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.
Debt settlement companies, also sometimes called "debt relief" or "debt adjusting" companies, often claim they can negotiate with your creditors to reduce the amount you owe. Consider all of your options, including working with a nonprofit credit counselor, and negotiating directly with the creditor or debt collector yourself. Before agreeing to work with a debt settlement company, there are risks that you should consider:
Some companies make use of unethical practices in order to quickly boost a person's credit score. For instance, some companies will instruct people to dispute all debt on their credit report, even accounts they know are legitimate. Since debts are removed while credit bureaus investigate, this can provide a temporary boost in a person's credit score but no long-term benefit. Some state laws, such as the Michigan Credit Services Protection Act, make this practice illegal as well.
Try to manage your debt yourself. Even without the help of a credit agency, you can make a household budget, reduce unnecessary expenses, and prioritize your debts. You can also call your creditors to request them to waive late fees, reduce interest rates, and/or work with you on a payment schedule. You can also ask about debt re-aging, also known as rollback or curing. This process can report past-due accounts as current, which can help you avoid delinquent status. Many times creditors will be happy to work with you if you make a good-faith effort to pay them.
If you are overwhelmed by debt, you might consider hiring a debt settlement company to help you. Debt settlement companies negotiate payments with each of your creditors. You then pay a monthly sum to the debt settlement company, who distributes your payment among your creditors. By doing this, you can get out of debt faster. Here’s a breakdown of how the companies compare against each other and other debt relief companies.
Weigh the pros and cons of signing up for a DMP. While credit counseling is free and does not affect your credit score, enrolling in a DMP may be expensive in the long run and negatively your credit if debts are settled for less than their original value. You will also not be able to use your credit cards for the duration of your time enrolled in the DMP. However, you also need to keep in mind that working with a credit counselor or debt management company can provide some unique benefits. There are plenty of creditors who won't work with you directly but will work with you through a DMP. Similarly, the "concessions" given to you by the creditor (lower interest rates and waived fees) might be better and help you save more money in the long-term if you opt to go through a credit counseling agency.
Tally will ensure that you never miss a payment or receive late fees again – as long as you pay Tally on time, then Tally will pay down your credit card balances on time each month. Service is currently available in Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, DC, Florida, Illinois, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Texas, Utah, Washington, and Wisconsin. The Tally line of credit is required to use the app. Interest rates are between 7.9% and 19.9% per year depending on your credit history (varies based on the Prime Rate). This information is accurate as of November 2018.
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.
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.
If you’re not sure where to start, track your spending for at least a day to see if you’re getting enough value from the things you buy. Just write it down as you spend and see how you feel. You’ll probably be amazed that you begin making changes immediately, cutting out the things that don’t really matter to you and getting more of the things that do instead.
Pay more than the minimum on your accounts. See examples of how you can save thousands of dollars in interest costs and potentially late fees by paying more than the minimum balance on your credit cards. This is arguably one of the best ways to reduce your debts over a reasonable period of time, and it works for credit cards, medical bills, car loans, and really anything. You need to start with your higher interest rate commitments first. Find the benefits of making more than minimum payments.
The convenient answer is: When your debt is so small that you can handle it yourself by doing a better job of budgeting; or when your debt is so large that there isn’t enough income to pay for basic living needs AND make a payment toward your debt. The truth is that everyone’s circumstances are so different that an interview with a credit counselor is the only way to know whether you qualify for a DMP.