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.

There are several steps you can take yourself to repair your credit scores, even if they are very low. Having a higher credit rating can lower the amount of interest you need to pay on your debts, it allows you to get approved to borrow money and improves the ability to take out more loans, such as an auto or mortgage. There are also other benefits. For example, a better credit score can even help you land a job. Find how to repair credit scores.

A credit counselor also may be able to negotiate lower interest rates with your creditors and get late payment fees and other fees waived, which will help to lower your monthly payment amount. Because of the lower interest rate, more of your monthly payment will be applied to your outstanding balance, and this will help to speed along your repayment. For example, one agency reported that clients reduced their monthly interest payments by an average of $209.81, and their total monthly payments went down an average of $172.48 each month. (Cambridge Credit Counseling Transparency Report #8).

If you enter a debt settlement program, you’re essentially hiring a company to negotiate with creditors on your behalf. In order to show creditors that you’re truly unable to repay your debts (and hopefully convince them to settle for less than what you owe), the debt relief company will ask you to not make payments on your outstanding debts. During this time, interest and late fees will accrue on your loans.

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.
Bankruptcy lets you resolve your debt under protection from a federal court. Chapter 7 bankruptcy erases most debts in three to six months and wipes the slate clean, and you may get to keep certain assets. It’ll stop calls from collectors and prevent lawsuits against you. Like debt settlement, your credit will suffer, but research shows credit scores rebound quickly.
Credit counseling provides guidance and support on consumer credit, money and debt management, and budgeting. The objective of most credit counseling is to help a debtor avoid bankruptcy and to provide primary financial education on managing money. Borrowers with an understanding of money management are assets for lenders as well. Many counseling services also negotiate with creditors on behalf of the borrower to reduce interest rates and late fees.
About a week later I checked my accounts to see if there was anything else settled and I noticed what’s the balance of my account had drop tremendously. So I I clicked on the transactions and see they’ve made a small payment to my creditor plus $10 for 2 day air which it actually cost $6.70 and then I see a deduction for their fee which was more than 6 times the payment they had just made to my creditor leaving my account at less than $10 balance. I contacted clear one expressing the fact I settled the account not them and why was I being charged such a fee and why would they drain the account leaving no money to make the next payment to my creditor or to settle any of the other accounts what I was told was they had a right to pay themselves. After I did explain to them that I settled the account not them they dropped it to half of the fee for the account that I had settled but mind you this is the only 1 account after four months that have been settled. At this point all of my accounts are now going into collection,the amounts owed to my creditors have gone up considerably my credit has dropped tremendously so I start sending them the collection agencies information. In the six months they finally settled the second account. Lo and behold their fee amount because the amount due has gone up there fee has gone up the amount due is gone up because he never made contact what’s the Creditor to make a settlement. They make one $25 payment to that creditor and then pay themselves thier fee draining all the money out of my account again leaving me nothing in the account to make the next payments to both those creditors intern lost both of the settlements.
Credit card hardship programs are also more widely available. Citibank, Bank of America, Discover Card, JP Morgan Chase, Capital One, GE Money Bank, and others offer consumers assistance with paying bills and their debts. There are many different versions of these credit card hardship programs, and each bank has their own take on it. They do not advertise these plans to customers, and there are certain steps that individuals need to take in order to apply for help. Find how to get help with paying credit card debt from a hardship program.
If debt management doesn’t seem quite right for your situation, there are several other debt relief options. I start with the least drastic option, credit counseling, and end with what most may agree is the most drastic: bankruptcy. Of course, all of these methods have their own pros and cons, and only you can decide whether they are better or worse for your situation.
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 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.
Second, there's no guarantee that creditors will accept a partial payment. They may refuse any terms that a bankruptcy alternative proposes, leaving you potentially in worse shape than when you began. Finally, late fees and interest accrue on unpaid balances. That's money you'd have to pay, on top of any exorbitant fees the credit agency itself may be charging. 
There are big benefits to this approach. You don't have to go through an approval process -- the amount you can borrow is determined by your policy's value. You can use the money to repay any debt you want, because there's no explanation required for what you plan to do with it. And while you need to pay back the policy with interest, you're borrowing from yourself so you aren't fattening the pockets of a creditor. Furthermore, there's typically no mandatory minimum monthly payment, and interest rates are low. 
There isn’t an easy and quick way to get out of debt. You have to discipline yourself daily and to be consistently financially responsible for months or even years. If you need help with paying off your different debts, you can go to a debt consolidation company, and try to apply for a debt consolidation loan. You have to know, however, that you’ll have to spend a bit of money on fees.

As far as options go, I’d recommend you start by talking with a reputable credit counseling agency – one of the options I mentioned in the story. That will give you a baseline to start with. If they can help you with DMP, it’s likely to do the least damage to your credit (with the exception of just paying the debt off) over the long run. If you/they determine a DMP isn’t feasible then you’ll know you have to look at more drastic options like negotiation or bankruptcy.
Hi everyone, in the UK we have student loans, but these are paid back through your salary when you start earning over £15,000 Gross Salary. Depending on when the loan was taken out, interest rates vary from 1-3% (so quite low). Basically if you’re not working, they cant take the money from you. Is this how it works in the US? Great site by the way it really puts things into perspective.
Who’s it best for? Face-to-face counseling isn’t an option with all debt management companies, but it is with GreenPath. The company has offices in Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Massachusetts, Michigan, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New York, Ohio, Tennessee, Texas, Wisconsin, and Wyoming. If you want a personal touch, the company could be worth a look. It’s also willing to include some secured debt in the debt management program.
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.
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.
I LOVE LOVE LOVE this article – I’m planning to share it with my husband tonight. Your approach and honestly in the article is so freshing since I myself was in a crazy amount of debt as of last year ($22K at the peak). Essentially, I followed all the steps you mentioned (took a hard look at my total debt, got a higher ($7K more) paying job, transferred balances to a 0% card and paid off a load of consumer debt. I’m scheduled to pay off all my consumer debt by April 2011.
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