The Credit.com editorial team is staffed by a team of editors and reporters, each with many years of financial reporting experience. We’ve worked for places like the New York Times, American Banker, Frontline, TheStreet.com, Business Insider, ABC News, NBC News, CNBC and many others. We also employ a few freelancers and more than 50 contributors (these are typically subject matter experts from the worlds of finance, academia, politics, business and elsewhere).
Debt settlement sounds like a sexy option to consolidate debt. Who wouldn’t want to pay half of what you owe on credit card debt? But this is considered a desperation measure for a reason. The ads boasting that settlement companies like National Debt Relief can get 50% of your debt forgiven, don’t tell the whole story. That figure doesn’t include the fees you will pay, the penalties you incur while settlement negotiations take place and whether a creditor will even accept the offers made. Do all the math before you choose this option.
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.
Another option is consolidating your debts into one manageable account. The main purpose of this is to eliminate the higher interest rate debts, arrive at lower monthly payments and allow you to concentrate on making just one payment. However, this does nothing to your total balance. What you will be doing is shifting all of your debts into just one account.
If your credit card interest rates are so high it feels almost impossible to make headway on your balances, it’s worth calling your card issuer to negotiate. Believe it or not, asking for lower interest rates is actually quite commonplace. And if you have a solid history of paying your bills on time, there’s a good possibility of getting a lower interest rate.
Pay off any past due debts first so that you’re current on all accounts, which prevents late fees or continuing damage to your credit. When deciding how to prioritize debt, you can also consider which ones present a greater “risk” or cost to you than others. If you suddenly were unable to make your loan payments on a car, for example, your vehicle might be repossessed. This could have far-reaching effects if you became unable to get to work on time, or at all. So, while they aren’t always the most expensive debt, paying off a car loan can provide greater security.
With it being the third month and nothing had been settled yet I did respond to one of my creditors explaining to them the situation. Disturbing thing is that when I asked her why they hadn’t contacted clear one advantage I was told that they had never received anything from them that’s why they were reaching out to me. At that time I was able to settle the account with my creditor got the direct contact number for the woman that I spoke with and immediately contacted Clear One Advantage.
Hi, I’m 28 and made a lot of bad decisions with credit cards when I was younger. I’ve been able to make at least the minimum payment on time until the 4 months or so, I’ve been late on a few bills trying to adjust to a new job and pay periods. I still have about $16k in debt, and am starting to really struggle to get by each month. Last year my score was around a 740, and I’d like to salvage as much as possible, but the payments are just getting too high now that they have raises my interest rates. What is my best option to resolve this without destroying my credit score?
Cons: Specific to National Debt Relief, it is not available in all states, so if you are one of the 16 states it doesn’t operate in, you can’t use it. In generally, there are always risks to debt relief. If you choose debt settlement or bankruptcy, it can affect your credit score. Know the risks before you decide to go forward with any debt relief program.
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.
Some creditors may report that a credit counseling agency is repaying the account. Don’t worry if they do. FICO, the data analytics corporation that calculates consumer credit risk, ignore such reports. An individual lender may care, but FICO doesn’t. Of course, any late payments or high balances on accounts will continue to impact your credit score.
Chapter 13: Yes. Chapter 13 also discharges debts, but many of the nondischargeable debts like recent taxes and past due child support must be paid in full in the Chapter 13 plan. Unsecured debt like credit cards will only be paid in a Chapter 13 plan if you have the income to cover it. Sometimes unsecured creditors receive a portion of their debt and sometimes they receive nothing at all. But even if they’re not paid they’ll be discharged if you complete your plan. To see how this works, visit Chapter 13 Bankruptcy Basics.
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.
Freedom Debt Relief Disclosure: Clients who make all their monthly program deposits pay approximately 50 percent of their enrolled balance before fees, or 65 percent to 85 percent including fees, over 24 to 48 months (some programs lengths can go higher). Not all clients are able to complete our program for various reasons, including their ability to save sufficient funds. Our estimates are based on prior results, which will vary depending on your specific circumstances. We do not guarantee that your debts will be resolved for a specific amount or percentage or within a specific period of time. We do not assume your debts, make monthly payments to creditors or provide tax, bankruptcy, accounting or legal advice or credit repair services. Our service is not available in all states and our fees may vary from state to state. Please contact a tax professional to discuss potential tax consequences of less than full balance debt resolution. Read and understand all program materials prior to enrollment. The use of debt settlement services will likely adversely affect your creditworthiness, may result in you being subject to collections or being sued by creditors or collectors and may increase the outstanding balances of your enrolled accounts due to the accrual of fees and interest. However, negotiated settlements we obtain on your behalf resolve the entire account, including all accrued fees and interest. C.P.D. Reg. No. T.S. 12-03825.
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.
They start by reviewing your income, expenses and credit score to determine whether how creditworthy you are. Your credit score is the key number in that equation. The higher, the better. Anything above 700 and you should get an affordable interest rate on your loan. Anything below that and you will pay a much higher interest rate or possibly not qualify for a loan at all if your score has dipped below 620.
The good news is that, by choosing a nonprofit credit counseling agency, you can end up with an affordable option that will leave you better off. Despite the monthly fees these plans charge, debt management can help you save thousands of dollars through reduced interest rates and creditor concessions. Plus, you get valuable advice and financial guidance all along the way when you choose to work with a nonprofit credit counseling agency versus a for-profit agency who is “not directed to provide coaching or advice,” said McClary.
Great article. We are in the process of paying down debt, and the freedom we feel in watching that number decrease is a beautiful thing! Doing something RIGHT AWAY is key because, as your chart above shows, the greater the amount of money going into paying debt, the less you have to spend (even on the things you truly need!), so the debt pile increases and you never get out from under it. Everyone can do something NOW to see a shift in that picture. It all starts with an earnest desire to confront and change. Thanks for sharing.
For most people I would say that signing up for National Debt Relief is not a good idea. While on its face, having you pay no up front fees with the goal of making you debt free in 2 to 4 years sounds great. However the truth is there may be better options which can accomplish the same goals for a lower cost and that have less of an impact on your credit and your sanity from being sued by a debt collector. Debt settlement in my opinion is best suited for people who have already been delinquent with their debts and have lump sums to offer up front to negotiate settlements of 50% or less in many cases. Otherwise chapter 7 bankruptcy or chapter 13 bankruptcy may be the best fit to eliminate debt or pay off debt over a 3 to 5 year repayment plan and avoid being sued by a lawsuit.
If your financial problems stem from too much debt or your inability to repay your debts, a credit counseling agency may recommend that you enroll in a debt management plan (DMP). A DMP alone is not credit counseling, and DMPs are not for everyone. Don’t sign up for one of these plans unless and until a certified credit counselor has spent time thoroughly reviewing your financial situation, and has offered you customized advice on managing your money. Even if a DMP is appropriate for you, a reputable credit counseling organization still can help you create a budget and teach you money management skills.
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.
Shady. I have to work with these ” yahoos” daily as I am a debt collector. They will not accept the guidelines set by the creditors to provide settlement options to their clients. They INSIST that I take very low and unreasonable offers to creditors and even if I manage to get them approved then say THEY have to get them approved before paying out. I feel if you are making an offer to settle, it is only fair that you can fund the settlement instead of jerking around. It’s a waste of everyone’s time and is unethical. You can’t make offers to creditors that you can’t fund!
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.
It could also help to reach out to a debt counselor or financial planner to take steps toward getting your finances in order, or at least developing a game plan for getting back on track, McClanahan said. “If the debt is beyond your means, you might also want to explore bankruptcy or whatever it might take to turn your situation around,” she said. A professional can help you weigh the pros and cons of different options.
Finally, if you or the credit counseling agency fail to make payments on time under the debt management plan, those late or missed payments will appear on your credit report. Because your DMP can cover many debts, one late payment to the credit counseling agency may be reflected as a late payment for each account that is part of the DMP on your credit report. A late payment will also harm your credit scores.
Don’t be afraid to have many budget categories. It will help you have a greater understanding of where things are going. Some regular expenses include internet, cell phone, household goods, medical costs, pets, haircuts, car repair, and home repair. Not every item will have an expense every month, but by setting some money aside for those irregular expenses, you’ll be ready when they hit.
Another obstacle that trip up so many is thinking you'll make progress on debt repayment by making your minimum payments. Yes, it minimizes inconvenience and will seem easier than other strategies, but it's costly. Imagine, for example, you owe $20,000 on your credit card(s) and that you're being charged a 25% interest rate. If your minimum payments are 3% of your balance, you'll be starting out paying a whopping $600 per month, meaning you'll have to come up with $150 per week. If you can't, your balance will be growing, digging you deeper in debt. In that situation, it can take more than 30 years to pay the debt off, with your total payments exceeding $63,000 -- all for a $20,000 balance owed.
Advertiser Disclosure: The products that appear on this site may be from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all financial institutions or all products offered available in the marketplace.
Whether you’re carrying credit card debt, personal loans, or student loans, one of the best ways to pay them down sooner is to make more than the minimum monthly payment. Doing so will not only help you save on interest throughout the life of your loan, but it will also speed up the payoff process. To avoid any headaches, make sure your loan doesn’t charge any prepayment penalties before you get started.
Companies like Consumer Credit Counseling Service can help you get better interest rates and lower payments, but at a price. When you use one of these companies and then try to get a Conventional, FHA, or VA loan, you will be treated the same as if you had filed Chapter 13 bankruptcy. Mortgage underwriting guidelines for traditional mortgages will consider your credit trashed, so don't do it. Real debt help is found only in changing your behavior.
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.
Not sure where to find this information? Check your credit report for a complete listing of creditors. You can obtain a copy for free from annualcreditreport.com from each of three major credit reporting agencies. You're entitled to one report a year from each of the three major credit reporting agencies -- Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion -- so you can space out your requests and get a report once every four months. Sign into online accounts for each creditor if you have them, look back at your most recent statement, or give your creditors a call to get the info you need.