 9-5 already; now imagine getting in your car, battling rush hour traffic, and putting in another four hours from 6 to 10. Then you get home around 11, just in time to watch the Daily Show and pass out.
Instead of diving into debt settlement, a better option might be to talk to a nonprofit credit counselor. Credit counseling organizations can help you better understand tactics for managing and reducing your debt, including creating and following a budget. Credit counseling may not have the negative impact of debt settlement (though if you choose a Debt Management Plan, it could appear on your credit report).
Offer a variety of deferment options: Discover offers four different deferment options for borrowers. If you decide to go back to school, you may be eligible for in-school deferment as long as you are enrolled for at least half-time. In addition to in-school deferment, Discover offers deferment to borrowers on active military duty (up to 3 years), in eligible public service careers (up to 3 years) and those in a health professions residency program (up to 5 years).
Revolving (credit card) debt can have a great impact on credit scores as it will increase your balance-to-limit ratio and lower the amount of available credit that you have. The higher your revolving balances inch up to the limits, the more it hurts the credit scores. Depending on the situation and your credit scores, a bankruptcy, debt consolidation plan, or a setup of a budget and timeframe for getting out of debt could be options. Once you’re ankle-deep in revolving debt, it can be tricky to dig yourself out so getting professional advice is important.
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.
While negotiating with your creditors could be a very good solution most Americans are unable to do this as they simply do not know what to do. This is a case where the expertise and professionalism required to negotiate for new payment terms is often best left in the hands of those who know what to do. Otherwise, the desired results may not be achieved.
Note: Federal regulations require credit card issuers to disclose on your credit card statement how long it will take to pay off your estimated balance if you make minimum monthly payments. Estimates may be rounded up to the next $100. This debt calculator uses your actual credit card balance, so the results may vary from the estimate shown in your credit card statement.
While maybe not as widely known, this may be the leading non-profit organization to call for debt management plans, help for paying loans, and other credit counseling in western Texas. They can help qualified individuals refinance their debts and pay off outstanding bills over a period of time using DMPs, consolidation, or so called hardship programs. Services are offered in Spanish too.
Rates can vary depending on where you live: The rate that is advertised on LendKey is the lowest possible rate among all of its lenders, and some of these lenders are only available to residents of specific areas. So even if you have an excellent credit report, there is still a possibility that you will not receive the lowest rate, depending on geographic location.
Guy who signed me up was professional BUT dealing with the company afterwards was a complete run-around. Transferred 5 times and not given an honest answer. Had to call back and confirm my exit from the program. Then asked personal questions in a resell attempt. Mailing address given to submit cancellation request to is NOT a valid mailing address. Percentage higher than advertised – 23%. Customer service transfers you immediately somewhere else – couldn’t even finish my sentence. Very shady.
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.