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.
Consolidate with a home equity loan. If your total debt load, including credit card, medical, and other unsecured borrowing seem insurmountable for you to pay off, then you can use a home equity loan to consolidate and even pay off these bills. While there are some potentially major risks if you do not do this correctly, the approach is an option. A home equity loan can help you eliminate your higher interest, unsecured debt and improve your financial situation.
We write about a range of topics like reducing debt, finding student loans, getting the best strategy to pay off student loans, understanding credit cards and planning for retirement. In addition to our comprehensive site, we have relationships with a variety of trustworthy debt service providers who can ensure that readers’ financial needs are met.
Yep, you read that right. And yes, we even mean stop contributing to your 401(k). Right now, you want all your income to go toward getting out of debt. Once you’re debt-free and have saved three to six months of expenses in an emergency fund, then you can resume your contributions. By then you’ll be on Baby Step 4 and can start putting 15% of your income toward retirement.

Accept a plan only if you can fulfill your requirements. If you can't make the monthly payment the program requires, don't enroll. Ask if they can get it any lower, contact your creditors yourself, and/or check with another debt management agency. Again, be aware that many debt management plans require you to avoid taking on any additional debt or at least any additional revolving credit debt (i.e. credit cards, store charge accounts). Understand the terms and conditions, and make sure you can follow through on them.


On average, National Debt Relief can reduce enrolled debt by around 49 percent which is slightly higher than Freedom and New Era. You will pay fees of between 15 to 25 percent on the amount that is settled. This debt relief company doesn’t charge any upfront fees, so you’ll only pay on the debts that are settled. Keep in mind, though, that the fees are in addition to the settlement, so a 20 percent fee in addition to a 49 percent settlement ends up being 69 percent of the original amount.
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.

Guy who signed me up was professional BUT dealing with the company afterwards was a complete run-around. Transferred 5 times and not given an honest answer. Had to call back and confirm my exit from the program. Then asked personal questions in a resell attempt. Mailing address given to submit cancellation request to is NOT a valid mailing address. Percentage higher than advertised – 23%. Customer service transfers you immediately somewhere else – couldn’t even finish my sentence. Very shady.
Over time, bankruptcy might come back to bite you in unexpected ways. If your employer requires you to carry a security clearance, there's a chance that it could be rescinded. If you're applying for a mortgage or rental property, your brush with insolvency could disqualify you from consideration. Depending on your area of expertise, you might even find it difficult to find or keep a job.
The other method is called laddering, which is Clark’s preferred method because it will save you the most money over time. The way it works is you list your debts, starting with the highest interest rate card first and end with the debt with the lowest interest rate. This method makes the most mathematical sense, because you will save the most money in interest over time.  Regardless of which process you choose, the key is to stick with it.

National Debt Relief recently refunded part of the money that was saved in my account before I terminated my agreement with the company. I found this action on their part to be quite surprising and very much appreciated. This leads me to believe that they do have the best interest of their customers at heart. I have chosen to work with another company in becoming debt free and am very thankful for the services provided to me from National Debt Relief.
Over time, the debt reductions that we're able to secure could enable you to begin building up a store of savings or adding to your existing retirement account. For many past clients, our program was a turning point: Before enrolling, they lived paycheck to paycheck and could still barely afford to make ends meet. After successfully completing our debt settlement plan, they finally had the means to prepare and save for the future. It's the least we can do to help.
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. 
As the debt relief company is negotiating with your creditors, you stop paying the bills involved (e.g. monthly credit card bills). Instead, you will be making smaller payments to a separate trust account to pool in your resources. Ultimately you will need to come up to the pre-planned amount that you agreed to with the debt relief expert handling your case.
Debt settlement companies also charge a fee for their "service." Most of the time, settlement fees cost between $1,500 to $3,500. Fraudulent debt settlement companies often tell customers to stop making payments on their debts and instead pay the company. Once their fee is accounted for, they promise to negotiate with your creditors and settle your debts. Sounds great, right? Well, the debt settlement companies usually don’t deliver on helping you with your debt after they take your money. They’ll leave you on the hook for late fees and additional interest payments on debt they promised to help you pay!

By clicking on the “Contact me” button above, you consent, acknowledge, and agree to the following: (1)That you are providing express “written” consent for Lexington Law Firm, Debt.com or appropriate service provider(s) to call you (including through automated means; e.g. autodialing, text and pre-recorded messaging) via telephone, mobile device (including SMS and MMS – charges may apply), or dialed manually, at my residential or cellular number, even if your telephone number is currently listed on any internal, corporate, state or federal Do-Not-Call list; and (2)Lexington Law’s Privacy Policy and Terms of Use and Debt.com’s Terms of UseTerms of Use and Privacy Policy. We take your privacy seriously and you may receive electronic communications, including periodic emails with important news, financial tips, tools and more. You can always unsubscribe at any time. Consent is not required as a condition to utilize Lexington Law or Debt.com services and you are under no obligation to purchase anything.
A debt management plan (DMP) is an agreement between a debtor and a creditor that addresses the terms of an outstanding debt.[1] This commonly refers to a personal finance process of individuals addressing high consumer debt. Debt management plans help reduce outstanding, unsecured debts over time to help the debtor regain control of finances. The process can secure a lower overall interest rate, longer repayment terms, or an overall reduction in the debt itself.[2]
Make sure the company requires complete information from current statements before giving you a quote. The debt counselor will need you to provide all your current credit card and loan statements before they can tell you how much your monthly payments will be or how long it will take to complete the program. Beware of anyone who gives you a quote without thoroughly researching the following first:
It couldn’t hurt to talk to a credit counselor, particularly because this is affecting your health. Here’s how to find a counselor through the National Foundation for Credit Counseling. Depending on your amount of debt and income, it may or may not be the right answer for you. From your question, it’s hard to know whether you should be talking with a bankruptcy attorney, credit counselor or simply someone who can help you with a realistic budget you can stick to. But we hope a counselor, with more information about your specific situation, can offer guidance.
I have a creditor that has reported my account as a charge off bad debt. Two years ago I had made an agreement with the creditors third party collection agency to pay the bad debt on a monthly basis. I have paid each month on time to the creditor, but they have not reported this, and now my credit score is sinking because of this. Is this right? I have made my payments on time and they refuse to have this changed. I had requested the creditor to please change the repoting, but they have refused. Is this right? By law are they able to do this?
While it seems to make sense to devote every dollar possible to eliminating debt today, in the long run, it’s a costly mistake. Remedy: Contribute at least 5%-10% of your income to retirement savings as soon as you begin working and don’t let eliminating debt cut into that. Time is the most powerful tool in retirement savings. The earlier you start contributing to a 401(k) or other retirement fund, the better off you’ll be at retirement. Find other places in your budget to pay down credit card accounts.
For many consumers who realize "I need help with my debt" and who come to us with questions like "How do I manage credit card debt more effectively," we often suggest a debt management program. Under this approach, you'll make one payment each month to us and we'll pay all your creditors for you. This ensures timely payments, simplifies your finances and lets us work with your creditors to reduce interest rates and finance charges.
For example, let’s say Credit Card A has a balance of $1,000 and a 12% interest rate, and Credit Card B has $1,500 at 6% interest. You put down $150 total every month, paying the minimum payment (3%) on one and whatever’s left on the other. You’re going to save more money by eliminating Credit Card A first ($147 in total interest) vs Card B ($188).
I had credit card debt and I used Credit Advocates to help with the solution. Now that I am at the end of paying off the debt I just wanted to cry when I saw how much I was charged in fees – it was a fee for everything including phone calls made for me. At least between a forth and half of the monies sent went to them. If I had it to do over again I would call the credit card companies and try to repay the lesser amount over time. It seems to me that the companies that say they can help are only there to take your monies at a very high rate of fees, etc.
Financial education. You'll have access to a wide variety of educational resources for help getting out of debt. These include newsletters, articles and tools on our website that can help you manage credit card debt, budget your finances more effectively, learn about how to stay out of debt, and get answers to questions like "How can I improve my credit score?" and "What is debt consolidation?"

Once you have enrolled in a debt management plan, and if you let your debt management plan pay all of your creditors each month, you may never have to worry about your debt again. Your payment is auto-debited from your bank account, and your debt will be gone in just a couple of years. Of course, it is smart to allocate more money to your payments whenever you are able, but that is just a matter of logging onto your debt management company account page and increasing your payment.

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.
Many times, a credit counselor can offer insights into your financial situation that you may not see on your own. They may see obvious ways you can cut your spending that you may have overlooked, for example. Their extensive knowledge of debt relief options also makes them ideal mentors for consumers who need professional help when it comes to assessing their debts and figuring out a plan that will work.
Tip: If you are having trouble making payments on your debts, a credit counselor may be able to help you with advice or by organizing a “debt management plan” for all your debts. Typically, under a debt management plan you make a single payment to the credit counseling organization each month or pay period and the credit counseling organization makes monthly payments to each of your creditors. Under debt management plans, credit counselors usually do not negotiate any reduction in the amounts you owe–instead, they can lower your overall monthly payment. They do so by negotiating extensions of the periods over which you can repay a loan and by asking creditors to lower the interest rates  and waive certain fees.
But debt consolidation is not for everyone. If you have a lot of debt, you may not be able to secure the low debt consolidation rates that this approach depends on. And consolidating debt doesn't necessarily help you reduce it — consumers taking out consolidation loans often find their debt remains the same or actually increases over a period of a couple years. Your ACCC credit counselor can help you decide if debt consolidation makes sense for you.

Note: Federal regulations require credit card issuers to disclose on your credit card statement how long it will take to pay off your estimated balance if you make minimum monthly payments. Estimates may be rounded up to the next $100. This debt calculator uses your actual credit card balance, so the results may vary from the estimate shown in your credit card statement.

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.
Most nonprofit agencies are members of either the National Foundation for Credit Counseling or the Financial Counseling Association of America. Both of these groups have certification requirements to ensure a standard level of education and quality among counselors. They also require accreditation, in which an outside body checks that standards of practice are being met.
If you're unable to pay your creditors, filing for bankruptcy can help you get a fresh start by liquidating your assets to pay off your debts or create a payment plan. But you should first consider other debt management options. Bankruptcy information stays on a credit report for 10 years and can make it difficult to get credit, buy a home, get life insurance, or sometimes get a job.
Starting your own business has never been easier! Do you have a knack for making things? Sell your products online! Are you an animal lover? Take up dog walking or pet sitting. Do you have a good eye and a nice camera? Start taking on clients for photo sessions. Christy Wright’s Business Boutique is a great resource to walk you through the process!
A Personal Loan can offer funds relatively quickly once you qualify you could have your funds within a few days to a week. A loan can be fixed for a term and rate or variable with fluctuating amount due and rate assessed, be sure to speak with your loan officer about the actual term and rate you may qualify for based on your credit history and ability to repay the loan. A personal loan can assist in paying off high-interest rate balances with one fixed term payment, so it is important that you try to obtain a fixed term and rate if your goal is to reduce your debt. Some lenders may require that you have an account with them already and for a prescribed period of time in order to qualify for better rates on their personal loan products. Lenders may charge an origination fee generally around 1% of the amount sought. Be sure to ask about all fees, costs and terms associated with each loan product. Loan amounts of $1,000 up to $50,000 are available through participating lenders; however, your state, credit history, credit score, personal financial situation, and lender underwriting criteria can impact the amount, fees, terms and rates offered. Ask your loan officer for details.
Both Freedom Debt Relief and National Debt Relief are well-established companies that have been debt settlement providers for several years. Freedom Debt Relief was founded in 2002, and National Debt Relief was founded in 2009. This is important because there’s potential for scams in the debt settlement business. Some companies claim to be debt settlement companies but are really just fronts for collecting debtors’ money and putting it in the company operative’s pockets. The longer a company has been in business, the more likely it is that it is legitimate.
The Telemarketing Sales Rule, enforced by the Federal Trade Commission, requires companies that sell debt relief services to explain their fees and tell you about any conditions on their services before you sign up; it also prohibits companies that sell debt relief services by phone from charging a fee before they settle or reduce your debt. For credit counseling that promises to get you into a DMP, that means the company cannot collect a fee until you have entered the DMP and made at least one payment to your creditors using the DMP.

You must be able to demonstrate financial hardship, so that the company can negotiate with your creditors and show you are eligible for debt relief. Some examples of financial hardships, according to the company’s website, are a recent job loss, a separation or divorce which has led to a reduction in income, death of a spouse, unexpected medical bills, student loans or IRS taxes.


We do not have a minimum debt requirement for the debt management program. Our goal is to create a payment plan that is affordable and enables you to pay off your debt within a three to five year period. Our clients have, on average, credit card debt of $15,000. Though we have enrolled clients with as little as $1000 in debt, and more than $100,000 in debt. Our clients have an average annual income of $36,000.


A credit counselor also may be able to negotiate lower interest rates with your creditors and get late payment fees and other fees waived, which will help to lower your monthly payment amount. Because of the lower interest rate, more of your monthly payment will be applied to your outstanding balance, and this will help to speed along your repayment. For example, one agency reported that clients reduced their monthly interest payments by an average of $209.81, and their total monthly payments went down an average of $172.48 each month. (Cambridge Credit Counseling Transparency Report #8).
Both are possible solutions to problems with debt. A debt management program is not a loan. It consolidates unsecured debts and tries to lower monthly payments through reductions on interest rates and penalty fees. A debt consolidation loan is actually a loan, with interest charges and monthly payments due. With a debt consolidation loan, you would have to qualify to borrow the amount needed to pay off your debt. The interest rate is normally fixed and, depending on your credit score and history, may need to be secured with collateral like a home or car. Debt consolidation loans usually run 3-5 years.
×