How it works: Whether it’s at a bank, credit union office or online, the consumer must fill out an application and be approved for a loan. Your income and expenses are part of the decision, but credit score is usually the deciding factor. If approved, you receive a fixed-rate loan and use it to pay off your credit card balances. You then make a fixed monthly payment to the lender to pay off your loan.


Negotiating a debt relief plan. Trying to work with creditors should come first before bankruptcy. Let the lenders know you aren't able to pay your bills and are thinking about filing for bankruptcy protection unless they're willing to work with you. The creditors may allow you to repay a portion of your debt -- either in a lump sum or over time -- and forgive the rest. 
Freedom Debt Relief charges customers an average of 20 percent of their total enrolled debt. If you owe enroll $20,000 in debt, Freedom Debt Relief could cut your debt in half. Add on the 20 percent average fees and you could save between $5,000 and $6,000 (25-30 percent average savings AFTER fees). So with a $20,000 debt, you end up paying only $14,000 or $15,000 of your original debt.
Credit card debt is not the only type of debt that you can include in a debt management program. You can consolidate almost any type of unsecured debt, not including student loans. This includes debt consolidation loans, unpaid medical bills that have gone to collections, and even some payday loans. If you’re struggling with student loans, then you will need a specialized type of debt relief.

Yes, all unsecured debts should be included on your debt management plan. This means that all revolving credit accounts will be closed to further use. The purpose of this debt repayment program is to help consumers get out of debt.  To do this, it’s important that no additional charges are made while are on the program. However, as with any rule, exceptions can occasionally be made. Discuss any accounts you’d like to keep open with your counselor.
Late fees and other penalties. If you are not actively paying down your debt, the lender will assess late fees and raise the interest rate so that your debt actually grows. Again, this applies specifically to debt settlement, but could happen with late payments in either a debt management program or debt consolidation loan. Be aware that not making at least minimum payments on your debt each month is going to cost you.

Credit counseling. Most businesses in the debt-relief industry offer free credit counseling services. Certified credit counselors help consumers build an affordable budget and learn how to live with it. Counselors teach them the debt-relief options available and offer advice on which one best suits their situation. This is an overlooked aspect of many debt-relief services. It increases the financial literacy of consumers by leaps and bounds.
Most nonprofit agencies are members of either the National Foundation for Credit Counseling or the Financial Counseling Association of America. Both of these groups have certification requirements to ensure a standard level of education and quality among counselors. They also require accreditation, in which an outside body checks that standards of practice are being met.

Bankruptcy stays on your credit report for a decade, it costs money, and it's emotionally difficult. It's a last resort -- but it is an option you should often turn to before liquidating retirement savings (which is protected during bankruptcy) or before struggling for years to make payments on debt that doesn't go down because all the money goes to interest. 
Our experience with Clearpoint Credit Counseling is remarkable as they have helped us understand how to remove that overwhelming and disastrous financial burden from our lives. Our Clearpoint counselor is always welcoming, empathetic, professional and experienced and he has allowed us to live our lives as we had dreamed—free from the nightmare of the intimidating phone calls, the threatening letters and the guilt we felt.
Veteran journalist/blogger Tom Jackson has worked for newspapers in Washington D.C., Sacramento, Calif., and Tampa, Fla., racking up state and national awards for writing, editing and design along the way. Tom also has been published in assorted sports magazines, and his work has been included in several annual “Best Sports Stories” collections. Most recently, his blogging for various websites on the 2016 election won a pair of top honors from the Florida Press Club. A University of Florida alumnus, St. Louis Cardinals fan and eager-if-haphazard golfer, Tom splits time between Tampa and Cashiers, N.C., with his wife of 40 years, college-age son, and Spencer, a yappy Shetland sheepdog.
National Debt Relife did nothing but lie and scam me. I asked to leave the program so that I could got to another company. I still had a refund due to me so I submitted the request. I have documentation that states when my refund of $2439.40 will come to my bank which is 9/13/2018. As of today I have not received my refund and the company is holding it so that I am charged more fees. Please help, I have already paid late fees and penalties because of this. I am speaking with an attorney now so that I can recover damages caused by the not returning my funds in the mannar promised.Read More
But having this mini-emergency fund before devoting extra to your debt is vital to breaking the debt cycle. If you don't have some savings, you might find yourself trapped in a cycle you can never escape. You'll start paying off debt, and then your car breaks down, and you'll end up right back where you started with the same level of debt or more. This is discouraging, can cause you to get off track on repayment, and can make it impossible to ever make real progress.
They say you can opt out at anytime. After 2 years of payments and in between any ongoing negotiations I sent a written statement to opt out. They called me to verify which I answered, then put me on hold several times for 5 to 10 minutes each time and then said my supervisor would like to speak with you. I hung up frustrated and since then they blow up my phone daily with phone calls!!! I opted out, leave me alone!

But sometimes, disaster strikes and people are forced to confront their circumstances head-on. A series of unfortunate events — a sudden job loss, an unexpected (and expensive) home repair, or a serious illness — can knock one’s finances so off track they can barely keep up with their monthly payments. And it’s in these moments of disaster when we finally realize how precarious our financial situations are.
In a DMP, you deposit money each month with the credit counseling organization. It uses your deposits to pay your unsecured debts, like your credit card bills, student loans, and medical bills, according to a payment schedule the counselor develops with you and your creditors. Your creditors may agree to lower your interest rates or waive certain fees. But it’s a good idea to check with all your creditors to be sure they offer the concessions that a credit counseling organization describes to you. A successful DMP requires you to make regular, timely payments; it could take 48 months or more to complete your DMP. Ask the credit counselor to estimate how long it will take for you to complete the plan. You may have to agree not to apply for — or use — any additional credit while you’re participating in the plan.

Apprisen shines with a low-fee guarantee (never more than $35 for setup and $35 monthly), service in all 50 states, online chat, a mobile app for account management, and 40 branches in 10 states. Founded in 1955, they claim to be the “oldest nonprofit credit counseling organization in the country” and are accredited by the BBB, NFCC, and COA. Despite their many positives, I would have liked to see more thorough descriptions and FAQs regarding their debt management plan.


There are also specific debt consolidation loans available, marketed to borrowers looking to get a handle on debt. In many cases, however, these debt consolidation loans have high interest rates and other unfavorable terms. If you see a loan product labeled as a debt consolidation loan, research very carefully to determine whether the loan is actually a good deal.
Bill “No Pay” Fay has lived a meager financial existence his entire life. He started writing/bragging about it seven years ago, helping birth Debt.org into existence as the site’s original “Frugal Man.” Prior to that, he spent more than 30 years covering college and professional sports, which are the fantasy worlds of finance. His work has been published by the Associated Press, New York Times, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, Sports Illustrated and Sporting News, among others. His interest in sports has waned some, but his interest in never reaching for his wallet is as passionate as ever. Bill can be reached at bfay@debt.org.
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