Advantage Credit Counseling Service (CCS) is a Non-Profit Credit Counseling agency that educates consumers about debt management, bankruptcy, and how to properly manage credit. We’ve been helping people take control of their finances since 1968. As a 501(c)3 organization, our agency provides professional, meaningful and confidential consumer education, credit counseling, and develops effective debt reduction programs. We are specialists in teaching individuals about wise money management and the responsible use of credit.
Generally my view is if you can afford to pay your debt through a DMP, go for it. But if the payment plan they are proposing is a stretch and you’re not sure that you can keep up with those monthly payments, then consider settlement or bankruptcy. Of course, it’s impossible for me to say exactly what you should do since I don’t know your entire financial situation, but I wouldn’t rule it out for fear of the impact on your credit.
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.

I have been with National Debt Relief Service and thought I would save 40% to 50% of my debt. but, so far, with 23% customer fees among others, the 7 I have settled for $7333.64 out of $10,388 with their fees came to a net savings of less than $3055. The fees are very high and now that I am signed up, I cannot leave since they say the creditors would not honor the settlement amounts.
Best Answer:  That National Debt Relief is a Scam! But they are slick in the way that they operate and know tricks to cover up their dirt so it's hard to prove. A friend of mine signed up for their debt settlement program about 7 months ago and they screwed her over so much in fees and ruined her credit in the process that it sent her into a great depression. I knew they were up to no good because they kept relentlessly pursuing her to sign up with their scam program just like you described. I wouldn't trust this National Debt Relief with a 10 foot pole no matter how they look on the surface..they are nothing but some crooks preying on people who are already struggling! WARNING: I did a search and even found how they could be operating under different names (see source). I been around a long time and am aware of companies like this that keep changing their names, locations, and phone numbers to cover up their dirt and then keep coming back under a clean slate with clean BBB record, and more fake testimonials and all to just repeat the process, keep duping the public, and making tons of money . This makes me sick to my stomach! I sure hope the FTC and other authorities will continue to pursue and put a stop to these scams - no matter slick these crooks operate the people are getting wiser & wiser everyday not to fall for these scams. I commend you for being smart enough to ask around on this matter. Also you can check with your creditors and usuallly they will be willing to work with you if you come at them honestly and sincerely. This is what I did years ago -on my own- to settle my debt and my creditors reduced my payment and debt amount until it was cleared. Remember: If you are behind on your debt, creditors will usually like to get paid something rather than nothing at all - so this makes them highly motivated to work with you.
To qualify for National Debt Relief, you must have at least $7,500 in debt and a demonstrable financial hardship that you cannot recover from. Financial hardship includes a divorce, unemployment, loss of income, the death of a spouse and unpaid taxes. National Debt Relief uses this proof of your financial hardship as leverage to negotiate with your creditors.
I doubt that would be the case. The main impact will be from closing those accounts. FICO doesn’t take into account that you are in credit counseling when calculating your credit score. In other words, you don’t get penalized specifically for credit counseling like you would for, say, a late payment or bankruptcy. Plus you’ll hopefully be learning how to live debt free so you don’t have to rely on credit cards again.
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While repaying your debt more slowly or at a lower interest rate is better than not paying it at all, a debt management plan can still adversely impact credit scores. Although enrollment in a debt management plan isn't a factor in credit scoring models, it can affect other aspects of your credit that are common factors in many credit scoring models.

Debt management plans, or DMPs, will lower your interest rates and therefore monthly payments. These so called DMPs are available directly from a credit card issuer, lawyer, debt management company or a non-profit credit counseling agency. The company that you enter into a plan with will negotiate on your behalf with your creditors. This can help you get lower interest rates, waive fees, provide you additional time, and will reduce the total amount of your monthly payments. More on debt management plans.

We all know that didn’t happen, and soon enough, the debt caught up with me. As I approached my 26th birthday, I maxed out with debt of around $80,000. All of a sudden, I couldn’t keep borrowing my way out of trouble anymore. At the same time, I realized that the stress of barely making my monthly payments and owing twice what I earned in a year was taking its toll.
Howard – The problem with Chapter 7s is that you must meet minimum income requirements (based on the minimum income threshold in your state). This means there’s a possibility that you may not qualify for a Chapter 7, so it may not be an option for wiping out credit card debt. Before you decide to go the bankruptcy route, have you considered a Debt Management Program? I know 45k is an huge burden and it’s stressful, but there are other options that may help. Before you decide on bankruptcy, we’d advise exploring all of your options. It’s worth contacting a consumer credit counseling service. They’ll be able to review your individual personal financial situation and debt load to determine whether or not you’d be a good candidate for a DMP. If you are a good fit, they’ll work with your creditors to lower you interest rate and lower your monthly payments to one monthly payment you can afford. If a DMP isn’t a good fit, and bankruptcy is your best option — they’ll be able to tell you that as well. A consultation is free, but make sure you choose a consumer credit counseling service that is accredited by the National Foundation for Consumer Credit Counseling.
Even outside of the holidays, plenty of seasonal jobs may be available. Springtime brings the need for seasonal greenhouse workers and farm jobs, while summer calls for tour operators and all types of outdoor, temporary workers from lifeguards to landscapers. Fall brings seasonal work for haunted house attractions, pumpkin patches, and fall harvest.
Bankruptcy can't solve your problems if you have substantial student loan debt. Student loans aren't dischargeable in bankruptcy except in extreme cases where you can show severe hardship, such as becoming unable to ever work because of total permanent disability. You also can't get rid of mortgage or car loan debt if you hope to keep the assets; you'll need to become current and eventually repay these debts in full to avoid foreclosure or repossession of the vehicle. But for unsecured debt -- which is debt not guaranteed by your assets that you simply promised to repay -- bankruptcy could provide relief. 
This was a really great article! It is true that you can’t approach debt like a fad diet, it needs to be a lifestyle! And everyone has different lifestyles so it’s okay to approach paying off your debt differently than your friends or family! It just is important to keep at it and make a change to the way you used to live when you were getting yourself in debt! Thanks for sharing this with us!
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.
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.
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!
Fees for services. Regardless of which form of debt relief you choose, there will be a fee to the company providing that service. The fees for debt management are part of your monthly payment. The fees for debt settlement are based on the amount of debt you have. Lawyers’ fees for bankruptcy vary. That just adds another layer of debt that you will have overcome.
In some cases, credit card companies allow you to use balance-transfer checks. Essentially, you'll be able to deposit money in your bank account and get the special promotional balance transfer rate of 0% interest for a designated time. If you take advantage of this offer, you'd still pay whatever fee the card imposes for balance transfers, if any. This approach allows you to use a balance transfer to refinance even non-credit card debt to the 0% promotional rate. Just be careful not to confuse balance-transfer checks with a cash advance, which involves having your credit card lend you cash at a very high interest rate. 

Debt management fees vary based on your state of residence and debt amount. GreenPath charges a one-time set up fee that ranges from $0 to $50. We also charge a monthly fee that ranges from $0 to $75. This is minimal considering the amount of money our clients typically save in waived late fees, waived over limit fees, and reduce credit card interest charges.
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.
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.

Indeed, accumulating debt can certainly take an emotional toll and negatively impact your overall life satisfaction. However, you can take simple steps to pay down debt and turn your financial situation around. No financial situation is permanent, and with some patience, persistence and implementing of best practices, you can find yourself back on the path to financial recovery. So take a deep breath, keep your emotions at bay and work on tackling your debt in a practical manner.

A debt collector generally is a person or company that regularly collects debts owed to others, usually when those debts are past-due. This includes collection agencies, lawyers who collect debts as part of their business, and companies that buy delinquent debts and then try to collect them. The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) prohibits debt collectors from using abusive, unfair, or deceptive practices to collect from you.
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To get out of debt using the ladder method, start by attacking the balance on the account that charges the highest interest rate, McClary says. While you’re ramping up payments on that account, you make minimum payments on the others. When your highest-interest balance is gone, you move down a rung of the ladder and apply all your extra payments to the account with the next highest rate. You repeat the process until all your debt is eliminated.

They also have a wider range of customer-friendly features than the average debt management company. These include a clear, intuitively designed website, online chat, Saturday credit counseling hours, and dozens of branches nationwide for those who want to do business face to face. Fees range from $0 to $50 for setup, and $0 to $75 monthly, depending on your state.
If you’re interested in a debt management program, you’ll first consult a Clearpoint certified credit counselor in a free, basic credit counseling session, which is offered online, via phone, or in person. Your counselor will review your total financial situation and discuss your credit report, income, and expenses. You and your counselor will take inventory of your outstanding debts and creditors, and your counselor will explain how a DMP may work for your specific situation, including how your interest rates and monthly payments may change on the program.

There are other aspects of a Debt Management Plan that may impact one’s score, though. When a debtor enrolls in a debt management plan, all of his/her accounts are closed. This changes the mix of credit available to a consumer, and affects the length of one’s credit history. Those changes to the utilization rate and age of accounts can lower one’s score.

Personal loans:Personal loans are for a fixed amount of money from banks, credit unions, and online sources. Average personal loan rates range from 10% to 28%, depending on credit. When rates are very high, early and aggressive debt payoff is important. If rates are reasonable, you may wish to prioritize other money goals before putting extra money toward repaying early. 

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.
For example, a person with three or four credit cards, might owe a combined $20,000 on the cards and be paying something like 24 percent interest. The credit counseling agency representing him could go to a bank and negotiate a loan at half that rate and save quite a bit of money in interest. The loan money would be used to pay off the credit cards, creating a zero balance on each card. Instead of making three or four payments every month, the person would have only one payment.
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