There's also an important caveat: You need to determine if the lender you're thinking about repaying charges a prepayment penalty for early payoff. Some personal loans, auto loans, and mortgages charge if you pay off your debt before the designated time. If so, you may not want to put that debt on your early payoff list, as any money saved on interest might be lost to the penalty.


Credit score is not a factor with credit counseling. The initial consultation, even with a credit check, won’t affect your score. There is no minimum score requirement to enroll in a debt management program. In addition, when done correctly the program has either a neutral or positive effect on your credit. In other words, if you still have good or excellent credit, this program won’t set you back.

“When someone meets with a certified credit counselor, they get expert advice for overcoming their most urgent financial challenges,” Bruce McClary, Vice President of Communications at the NFCC said. “Consumers benefit from a comprehensive review of their entire financial situation. Every counseling session is completely confidential with advice that is uniquely designed for each individual.”
Within five days after a debt collector first contacts you, the collector must send you a written notice that tells you the name of the creditor, how much you owe, and what action to take if you believe you do not owe the money. If you owe the money or part of it, contact the creditor to arrange for payment. If you believe you do not owe the money, contact the creditor in writing and send a copy to the collection agency informing them with a letter not to contact you.
The most important message is to DO SOMETHING. I would encourage folks to do the reverse of taking on the larger balances first and paying more on them. Pick a smaller balance, high interest card and pay it off. This gives motivation to get the next one up the ladder in your payoff plans. For the sake of your credit score, remember length of history and pay history go together to determine your score so closing that account may actually lower your score over time. If you cannot trust yourself not to use it, close it anyway.
Freedom Debt Relief Disclosure: Clients who make all their monthly program deposits pay approximately 50 percent of their enrolled balance before fees, or 65 percent to 85 percent including fees, over 24 to 48 months (some programs lengths can go higher). Not all clients are able to complete our program for various reasons, including their ability to save sufficient funds. Our estimates are based on prior results, which will vary depending on your specific circumstances. We do not guarantee that your debts will be resolved for a specific amount or percentage or within a specific period of time. We do not assume your debts, make monthly payments to creditors or provide tax, bankruptcy, accounting or legal advice or credit repair services. Our service is not available in all states and our fees may vary from state to state. Please contact a tax professional to discuss potential tax consequences of less than full balance debt resolution. Read and understand all program materials prior to enrollment. The use of debt settlement services will likely adversely affect your creditworthiness, may result in you being subject to collections or being sued by creditors or collectors and may increase the outstanding balances of your enrolled accounts due to the accrual of fees and interest. However, negotiated settlements we obtain on your behalf resolve the entire account, including all accrued fees and interest. C.P.D. Reg. No. T.S. 12-03825. 
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. 
You cannot sign up for new credit cards, nor can you use the ones you have. While it may sound unreasonable to bar you from using credit, the point of your debt management plan is helping you dig your way out. “The last thing you want to be doing is running up more high-interest debt on the side,” said McClary. “You’re not doing yourself any favors in that situation.”
Bankruptcy. Declaring bankruptcy has serious consequences, including lowering your credit score, but credit counselors and other experts say that in some cases, it may make the most sense. Filing for bankruptcy under Chapter 13 allows people with a steady income to keep property, like a mortgaged house or a car, that they might otherwise lose through the Chapter 7 bankruptcy process. In Chapter 13, the court approves a repayment plan that allows you to pay off your debts over a three to five year period, without surrendering any property. After you have made all the payments under the plan, your debts are discharged. As part of the Chapter 13 process, you will have to pay a lawyer, and you must get credit counseling from a government-approved organization within six months before you file for any bankruptcy relief.

When evaluating whether a credit agency is legitimate, Kalkowski cautions against being too trusting of promises made by company representatives. "A lot of these people are so nice," she says. They may pressure people to sign up immediately, if for no other reason than to get peace of mind. While they may seem caring, Kalkowski stresses, "These people are not your friends. They are out to make a buck."


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Credit counseling. Most businesses in the debt-relief industry offer free credit counseling services. Certified credit counselors help consumers build an affordable budget and learn how to live with it. Counselors teach them the debt-relief options available and offer advice on which one best suits their situation. This is an overlooked aspect of many debt-relief services. It increases the financial literacy of consumers by leaps and bounds.
American Consumer Credit Counseling (ACCC) provides nonprofit credit counseling and debt reduction services for consumers with credit problems who want to know how to pay off credit cards and how to get out of debt. Our certified credit counselors have helped thousands of individuals and families nationwide pay off credit card balances and unsecured debt through credit card relief programs and credit card debt solutions. Our debt management plans provide a kind of personal debt consolidation strategy for help getting out of credit card debt, and we offer a wide variety of financial education services to consumers who need help getting out of debt and managing their finances more effectively.
Nice to hear from you Jai :) — we invested as well while paying off debt, so it doesn’t need to be an either-or proposition. To answer your question though, it would be way too time-consuming for me to figure out because of the variety of interest rates we had + other variables. (You may want to look at this post though if you want to see a related scenario: https://www.jackiebeck.com/why-you-should-worry-about-student-loan-interest/ ) That said, no one can see the future, but I KNOW that I no longer have all of that debt weighing me down, and I no longer have all that risk hanging out there.

InCharge Debt Solutions clients have access to a Debt Management App that makes managing your accounts, checking your balances, and rescheduling payments easy and convenient. The Debt Management App also allows you to check your up-to-the-minute “debt free” percentage: “You Are 55 percent Debt Free.” Research shows that tracking a goal makes you more likely to stay motivated and accomplish it. With the Debt Management App, InCharge strives to be the “Fitbit” of the personal finance world.

Take one more look around the house. Do you really need a $100 a month worth of cable TV? Does paying $50-$75 for a round of golf make sense? Can you mow the yard and clean the house yourself? How about exercising without a gym membership? All those things are nice to have … if you’re not in debt. Dump them until you’ve paid off the last of your credit cards.
I will tell you about how to get out of debt from my perspective, the way that typically works best for people, and I’ll describe how to avoid common pitfalls along the way. As I do so, I promise not to call names, make fun of you, or mix in other messages at the same time. I will also be honest, passionate, and fairly blunt, if that wasn’t apparent already.
Receiving automated refund checks is great, it’s like finding money on the ground. As it turns out, stores owe you money all the time, but they don’t pay if you don’t ask. That’s where Earny comes in. They automate everything. Price drop? Get cash back for the difference. Deliveries arrive later than advertised? Get cash back. Effort required? Zero, just how we like it.
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. 
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.
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Understand the basics of good credit counseling. Many nonprofit credit counseling agencies offer both free and paid services, Kalkowski says. They may offer complimentary consultations, financial literacy workshops or even one-on-one budgeting sessions free of charge. However, if you sign up for a debt management plan, expect to pay for the service. Debt management plans through nonprofits often have a startup fee of $30 to $40 and monthly fees of $20 to $40.
The rule also specifies that the consumers’ money set aside to pay debts be maintained in an account at an insured financial institution; that the consumer owns the funds and any interest accrued; that the debt settlement company does not own, control or have any affiliation with the company administering the account; and that the provider does not exchange any referral fees with the company administering the account, the FTC says.
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.
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!
Over time, your small balances should disappear one by one, freeing up more dollars to throw at your larger debts and loans. This “snowball effect” allows you to pay down smaller balances first — logging a few “wins” for the psychological effect — while letting you save the largest loans for last. Ultimately, the goal is snowballing all of your extra dollars toward your debts until they’re demolished — and you’re finally debt-free.
Debt management plans from Consumer Credit Counseling Services and other third party organizations exist that can help you find solutions to debt problems. They help with mortgages, loans from banks, credit cards, and much more. These not for profit credit counseling agencies offer a host of solutions, including debt management plans, assistance with negotiating, and information on other programs that may aid you. Consumer Credit Counseling Services are often free to use.
Mortgage debt: Banks, credit unions, and online lenders provide secured loans to buy properties, which act as collateral. Mortgage debt is low-interest debt that comes with the ability to deduct interest on mortgages up to $1 million if you purchase your home before December 2018 or up to $750,000 if you purchased your home after the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act passed.  

High-interest credit card debt: Credit card debt is revolving debt; you charge as much as you want up to your credit limits and make monthly payments. The average interest rate on credit cards was close to 17% as of July 2018. Because credit card debt provides no benefit and rates are substantially higher than investments typically produce, aggressive early payoff is smart. 
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.

Nice to hear from you Jai :) — we invested as well while paying off debt, so it doesn’t need to be an either-or proposition. To answer your question though, it would be way too time-consuming for me to figure out because of the variety of interest rates we had + other variables. (You may want to look at this post though if you want to see a related scenario: https://www.jackiebeck.com/why-you-should-worry-about-student-loan-interest/ ) That said, no one can see the future, but I KNOW that I no longer have all of that debt weighing me down, and I no longer have all that risk hanging out there.

Discipline yourself to make regular payments on your debts, prioritizing your smallest debt to make early wins in eliminating debts. Automate those debt payments, so it doesn’t just rely on discipline. Discipline will fail you sooner or later, so the more you can automate “good financial behaviors” like paying down debts and saving money, the more likely you are to sustain them.


Be VERY careful before you decide go with debt settlement and don’t believe the huge savings you will supposedly get. Lower but stretched payments with higher interest will cost much more on the end. These 30-50% so-called savings are in the fact money going into their pockets. Plus, your credit score will be so screwed up that nobody rent you a bicycle.
If you're not able to secure a lower interest rate from your current credit card company, you may be able to transfer outstanding credit card balances to a card with a lower or zero interest rate (called a balance transfer credit card). Credit card companies often offer promotional rates for a limited period in exchange for you transferring a balance from an existing card to a new one. You'll need to meet the balance transfer card company's qualifications, and will probably need to pay a transfer fee that equals about 3 percent of the balance you're transferring.

Second, there's no guarantee that creditors will accept a partial payment. They may refuse any terms that a bankruptcy alternative proposes, leaving you potentially in worse shape than when you began. Finally, late fees and interest accrue on unpaid balances. That's money you'd have to pay, on top of any exorbitant fees the credit agency itself may be charging. 
Yes, they are different. Debt management plans are designed to pay off the entire amount you owe in 3 to 5 years. If we can lower your interest rates, the total amount you pay to your credit card company is typically less than if you paid on your own. Debt settlement typically involves requesting credit card companies to forgive a portion of your debt in exchange for a lump sum payment.
The debt consolidation loan interest rate is usually set at the discretion of the lender or creditor and depends on your past payment behavior and credit score. Even if you qualify for a loan with low interest, there’s no guarantee the rate will stay low. But let’s be honest: Your interest rate isn’t the main problem. Your spending habits are the problem.
If you have poor credit/no credit, unfortunately you won’t likely be able to qualify for many of these other options. However, there are a number of companies that specialize in helping people exactly like you. These companies are called “Debt Relief” services and are for those with over $7,500 in credit cards, medical bills, taxes, and other unsecured debts and poor/no credit. 
Negative reviews: Common complaints include unprofessional behavior, being passed off between employees and being treated great during enrollment then the quality dropping once the process actually starts. The company provides an online dashboard to help clients keep track of their debt management program, but customers have still said they feel disconnected from the debt settlement process. Average user score is 2.4/10.

Many approved credit counseling agencies provide counseling services in languages other than English. For a list of agencies and the languages that they offer, select the language from the drop down list below and click "Go". If you are looking for a language that is not found on the drop down list, please contact the Credit Counseling Unit at the Executive Office for U.S. Trustees at ust.cc.help@usdoj.gov.


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]

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.
“You ideally want to start by paying off the debt with the highest interest rates first,” McClanahan said. Specifically, look for credit card debt with the highest interest rates, and begin to chip away at that. Also keep in mind that credit card debt, though concerning, is a common type of debt. In a recent report, MagnifyMoney found that Americans paid back $110 billion in interest and fees in 2018, up from the $98 billion in interest paid the year before. Although it might seem overwhelming, others have found their way out of the debt — and it’s likely that you can, too.
You’ll still need good credit to get a personal loan, but you may be able to get a loan when you wouldn’t be approved for a credit card. And if you’ve got excellent credit, you might even get a lower interest rate with a personal loan. Either way, the thing I love about personal loans is that you get a fixed term, usually three or five years, and monthly payment—you can’t be tempted to make minimum payments and you know your debt will be paid off at the end of the term.
Yes, National Debt Relief is a legit company. It’s been accredited with the BBB since 2013 and has an A+ rating based on factors like transparency and time in business. While it has over 80 complaints filed against it with the BBB as of December 2018, it earns an average 4 out of 5 stars based on 340 mostly positive customer reviews. Meanwhile, more than 11,000 customers have reviewed it on Trustpilot, earning it an average 9.5 out of 10.
Bankruptcy is a last-ditch attempt to settle debts. It is a legal proceeding through which you liquidate all assets in order to wipe out debt (Chapter 7) or persuade creditors to approve a repayment plan over a 3-to-5 year time frame to eliminate debt. There are severe consequences for both, including a drop of as much as 200 points in your credit score and the bankruptcy action remaining on your credit report for 7-to-10 years. A debt management program is not a legal proceeding. A notation that you are in a DMP could appear on your credit report, but there should be little impact on your credit score until you complete the program. At that time, you could expect your credit score to improve, sometimes dramatically.
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