Watch out for common red flags. While good credit counseling agencies are transparent about their fees and services, unscrupulous ones can be evasive and pushy. Red flags include demands for payment before services start, failure to provide a contract, insisting on access to your bank account and promises of debt repair that sound too good to be true.
Here’s how balance transfers work: As a way of attracting new customers, credit card companies will let you transfer a balance—in other words, a debt—from one credit card to a new credit card at 0 percent interest for a certain number of months. For example, if you were to transfer a $2,000 balance from one card (15 percent APR) to a new card (0 percent APR for 12 months), you could save up to $300 in interest.
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.
If you want to get out of debt fast, you have to stop using debt to fund your lifestyle. This means no more financing furniture, no more signing up for credit cards, no more test driving brand new cars that you don’t have the cash to pay for. This will help you focus solely on the debt that you currently do have so that you can develop a game plan to pay it off quickly.
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.
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.
When you consolidate your debts or work with a debt settlement company, you’ll only treat the symptoms of your money problems and never get to the core of why you have issues in the first place. You don’t need to consolidate your bills—you need to delete them. To do that, you have to change the way you view debt! Dave says, "Personal finance is 80% behavior and only 20% head knowledge." Even though your choices landed you in a pile of debt, you have the power to work your way out! You just need the right plan.
It may not be the right option if you would have to give up property you want to keep. The rules vary by state. Typically, certain kinds of property are exempt from bankruptcy, such as motor vehicles up to a given value and part of the equity in your home, but you usually have to give up a second car or truck, family heirlooms, vacation homes and any valuable collections.
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.
Finally, you should know there’s a chance your credit can still suffer. Technically, entering a debt management plan shouldn’t hurt your credit score. But if your debt management company ever misses a payment on your behalf, your score will take a hit. Also, prospective lenders may shy away from making loans if they see a notation on your credit report that you’re in a debt management program.
Debt consolidation. When you refinance debt, you can often consolidate debt in the process, because the new loan is used to pay for multiple other debts. For example, if you had three credit cards on which you owed $3,000, $5,000, and $2,000 and you took a $10,000 balance transfer or personal loan to pay off all three, doing so has the effect of consolidating your debt.
Can I Negotiate With My Creditors On My Own? Yes, you can negotiate with your creditors yourself and save yourself an extra 18-25% off your debt. (Our fee is 18-25% of the debt amount depending on the state they live in and the amount of debt they have.) Not everyone wants to talk to their creditors on a regular basis so they trust us to do it for them. Our debt negotiators have extensive knowledge in Federal & State consumer laws & exercise the Fair Credit Reporting Act, Fair Credit Billing Act, as well as the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act to help settle your debt.
The good news is that, by choosing a nonprofit credit counseling agency, you can end up with an affordable option that will leave you better off. Despite the monthly fees these plans charge, debt management can help you save thousands of dollars through reduced interest rates and creditor concessions. Plus, you get valuable advice and financial guidance all along the way when you choose to work with a nonprofit credit counseling agency versus a for-profit agency who is “not directed to provide coaching or advice,” said McClary.
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.
How it works: Whether it’s at a bank, credit union office or online, the consumer must fill out an application and be approved for a loan. Your income and expenses are part of the decision, but credit score is usually the deciding factor. If approved, you receive a fixed-rate loan and use it to pay off your credit card balances. You then make a fixed monthly payment to the lender to pay off your loan.
Credit Score Issues: One thing is certain: your credit score will be damaged. The lender, collector or credit-card company will report the debt as “settled for less than agreed’’ or “settlement accepted’’ for seven years. Also, even though you are dealing with the debt-settlement company for payments, the lenders will report late-payment status updates to the credit bureaus. That could be the case until the account is actually settled.
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.
How Long Will It Take To Get Out Of Debt? It depends on how quickly you can build up your settlement funds and save for the settlement offers. The program length varies between 24-48 months, the faster you can save, the quicker you can get out of debt. If you only make the minimum payments on your credit cards, you could be in debt for the next 10-20 years and pay back 2x, 3x, or even 4 times as much as you originally borrowed.
I recently became fed up with the credit card debt that I have been carrying for 6 years and have *finally* taken action to eliminate it, such as making a budget (and sticking to it!), trying to negotiate a lower APR rate, selling stuff (au revoir, gitane bicycle) and making additional payments on my credit cards. This article was EXACTLY what I needed to read. It’s affirmation that I’m on the right track (:
The top benefit is a reduction in both monthly payment and interest rates. There is the convenience of making only one payment for all your debts. You also receive valuable education materials, including financial tips and reminders for payments due. InCharge clients receive a monthly statement that details payments made to each creditor and a progress reports on how much of the debt has been paid.