A credit counselor is a professional who can advise you on how to handle and successfully pay off your debt. A simple call to a credit counseling agency for a consultation won’t impact your credit in the slightest. But if the credit counselor or agency enrolls you in any kind of consolidation, repayment, or management plan, that could affect your credit.
Imagine, for example, that you have $20,000 in credit card debt and $10,000 in other non-mortgage debt. You might set yourself a goal of paying it all off in two years. (Set a specific time frame, too, lest you keep extending your deadline.) You can set sub-goals, too, such as having a quarter of it and half of it paid off by certain dates. Write down the goals and post them where you'll see them.
A debt management plan can also reduce the number of payments you have to remember each month. A credit counselor will negotiate with your creditors to see if they'll accept reduced interest rates or monthly payments, waive fees or reduce the amount you owe. Then, you pay the credit counseling agency once a month and the organization distributes the funds to your creditors per their agreement. If you enroll in a Debt Management Plan, it could be noted on your credit report.
Bad handling of a credit card occurs when a person has more than one in his power and use each one of them to their credit limits. This can generate a total expense that can exceed your monthly income in two or more times. It’s best to establish a limit like a margin of guarantee of at least 30 percent lower than the credit limit. For example, if your credit limit is $3,000 per month, then with a security capacity of 30 percent, you can define your own spending limit as $2,100.
Apprisen shines with a low-fee guarantee (never more than $35 for setup and $35 monthly), service in all 50 states, online chat, a mobile app for account management, and 40 branches in 10 states. Founded in 1955, they claim to be the “oldest nonprofit credit counseling organization in the country” and are accredited by the BBB, NFCC, and COA. Despite their many positives, I would have liked to see more thorough descriptions and FAQs regarding their debt management plan.
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.
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.
If you’re not eligible for any of the above, call up your credit card companies and ask for a reduced interest rate. Be honest, tell them you’re struggling with the payments, but you have a plan to pay off your debts but could use some help in the way of a lower interest rate. Not all of them will agree, but you might get lucky, so it doesn’t hurt to ask.
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.
A debt-settlement firm is typically a private company that works to settle your debt with a creditor. They may charge fees upfront and promise to help you pay off debt. Beware of debt settlement companies, and if you’re unsure of the difference between a debt settlement company and credit counselor, review this chart by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
Who’s it best for? Anyone who doesn’t like surprises will appreciate Cambridge. The clear FAQs include questions any prospective client would want answered (for example: “How will the program affect my credit rating?”) and there are a lot of financial basics, including budget worksheets and a debt payoff calculator. Cambridge is also willing to work with limited kinds of secured debt.
I am in my mid 50’s and am considering early retirement. It is very rewarding to be debt free. There were a couple rules I lived by. I would not charge something that would be gone before I got the bill. Such as meals, drinks, vacations, If I could not pay cash I waited until I could. I still refuse to to pay interest on anything that depreciates. Which is almost everything except a house. Why pay more (interest) for something that is going to be worth less? I am very fortunate that I have been able to pay off my home, have zero debt, and have enough in investments and savings that I will be able to retire about 10 years early. Keep up the work, it does pay off in the long run.
The benefit of professional help: A debt management program is the solution you use if you can’t make progress on your own. If you don’t have good credit or you’ve missed some payments, your creditors may be resistant to working with you. Having the help of a credit counseling agency means you get a team of negotiators on your side. That makes it easier to craft a repayment plan that your creditors will actually accept.
However, carrying a large amount of debt that is difficult to repay also negatively impacts your credit score. For example, debt from student loans can accumulate and increase over many years of nonpayment. So, you have two choices in such desperate situations: pay off your debt from student loans slowly, missing minimum payments and taking damage to your credit score or hire a debt relief company, settling the debt from your student loans faster while taking a hit to your credit score.
A recent credit counseling study has produced significant research findings for the debt relief industry, showing that it is effective in helping people pay off more debt and faster. Researchers at Ohio State University compared two groups of financially distressed people with similar characteristics. The first group received credit counseling and the second did not. Those who received the service reduced their credit card debt by nearly $6,000 within 18 months of counseling. Those who had not received counseling, reduced their debt by only $3,600. Additionally, counseled participants’ available credit ratio was 19% higher than non-counseled available credit. Download the NFCC OSU Credit Counseling Statistics Final Report – 2016.
You may be able to lower your cost of credit by consolidating your debt through a home equity loan or home equity line of credit. With a home equity loan, the lender advances you the total loan amount upfront, while a home equity credit line provides a source of funds that you can draw on as needed. But keep in mind, these are secured loans that require you to put up your home as collateral. If you are unable to make payments on time, you could lose your home.
Walking or biking to work have benefits beyond just saving money too. More exercise, less pollution, less aggravation. When I worked in an office, I always walked to and from work. Sometimes as much as 45 minutes each way and in all kinds of weather. Such was my mania to avoid giving the MTA one cent I didn’t have to give their crummy service. And to save money of course.
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.
Visitors to Credit.com are also able to register for a free Credit.com account, which gives them access to a tool called The Credit Report Card. This tool provides users with two free credit scores and a breakdown of the information in their Experian credit report, updated twice monthly. Again, this tool is entirely free, and we mention that frequently in our articles, because we think that it’s a good thing for users to have access to data like this. Separate from its educational value, there is also a business angle to the Credit Report Card. Registered users can be matched with products and services for which they are most likely to qualify. In other words, if you register and you find that your credit is less than stellar, Credit.com won’t recommend a high-end platinum credit card that requires an excellent credit score You’d likely get rejected, and that’s no good for you or Credit.com. You’d be no closer to getting a product you need, there’d be a wasted inquiry on your credit report, and Credit.com wouldn’t get paid. These are essentially what are commonly referred to as "targeted ads" in the world of the Internet. Despite all of this, however, even if you never apply for any product, the Credit Report Card will remain free, and none of this will impact how the editorial team reports on credit and credit scores.
Most debt management plans have participants send a monthly payment to the credit counseling agency. The agency then distributes it to creditors. They also negotiate lower interest rates, and may be able to have fees waived and can help reduce or eliminate the number of collection calls a person receives. Keep in mind, most plans take 36 to 60 months to complete. Credit counseling agencies may also help consumers review credit reports and dispute errors.
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.
If you need help getting out of debt, American Consumer Credit Counseling offers debt management services that can help you find your way out of debt – usually within five years. As a non-profit organization, our professional credit counselors are experts at delivering solutions for individuals and families who need help getting out of debt. Since our founding in 1991, we've helped tens of thousands of people, showing them how to pay off debts, reduce credit card debt and live life debt-free. With the lowest rate structure of any debt management program, our services are affordable and convenient. If you're ready to seek help getting out of debt, contact us today to set an appointment for a free consultation.
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.
First Republic Eagle Gold. The interest rates are great, but this option is not for everyone. Fixed rates range from 1.95% – 4.45% APR. You need to visit a branch and open a checking account (which has a $3,500 minimum balance to avoid fees). Branches are located in San Francisco, Palo Alto, Los Angeles, Santa Barbara, Newport Beach, San Diego, Portland (Oregon), Boston, Palm Beach (Florida), Greenwich or New York City. Loans must be $60,000 – $300,000. First Republic wants to recruit their future high net worth clients with this product.
Consumers can apply for a debt management plan regardless of their credit score. Once they set up an initial consultation with a credit counseling agency, they will go over the details of their debts and their income with their agency who will come up with an action plan on their behalf. If the consumer decides to move forward with a debt management plan, it can take a few hours or a few weeks to get started. “Once the recommendation for a debt management plan is made, it’s up to you to decide how quickly to enroll,” said McClary.
Debt settlement: This is what National Debt Relief is best at. National Debt Relief has been doing debt settlements for years and knows the ins and outs of the laws around debt settlements. While debt settlement is a good option for people who are drowning in debt, it does have some downsides, including wrecking your credit score. Be sure to know the risks surrounding debt settlement before you start the process. National Debt Relief has all the information you need to know about debt settlement on its website.
The great thing about Clearpoint is that their debt management program allowed me to consolidate the payments of 9 different credit cards into one single payment… They were the ones that contacted all the credit card companies and got the lowest APR possible. And they were very supportive too—there was never any judgment about what had happened or anything like that. They were just there to help, completely on board with me as a part of my team.
I know it’s fab to live in New York City or Los Angeles or San Francisco but if you’re going to be forever in debt and never able to retire, it’s not worth it. I know it takes money to move so you can choose from our other options; finding a cheaper place, getting a roommate, moving back in with your parents until you’ve saved enough to make a move.
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.
Kevin – Let’s look at it this way. You’re paying roughly $3600 a year in interest on that debt. Over five years that’s a little over $18,000. The counseling agency can get that down to 0 (you won’t even find a debt consolidation loan for that rate) and you’ll be debt-free at the end of those five years. The damage to your credit won’t be anywhere near what it would be with debt settlement.
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.
Much of what debt management companies do involves simply contacting your creditors and negotiating alternative repayment plans, hopefully with reduced interest rates and fees. If you are struggling to make payments, you can usually do this yourself. Most creditors will be eager to help you meet your debt obligations because they want to help you avoid bankruptcy, which sucks for them. Talking to your creditors directly isn’t pleasant, and it may not be easy, but it can be done.