When it comes to paying off credit card debt, many consumers take the path of least resistance: the so-called "minimum payment plan." By law, credit card issuers are required to set a minimum monthly payment amount for each cardholder. These payments are calculated on the basis of the cardholder's total balance, interest rate and certain other factors.
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This is a very important first step before trying to start retiring debt. Having an emergency fund will help keep you from getting deeper into debt when unexpected events happen. If, for example, you have $1,000 in cash set aside and your car or house needs a sudden repair, you do not have to put that repair on a credit card. Ideally, you will want to get to the point where you have an emergency fund worth three to six months of expenses so you can support yourself temporarily if you suddenly lose your job, but the $1,000 is a great start.
Yes and no. If you begin with the biggest debt, you won’t see traction for a long time. You might think you’re not making fast enough progress and then lose steam and quit before you even get close to finishing. It’s important to pay your debts in a way that keeps you motivated until you’ve wiped them out. Getting quick wins in the beginning will light a fire under you to pay off your remaining debts! Listen—knock out that smallest debt first, and you will find the motivation to go the distance.
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.
It’s also worth noting that working with debt counselors doesn’t negatively impact your ability to qualify for new financing. Even if you enroll in a debt management program, you can still get approved for loans, such as a mortgage or an auto loan. You can’t open new credit accounts during enrollment. However, you can get approved for major financing to purchase a home or car or to fund a higher education. This way, you don’t have to put your life on hold while you pay off your credit card debt.
Who’s it best for? If you can’t part with your smartphone, InCharge has a mobile app that lets you manage your account on the go. You can add creditors, change payment due dates, and even see whether creditors have accepted proposals regarding reduced monthly payments or interest rates. They even have a fully online credit counseling option if you prefer that over phone or in-person counseling.
If you have unsecured debts that qualify for a debt management plan and secured debts that don’t qualify, a debt management plan can still work. When you sign up for a debt management plan with a nonprofit agency, the credit counselor assigned to your case will offer comprehensive financial advice that can help you pay down all your debts — not just debts governed by your debt management plan.
As far as options go, I’d recommend you start by talking with a reputable credit counseling agency – one of the options I mentioned in the story. That will give you a baseline to start with. If they can help you with DMP, it’s likely to do the least damage to your credit (with the exception of just paying the debt off) over the long run. If you/they determine a DMP isn’t feasible then you’ll know you have to look at more drastic options like negotiation or bankruptcy.
credit counseling agency for a consultation doesn’t impact your credit at all since the fact that you’ve sought help is not reported to the credit reporting agency. If you enroll you in a Debt Management Plan, where you make one monthly payment to the counseling agency and it disburses payments to your creditors, however, it can affect your credit in several ways.
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.
Some of them include debt consolidation, foreclosure and mortgage delinquency counseling, and budgeting. Review alternatives to a foreclosure that may be available to you such as mortgage modification. A counselor can sometimes work directly with your creditor or bank to enter into installment plans with them, or they help facilitate a solution with all impacted parties.
Don’t refinance Federal loans unless you are very comfortable with your ability to repay. Think hard about the chances you won’t be able to make payments for a few months. Once you refinance student loans, you may lose flexible Federal payment options that can help you if you genuinely can’t afford the payments you have today. Check the Federal loan repayment estimator to make sure you see all the Federal options you have right now.
Credit limitation: Like a balance transfer, a personal debt consolidation loan is usually only a viable solution for consumers who have a good credit score. The higher you score, the lower the interest rate you can qualify for on the loan. APR of 5% is ideal, but anything below 10% may be enough to provide the relief you need. If you can’t qualify for a rate below 10%, look for other options.
Of course, $800 a month in credit-card bills is a lot to handle, which is where debt management comes in. One of the companies I profile further down, InCharge, can help reduce interest rates by an average of 6% to 9%. Assuming the best scenario (a 9% interest rate drop) and a four-year plan, your monthly payment could shrink to $576 (this includes a monthly fee of $49, which could be lower or dropped completely, depending on your situation) and your total interest paid would shrink to $5,276.
The National Foundation for Credit Counseling or the Association of Independent Consumer Credit Counseling Agencies lists affiliated legitimate credit counseling services across the United States. Also, consumers can check with their state's attorney general’s office and the local consumer protection agency to determine if consumers have filed complaints about a credit counseling organization. As another resource, the United States Trustee Program keeps a list of credit counseling agencies approved to provide pre-bankruptcy counseling. Bankruptcy law mandates that anyone filing for bankruptcy must first undergo credit counseling.
There are assistance programs for car owners that have poor credit scores. Programs can help them make a payment on an existing loan or debt obligation. Or if someone has bad credit (or no credit history) and they are in the market to purchase an automobile, then assistance is available with that as well. Find a list of programs that help families with poor credit either buy a car or make a payment.
The top benefit is that you are on a plan that should eliminate debts in 3-to-5 years and you will stop receiving harassing calls from debt collection agencies. Convenience is another plus. You make only one payment a month for your debt payment plan as opposed to numerous payments with numerous deadlines. You receive free educational material that should help you better understand how to manage debt. Finally, you can always call a credit counselor and receive free advice should your situation change.