“The first thing a person needs to do is take a close look at how they got into debt in the first place,” advised Carolyn McClanahan, M.D., CFP, who began her career as a physician and is now founder of a financial planning group called Life Planning Partners LLC, based in Jacksonville, Fla. “They should identify what triggered the situation or any bad habits that might have led to their debt, so that they don’t repeat those things going forward. Then, they need to make an actionable plan to figure out how to get out of debt.”


Through a nonprofit credit-counseling agency, you can work with a counselor to resolve your financial problems on your own, says Bruce McClary, vice president of public relations and external affairs at the National Foundation for Credit Counseling. Or you can enter what’s called a debt management plan. Through that plan, you can consolidate your credit card payments and get the cards’ interest rates reduced, making your financial obligations easier to tackle.
Thrivent: Partnered with Thrivent Federal Credit Union, Thrivent Student Loan Resources offers variable rates starting at 4.13% APR and fixed rates starting at 3.99% APR. It is important to note that in order to qualify for refinancing through Thrivent, you must be a member of the Thrivent Federal Credit Union. If not already a member, borrowers can apply for membership during the student refinance application process.

A debt management plan (or DMP) is one way MMI can help you resolve your credit problems and repay your debt. A debt management plan is recommended for those individuals who need more than advice and could benefit from a structured repayment plan. Through a debt management plan, you are able to make one convenient monthly deposit to MMI which is then disbursed to each of your creditors.


One thing to consider: If you’re eligible for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, the process can be over fairly quickly and with reasonable certainty that your unsecured debts will be forgiven. Debt management, on the other hand, is more of a question mark. The process can take years, and many people who start debt management plans ultimately drop out and may have to consider bankruptcy anyway.

For most people who are struggling with debt, non-profit credit counseling is the better option. You pay  fewer out-of-pocket costs, which can be helpful. That last thing you need as you get out of debt is a big bill. If you’re looking for non-profit counseling services, fill out the form at the top of this page. Debt.com only refers you to the best accredited non-profit consumer credit counseling services.
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.
Take on a part-time job. Working 10 more hours a week for a year at $12 per hour can generate $6,000 before taxes. You might work at a local retailer or at home, perhaps tutoring students, teaching music, doing freelance writing or editing, or consulting. Check out new-gig-economy jobs like Uber if you have a car, Rover and Wag if you're animal lover, or Care.com if you want to babysit or tutor. Post any services you may offer, like handyman or lawn care, on neighborhood email listservs and the Nextdoor app.
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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. 
And you’re not alone. The average family who carries a debt has more than $16,000 in credit card debt. We have free advice and offer professional solutions, so you can find the best way to pay off or settle your credit card debt. Available programs include debt management, debt settlement, debt consolidation loans and even do-it-yourself solutions where you can learn the best way to pay off your debt.
Debt consolidation: This is a safer option to lower your debt costs. While debt settlement forces your lenders to settle your debts for a lower cost, debt consolidation does just what it says: it consolidates your debts into one loan with a lower interest rate. That helps you stop paying high interest. While debt consolidation might not save you as much money, it can keep your credit score intact and is less risky than debt settlement or bankruptcy.

This should really only be explored a last resort for debt relief before you file for bankruptcy. If you’ve tried everything else and haven’t had any success, then you can consider a debt settlement plan where you settle your debts for less than the full amount owed. This can cause significant damage to your credit score and results may vary, but it may be your best option if your situation is truly critical.

If you choose laddering, put as much money as you can each month toward the card with the highest interest rate, while still paying the minimums on the other cards. Once that debt is paid off, move on to the card with the second highest rate and so on. But this is very important: Do not close the account once the balance is paid off. That will damage your credit. Just let the account sit at a balance of $0.
Balance-transfer cards can help when trying to pay off credit card debt, because you can transfer thousands of dollars owed to a new card that offers a very low initial interest rate -- often 0%. That interest rate will be in effect for between six and 21 months, after which a more standard interest rate will apply. That standard rate will not necessarily be a great one, so you should seek cards that will charge you relatively low interest rate ranges following your teaser-rate period. Your credit score is likely to influence the interest rate you're given after the 0% rate expires, so this is another reason to get your score as high as you can.
Having said that, the fees for our services vary by state and the amount of your debt. The fee varies between 18-25% of your enrolled debt. Compared to the $1000s in interest you will pay on your credit cards while you struggle to pay them off, you can see that this fee is quite reasonable. Especially when you take into account the fact that you can become debt free in 24-48 months with our debt consolidation program.
American Consumer Credit Counseling (ACCC) provides nonprofit credit counseling and debt reduction services for consumers with credit problems who want to know how to pay off credit cards and how to get out of debt. Our certified credit counselors have helped thousands of individuals and families nationwide pay off credit card balances and unsecured debt through credit card relief programs and credit card debt solutions. Our debt management plans provide a kind of personal debt consolidation strategy for help getting out of credit card debt, and we offer a wide variety of financial education services to consumers who need help getting out of debt and managing their finances more effectively.
If you're unsure of all the accounts you may have open, especially those that might be in collections, you can check your free credit report. It will show what creditors are currently reporting to the credit bureau, including your most-recently reported balances and contact information for the accounts. (Your banks and credit card issuers will have the most up-to-date information.)

At American Consumer Credit Counseling (ACCC), we offer free credit counseling and low-cost services to consumers who are ready to say "I need help with my debt." Our highly trained and certified credit counselors can clear up any confusion around your finances, help you evaluate your financial situation, and go over all of the options for paying down your debt — from debt relief loans to debt settlement programs and debt management plans. We'll help you choose the avenue that will work best for your situation and goals, and provide you with ample educational materials to help you manage your money more effectively.
Under the provisions of the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA), you may qualify for a reduced interest rate on mortgage payments or credit card debt, protection from eviction, or a delay of all civil court actions, such as bankruptcy, foreclosure, or divorce proceedings. To find out if you qualify, contact your local Armed Forces Legal Assistance office.
Home equity loans involve borrowing a fixed amount of money based on the equity in your home. As a simplified example, if your home is worth $100,000 and you owe $50,000 on it, you might be able to borrow between $30,000 and $40,000 in equity. Most home equity loan lenders won't allow you to borrow so much that you owe more than 80% to 90% of the value of the home.

You’ll pay a nonprofit credit counseling agency to consolidate your debts into one monthly payment, while also reducing your interest rate, in an effort to pay off your debt faster. This is a good option for consumers in credit card debt who have a steady income to repay the debt within three to five years. Unlike debt settlement, a debt management plan should help improve your credit score.

“You ideally want to start by paying off the debt with the highest interest rates first,” McClanahan said. Specifically, look for credit card debt with the highest interest rates, and begin to chip away at that. Also keep in mind that credit card debt, though concerning, is a common type of debt. In a recent report, MagnifyMoney found that Americans paid back $110 billion in interest and fees in 2018, up from the $98 billion in interest paid the year before. Although it might seem overwhelming, others have found their way out of the debt — and it’s likely that you can, too.
As you read through each item, you'll probably think "This will only save me $5 or $10 a month." If you can cut back on 10 different things and save even $100 a month, that's an extra $100 you can put towards your debt. Not all of these will apply to you and that's ok. Adopt as many as you can, even if it means making a small sacrifice. The more of these you can adopt, the more money you'll have to accomplish your goal.
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.

The fact is, more than half of Americans actually spend more than they earn each month, according to a Pew Research study, and use credit to bridge the gap. So it’s easy to see how so many people are struggling with debt — and why some choose to bury their heads in the sand. For many in debt, the reality of owing so much money is too much to face — so they simply choose not to.
National Debt Relief is a debt settlement service. For a fee, it will negotiate with your creditors to reduce the amount of debt you owe. It’s among the most recognized debt settlement services in the country, with high rankings from the BBB and Trustpilot reviewers. It’s also accredited with top industry associations, including the American Fair Credit Council (AFCC).
Rachel Kampersal said debt management plans require you to change your habits dramatically since you will have to stop using credit. “Per requirements from creditors, any card that is entered into a debt management plan will be closed, meaning you can no longer make charges to these cards. While difficult, it’s important to stop incurring new debt.”
The most important message is to DO SOMETHING. I would encourage folks to do the reverse of taking on the larger balances first and paying more on them. Pick a smaller balance, high interest card and pay it off. This gives motivation to get the next one up the ladder in your payoff plans. For the sake of your credit score, remember length of history and pay history go together to determine your score so closing that account may actually lower your score over time. If you cannot trust yourself not to use it, close it anyway.

According to research, more than half of American consumers (57%) don’t have enough cash to cover an unexpected expense of $500 or more. Remedy: It’s impossible to predict unemployment, car accidents or busted plumbing, which is why every home needs an emergency fund. Experts say put 3-6 months of expenses aside for emergencies. It might take a while to get there if you’re focused on paying off debt, but again, it has to be part of your monthly budget. Set aside at least 5% of your income in an emergency fund, at least until you have three months of expenses covered.
How it works: Settlement companies ask you to stop paying the credit card companies and instead, send regular payments to an escrow account. When the balance in that account has reached a sufficient level, the settlement company negotiates with the card company for a reduced, lump-sum payment. If the creditor agrees, money is sent from the escrow account. If there is not enough money in the account, a payment schedule is agreed upon.
Chapter 7: Bankruptcy has a dramatic affect on your score, and depending on where you started from, you’ll probably end up somewhere between 520 and 550. But, if you’re careful you can raise that score dramatically so that in about two to three years, you’re in the very good to excellent range. Chapter 7 will stay on your credit record for ten years. Check out How to Get New Credit to Survive and Thrive After Bankruptcy.
If you are really unable to repay your debts because you have no source of income at the moment or if there is just no realistic way that you could repay them in two to three years the final option is to file for bankruptcy. However, this would tarnish your credit history very seriously. You will be unable to get new credit for at least two or three years after your bankruptcy and when you do it will come with a very high interest rate. You will be required to pay more for your auto insurance and may have a problem renting a house or apartment. The bankruptcy will stay in your credit reports for 10 years and in your personal file for the rest of your life. Many employers now routinely check the files of prospective employees and some may decide to not hire you if they see a bankruptcy in your history.
Balance-transfer cards can help when trying to pay off credit card debt, because you can transfer thousands of dollars owed to a new card that offers a very low initial interest rate -- often 0%. That interest rate will be in effect for between six and 21 months, after which a more standard interest rate will apply. That standard rate will not necessarily be a great one, so you should seek cards that will charge you relatively low interest rate ranges following your teaser-rate period. Your credit score is likely to influence the interest rate you're given after the 0% rate expires, so this is another reason to get your score as high as you can.
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For example, when you initiate a debt management plan, you may be asked to close credit card accounts. Doing so changes your credit utilization ratio — the comparison between the total amount of credit you have available versus the amount you're actually using. Closing accounts lowers the amount of credit you have available (your credit limit), which increases your credit utilization rate and negatively impacts your credit score.
It might be painful to learn the truth but you have to bite the bullet. Then you’ll see that it’s not hard to end this bad habit. In fact, you can get the credit card companies to help you. Just look at the back of your credit cards for their number, call them, and ask them for the amount of debt you owe, the APR, and the monthly minimum payment on the card.
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.
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.
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