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.
Compare debt settlement vs. debt consolidation programs as they have differences between the two. One or the other may be a better option for you and your family, and it depends on your personal financial situation. Get information about the pros and cons of these two approaches. Read tips on which option may be the best option for you and your situation. Compare debt settlement and consolidation.
A debt management plan is a carefully constructed payment schedule that consolidates credit card and other unsecured debts into one affordable monthly payment. Borrowers in a debt management program agree to stop using credit cards in exchange for lower interest rates and more affordable monthly payments. Nonprofit debt management programs enable borrowers to repay their debt in 3-5 years.
Let’s be real: Kids grow out of clothes at the speed of light. It’s not worth it to go into debt for your two-year-old’s wardrobe. Check out consignment stores that sell pre-loved outfits in good condition. If you’d rather shop online, no problem. Sites like thredUP and Swap.com are great resources to get adult and children’s clothing at a fraction of the cost.
People are creatures of habits and spending money is no exception. We shop at the same stores, eat in the same restaurants and drive the same car, because it’s comfortable. It’s also costing you more than you can handle financially. Remedy: If you won’t change your spending habits, you won’t ever get out of debt. Start with your morning habits (have your coffee and breakfast at home). Go to lunch with a brown bag, not a wallet. In the evening, watch games or movies on TV, while eating a home cooked meal. You will see an immediate impact on your daily spending habits. You don’t have to do without. You just have to make better choices with what you do.
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.
Yes, but this is a real commitment of time and resources. Here is how it works. List all your debts (except your mortgage) from smallest to largest. Pay the minimum due on all debts, but the smallest. Attack the smallest debt with as much money as you have available — $100 a month, for example – until it is paid off.  When that is paid off, take the $100 a month, plus whatever the minimum you were paying on the second smallest debt, combine them and go after the second debt. Keep repeating until you have gone through each debt. The idea is to gain momentum in your bill paying by having success.

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.
As for your options, it doesn’t sound like your mortgage lender is interested in working with you. (I have no idea what “new laws” they are talking about but the last time I heard, Congress passes laws and the President can either sign or veto them!) I’d recommend you read my series: Underwater On Your Home? Your Six Options and then get some professional advice. In particular, you may want to look into whether bankruptcy or a short sale can help you.
After the initial credit counseling session, if you need additional assistance to eliminate debt, your counselor will develop a customized debt management plan (DMP) for you. With the Union Plus Debt Management Plan (DMP) grant, you don't need to pay any of the DMP set-up fees. Union members who complete one year on a DMP are also eligible to apply for reimbursement of the monthly fees.
The other approach is more efficient, though: Paying off your highest-interest-rate debts first. Remember that you compiled a list of your debts and their interest rates. Well, the ones with the highest rates are costing you the most, over time. So to minimize your interest expense, you should pay off a debt carrying a 21% interest rate before you tackle a debt with a 12% interest rate.
Do yourself a favor, if you were ripped off like me by National Debt Relief, submit a complaint to ConsumerFinance.Gov. My lawyer counseled me on this. When I called from my job, they did not disclose they were a for profit agency, I had to ask them. They did not tell me the percentage that they would take as profit. I did not learn that until about 3 weeks ago when I demanded to know the profit they took. Their answer after a long time of questioning was they took 25% off the original debt for themselves. When I said that I did not know this. Their response was : “it is in page 3 of the contract.” I could not find this information anywhere nor it was said to me. The representative who enrolled me Berlinda C only said ” We take a small fee” but would not specify the amount. So far, they have taken from me $2,500 and my creditors have hardly seen any money. When a settlement is negotiated, they take everything they have taken from my account for themselves and on top of that charge about $60 monthly extra in order to make the payments to the creditors. I find this sum exorbitant. I now closed my account with them because I have realized the rip off that this company is. I have lost $2,500 for their profit.
National Debt Relief uses debt settlement as a way to lower its clients’ debt. Settlement lets the company’s debt lawyers negotiate lower outstanding balances with creditors. Settlements can also lead to lower interest rates and waived fees. National Debt Relief, however, acknowledges that some debtors will not negotiate in good faith, which makes it difficult or impossible for settlements to work.
You’re ready to begin your debt snowball once you’ve saved your $1,000 starter emergency fund. That’s what we call Baby Step 1. An emergency fund covers those life events you can't plan for. Think busted hot water heater, dental emergency or flat tire. You get the drift. An emergency fund protects you from having to go further into debt to pay for an unexpected expense.
Keeping a budget helps ensure you have enough money to cover your monthly expenses. Plan far enough in advance and you can take early action if it looks like you won't have enough money for your bills this month or next. A budget also helps you plan to spend any extra money you have left after expenses are covered. You can use this extra money to pay off debt faster.

Use a bill payment calendar to help you figure out which bills to pay with which paycheck. On your calendar, write each bill’s payment amount next to the due date. Then, fill in the date of each paycheck. If you get paid on the same days every month, like the 1st and 15th, you can use the same calendar from month to month. But, if your paychecks fall on different days of the month, it would help to create a new calendar for each month.
Went with National Debt Relief. One of my creditors Capital One decided to take me to court and sue me for $8880. Balance at my last payment was $7911. I borrowed $3500 and deposited it in my bank account at National Debt Relief hoping they could reach an agreement and avoid court. I was due in court on Monday. The Friday before court they notified me they had a verbal agreement with Capital One. I was required to take the agreement to court on Monday and have the Capital One Lawyer agree to it and the Judge to sign off and dismiss the case. The agreement was sighed by all parties. National Debt still charged me the full amount of there fees 22%. The agreement was for 70 Cents on the... Read More
If you have poor credit/no credit, unfortunately you won’t likely be able to qualify for many of these other options. However, there are a number of companies that specialize in helping people exactly like you. These companies are called “Debt Relief” services and are for those with over $7,500 in credit cards, medical bills, taxes, and other unsecured debts and poor/no credit. 
What Makes Me a Good Candidate for Debt Negotiation? A debt negotiation program is certainly not for everyone. Qualified candidates are those who have a legitimate financial hardship, which has caused them to fall behind on their payments to creditors, or will cause them to fall behind in the near future. National Debt Relief will not welcome anyone into the program that has the intentions of defrauding, deceiving, or swindling their creditors. We only represent consumers who are truly in need of our services and stand to significantly improve their financial situation.
While National Debt Relief claims that people who finish its debt relief program save on average 30% off their original debt, it’s important to consider the interest and fees you’ll accrue during the time you’re enrolled in the program. Furthermore, If you don’t finish the program, or if National Debt Relief is unsuccessful at negotiating the terms, you can end up stuck with a higher balance than you started off with.
Declaring bankruptcy is one of the most harmful circumstances for your credit, and it should only be a last resort. Depending on the type of bankruptcy you declare, the negative information will remain on your credit report for seven to 10 years. You may either have all your debts eliminated or have to agree to a plan to repay at least part of your debt.
How Is Debt Negotiation Different From Bankruptcy? Bankruptcy is an option that is generally treated as a last resort. It will remain on your credit report for 10 years & you can be denied employment, state licenses, insurance, as well as tenancy of an apartment. Most importantly, you can be denied virtually any type of credit with a bankruptcy on your report for several years. In addition, since the bankruptcy laws have changed recently, it is even more difficult to qualify for Chapter 7, the method of liquidating assets to eliminate your debt. You will not be allowed to discharge alimony, child support, taxes, student loans, judgments, or any loan on the bankruptcy petition. Under Chapter 13 bankruptcy, your debt payments are simply restructured meaning you will still have to pay a percentage of your debts while you suffer the consequences of bankruptcy. Debt negotiation is an alternative to bankruptcy.
Using your home and your equity to secure a consolidation loan can be one of the quickest and safest ways to eliminate high interest debt. By using your home for collateral, you can greatly improve your chances of acquiring a low interest loan, and you also can borrow more than you would be able to through a personal loan. There are important differences to understand between second mortgages, refinances, and home equity loans, so please read our guide, browse our articles, and use our solution finder to receive your quote.
People are creatures of habits and spending money is no exception. We shop at the same stores, eat in the same restaurants and drive the same car, because it’s comfortable. It’s also costing you more than you can handle financially. Remedy: If you won’t change your spending habits, you won’t ever get out of debt. Start with your morning habits (have your coffee and breakfast at home). Go to lunch with a brown bag, not a wallet. In the evening, watch games or movies on TV, while eating a home cooked meal. You will see an immediate impact on your daily spending habits. You don’t have to do without. You just have to make better choices with what you do.
After the initial credit counseling session, if you need additional assistance to eliminate debt, your counselor will develop a customized debt management plan (DMP) for you. With the Union Plus Debt Management Plan (DMP) grant, you don't need to pay any of the DMP set-up fees. Union members who complete one year on a DMP are also eligible to apply for reimbursement of the monthly fees.
Free advice from credit counseling agencies is available. Several different organizations, all of which are non-profits, operate across the country. A number of agencies operate regionally as well. They provide a number of low cost or free debt reduction programs, offer ways to improve credit scores, can advise on filing for bankruptcy, offer budgeting services, and in general provide information on ways to gain control of your bills. Find a listing of non-profit credit counseling agencies.
Since debt management plans are individually tailored to each consumer, one plan can be wildly different than the next. McClary said your plan can vary depending on how much debt you owe, your current interest rates and payments and how your interest rates and fees are negotiated down. This is a huge benefit for consumers since debt management plans come with specific advice instead of blanket solutions that may or may not work.

It’s important to know that as part of this first call National Debt Relief will run a soft credit check to see who your creditors are, how much you owe and if your debts are eligible to be included in a debt settlement plan. We recommend taking quick stock of your budget and your monthly expenses. The debt specialist you speak to will ask about this so they can calculate how much you can afford to pay into a debt settlement plan.

That being said, I do not believe that National Debt Relief is a scam. Debt settlement is not the right debt relief solution for everyone, but it is the right option for some. National Debt Relief is a member of the American Fair Credit Council, whose members strictly adhere to a code of conduct that includes not charging any fees for settling an account until that account has been settled. Anyone considering debt settlement should avoid any firm that charges advance fees.
Ask for a rate reduction. If you haven’t looked at the interest rates you’re paying, especially on credit cards, take a look at your statement and find out. If you have been a consistent, on-time payer, your card company will want to retain your business. Tell them they can, if they drop your interest rate to the lowest levels. This is one area where “Ask and ye shall receive” should actually work.
In the end, you would save {{ vm.currentMortgage.totalLoanValue - vm.newMortgage.totalLoanValue | currency:undefined:0 }} over the course of the loan, or {{ vm.currentMortgage.monthlyPayment - vm.newMortgage.estimated_payment | currency:undefined:0 }} per month. While your loan situation might be a little different, the moral of the story is you stand to save a ton.

In most cases, medical debt has no interest rate attached to it so there really is no gain by including it in a debt consolidation program. Remember the key elements of debt consolidation are: a) a reduced interest rate; and b) lower monthly payment. The one advantage to medical debt consolidation is that it becomes part of your single, monthly payment and could help you pay off the debt faster.
Consumers with multiple sources of debt – credit cards, mortgage, student loans, etc. – often try and address each one every month. Bad move! Remedy:  Go back to your budget, trim spending to bare bones on everything but essentials, and create a $100 (or preferably $1,000) surplus that goes directly at the credit card with the highest interest rate. When that’s paid off, go after the card with the next highest interest rate and keep going until all credit card debt is eliminated.
Want more examples? I like public speaking. I like good pizza more than probably anyone should. And I volunteered to be interviewed in a national magazine about my experience with living with and recovering from social anxiety, a mental health disorder I used to have. I’ve made many many mistakes, and will likely make many more. Those just aren’t any of them.

InCharge Debt Solutions boasts one of the most polished websites of the companies I evaluated. The company’s debt management FAQs and financial education resources are very thorough. They are clear about fees ($50 to enroll and $49 monthly). They are also among the few companies that give you an idea of how much your interest rates might drop under a debt management plan (6% to 9%). InCharge is accredited by the BBB with A+ rating; other certifications include the NFCC and COA.


The rule also specifies that the consumers’ money set aside to pay debts be maintained in an account at an insured financial institution; that the consumer owns the funds and any interest accrued; that the debt settlement company does not own, control or have any affiliation with the company administering the account; and that the provider does not exchange any referral fees with the company administering the account, the FTC says.


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.
It is difficult, if not impossible to gain control of your finances unless you have a budget. People think it’s too much work … until they get $20,000 in credit card debt and wonder how in the world that happened! Remedy: Develop a realistic budget that addresses financial needs like housing, food, health care, insurance and education, but still creates room to make payments on debt. Put away the credit cards and only pay with cash. That might mean reducing (or eliminating) things like dining out, entertainment, shopping for new clothes, cars or electronics, but if you’re serious about eliminating debt, operating with a budget and paying cash is a great start.
Throughout all the years I carried this debt around with me, I never wanted to be in debt. But it wasn’t until I met the three criteria above that I was able to do something about it. First, I had to stop living in denial, telling myself my debt “wasn’t that bad.” I needed a reality check and to stare down exactly how much debt I had and what it would take to get out.

Pros: National Debt Relief is one of the most affordable debt relief programs. It has a plethora of options to choose from, depending on your debt. National Debt Relief also is offered in 34 states, which is more than most debt relief programs. National Debt Relief also has one of the best reputations in the debt relief world. And the obvious pro, National Debt Relief can help you pay down your mountain of debt.


Want more examples? I like public speaking. I like good pizza more than probably anyone should. And I volunteered to be interviewed in a national magazine about my experience with living with and recovering from social anxiety, a mental health disorder I used to have. I’ve made many many mistakes, and will likely make many more. Those just aren’t any of them.
When you first create a financial plan, you never know what the results will be. Sometimes, it can even be a little scary to see how things will look if you don’t make any adjustments. The key is to have patience. Financial planning is a process and not an overnight event. In creating a financial plan, focus on the things that you can control and keep a long-term perspective.
ClearPoint Credit Counseling has been in business for 50 years, and their wide range of educational offerings includes “ClearPoint U,” a series of free, on-demand online courses on personal finance topics. The company has 50 branches across the U.S. and is accredited by the BBB, NFCC, and COA. Their website is polished and easy to navigate, but is a bit less transparent about fees and potential reductions in interest rates than their competitors.
You'd make the minimum payments on all debts, and pay as much extra as possible toward the $1,000 credit card balance. Once that was paid off, the new "minimum" payment for the card with the $3,000 balance would be $400 (the original $300 minimum plus the $100 minimum you used to make on the card you paid off). Extra cash would also go to repay that card. Finally, once both of those were paid off, you'd focus all your attention on the personal loan. The new "minimum" payment would be $650 ($300 + $250 + $100). 

Find out how payments will be disbursed to your creditors. Fraudulent debt management companies are notorious for sending payments late and getting their clients into trouble with creditors. Make sure the agency will send your payments to creditors on time and within the correct billing cycle. Ask how soon they will disburse your payment after they receive it, and find out how you can track the payments made. They should send you a statement each month or have some way for you to look it up online.
Chapter 13 is a three- or five-year court-approved repayment plan, based on your income and debts. If you are able to stick with the plan for its full term, the remaining unsecured debt is discharged. It will take longer than a Chapter 7 — but if you are able to keep up with payments (a majority of people are not), you will get to keep your property. A Chapter 13 bankruptcy stays on your credit report for seven years from the filing date.
You may want to set net worth goals, too. Getting to a positive net worth might be an initial goal, and you might also set a series of savings goals for arriving at what you need for retirement. First, though, you'll need to have your debt under control -- and, ideally, wiped out. Keep these goals handy and regularly reflect on them to assess whether you're making progress, and what behaviors are hindering your success. 
While your credit score may suffer if you’re falling behind on monthly payments before you get your debt management plan set up, starting your plan should provide some relief. Your credit score should increase as you begin making regular monthly payments and your debt balances drop. Experian does note that you may see some negative side effects when accounts are closed, usually due to changes with your credit utilization rate or credit mix.
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.
Can I Negotiate With My Creditors On My Own? Yes, you can negotiate with your creditors yourself and save yourself an extra 18-25% off your debt. (Our fee is 18-25% of the debt amount depending on the state they live in and the amount of debt they have.) Not everyone wants to talk to their creditors on a regular basis so they trust us to do it for them. Our debt negotiators have extensive knowledge in Federal & State consumer laws & exercise the Fair Credit Reporting Act, Fair Credit Billing Act, as well as the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act to help settle your debt.
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).
Most reputable credit counselors are non-profit and offer services at local offices, online, or on the phone. If possible, find an organization that offers in-person counseling. Many universities, military bases, credit unions, housing authorities, and branches of the U.S. Cooperative Extension Service operate non-profit credit counseling programs. Your financial institution, local consumer protection agency, and friends and family also may be good sources of information and referrals.
Under a DMP plan, the consumer deposits money each month into an account within the credit counseling organization. The organization then uses the funds to pay the unsecured debt, such as credit card bills, student loans, and medical bills. Paying off of debt follows a payment schedule the counselor and consumer develops. Often creditors will need to agree to the scheduled repayment plan. Creditors may decide to lower interest rates or waive fees. A successful DMP requires regular, timely payments. It may take 48 months or more to complete a debt management plan.
Having said that, the other posters are correct. You can settle debt on your own without the help of a debt settlement company. It does take a lot of time and energy though. That is why some people choose to use a company to do it for them. Due your due diligence and search for reviews of the companies you are interested in and see what others have to say.

Want more examples? I like public speaking. I like good pizza more than probably anyone should. And I volunteered to be interviewed in a national magazine about my experience with living with and recovering from social anxiety, a mental health disorder I used to have. I’ve made many many mistakes, and will likely make many more. Those just aren’t any of them.


Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington, Wisconsin, Wyoming.
With debt management, you’re also paying for something you can do yourself. Even if you have tarnished credit, you may be able to get a debt consolidation loan yourself and pay off your debt without the aid of a debt management company. You can also try to negotiate lower interest rates and payments with your creditors on your own. But either solution would require more self-control than debt management, since the burden would be completely on you to stop acquiring new debt.
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