You can find a state-by-state list of government-approved organizations at the U.S. Trustee Program, the organization within the U.S. Department of Justice that supervises bankruptcy cases and trustees. Also, before you file a Chapter 7 bankruptcy case, you must satisfy a "means test." This test requires you to confirm that your income does not exceed a certain amount. The amount varies by state and is publicized by the U.S. Trustee Program.

We value transparency in a debt settlement company, and National Debt Relief was one of the most forthcoming with information. When we spoke on the phone with a customer service rep, they explained the program in detail, spelling out the benefits and drawbacks and offering recommendations on alternatives. They were quick to respond to our follow-ups and provided some of their onboarding information for us to look over.
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.
Start paying into your settlement fund. National Debt Relief asks you to make monthly payments into an escrow account that it can eventually use to pay your debt settlement costs. This monthly payment is typically lower than monthly payments on your debt. While you can stop making payments on your debt if it’s unaffordable, you’ll end up paying more in the end.
Debt Settlement is making a deal with creditors to pay less than the total balance owed. As attractive as that sounds, there are some severe penalties, notably to your credit score and tax liabilities. Debt settlement costs include attorney fees (typically 10-20% of amount settled) and taxes owed on forgiven debt. Debt settlement negatively impacts credit for several years.
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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.


The convenient answer is: When your debt is so small that you can handle it yourself by doing a better job of budgeting; or when your debt is so large that there isn’t enough income to pay for basic living needs AND make a payment toward your debt. The truth is that everyone’s circumstances are so different that an interview with a credit counselor is the only way to know whether you qualify for a DMP.
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.
It is also important to be aware of any debt settlement and debt relief and elimination scams that may be going around. Always research the companies or the debt relief programs you are interested in and make sure they are offering legitimate and reliable services. Also, make sure that the debt consolidation program you work with informs you of all the risks that may be associated with the particular programs they are offering.
The content on this page provides general consumer information. It is not legal advice or regulatory guidance. The CFPB updates this information periodically. This information may include links or references to third-party resources or content. We do not endorse the third-party or guarantee the accuracy of this third-party information. There may be other resources that also serve your needs.

Find out if there's a penalty APR, too. That's when the card company jacks your interest rate up to 25% or even 30% if you pay a bill late or commit some other transgression. Many cards don't feature them, and that's preferable. Remember that any time you apply for a new credit card, even for a balance transfer, your credit score may be affected negatively as a result.


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."
I started today while reading this article by putting 5 dollars into my savings account. I feel like I’m drowning in debt and living from emergency to emergency. I know they key for me to getting out is establishing savings…and I’ve procrastinated. No more! Today I started, next pay check I’ll put in 50, next 100, maybe I’ll get to 200 in a few months. I want to see $2000 in there so I can afford things like car maintenance and medical co-pays!
Big Commerce is a site that makes selling stuff easy. They have ready-made templates, so you don’t have to spend time designing your store. They also have a lot of tools to help you do things like create coupons and promotions, process payments, handle returns, and share your store on sites like eBay, Google Shopping, Facebook, and several price comparison sites like Nextag, Bizrate, and PriceGrabber.
This is paramount to mapping out a plan to pay off your debt. There are two approaches that are worth considering.  The first is where you list your debts smallest to largest regardless of the interest rate. This is the method that we used to pay off $52,000 in debt in 18 months and it worked great because it helped us build momentum. When we paid off our first debt it put wind in our sails. Even though we had higher interest debts, this gave us something that was very powerful: the belief that we could get out of debt quickly if we stuck to the plan.
In order to put your problems with credit and student loan debt behind you, one option is to schedule an appointment with a certified consumer credit counselor. A credit counselor can assist in determining a solution for your credit and debt issues. Get financial reviews, counseling sessions and plans to help solve your financial situation. The NFCC’s certified consumer credit counselors are located in each of the 50 states in the country, as well as Puerto Rico. Each member agency is accredited by the Council on Accreditation.
Report any problems you have with a debt collection company to your State Attorney General's Office, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). Many states have their own debt collection laws that are different from the federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. Your state Attorney General’s office can help you find out your rights under your state’s law.
If you are looking for an alternative to a debt consolidation loan, then Tally may be an option for you (a credit score of 660 will be needed to qualify). Tally helps save consumers money and stress by managing their credit cards and paying down balances faster with a line of credit. Simply link up all of your credit cards in either the iOS or Android app and Tally will do the hard work for you.
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.

Start paying into your settlement fund. National Debt Relief asks you to make monthly payments into an escrow account that it can eventually use to pay your debt settlement costs. This monthly payment is typically lower than monthly payments on your debt. While you can stop making payments on your debt if it’s unaffordable, you’ll end up paying more in the end.


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.


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.
There's also a substantial risk associated with taking out a loan on your home, because the house secures the loan. When you owe unsecured debt, such as credit card debt, personal loan debt, or medical debt, there's nothing guaranteeing the loan except your promise to repay it. While lenders could sue you for unpaid debt and perhaps get an order to garnish wages or put a lien on your house, it's very unlikely your home could ever be put at risk of a forced sale because of unpaid unsecured debt. But when you've borrowed against your home, the house is collateral, and if you don't pay, the lender will probably foreclose and take the house. Converting unsecured debt to debt secured by your home isn't typically advisable for that reason. 
InCharge Debt Solutions boasts one of the most polished websites of the companies I evaluated. The company’s debt management FAQs and financial education resources are very thorough. They are clear about fees ($50 to enroll and $49 monthly). They are also among the few companies that give you an idea of how much your interest rates might drop under a debt management plan (6% to 9%). InCharge is accredited by the BBB with A+ rating; other certifications include the NFCC and COA.
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.
Speaking with consumer credit counseling agencies is just the beginning. Next, you have to determine whether the services are actually what you need, or if you can accomplish more on your own. Remember, credit counseling doesn't do anything that you can't do; they simply provide guidance for the best approach to managing your debt. You can contact creditors and negotiate the payment terms of your account. Anybody can do this on their own, but sometimes people need a little extra help staying on track.
Another survey conducted by the Harris Poll on behalf of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) showed that 56% of Americans with debt admitted that it negatively impacted their lives. Twenty-eight percent of the 1,004 American adults surveyed said their debt caused stress about their everyday financial decisions, and 21% said it caused tension with their partner.

But having this mini-emergency fund before devoting extra to your debt is vital to breaking the debt cycle. If you don't have some savings, you might find yourself trapped in a cycle you can never escape. You'll start paying off debt, and then your car breaks down, and you'll end up right back where you started with the same level of debt or more. This is discouraging, can cause you to get off track on repayment, and can make it impossible to ever make real progress.
Reputable credit counseling organizations have staff counselors who are certified and trained. These counselors can discuss client financial situations to help them develop a personalized plan for their economic issues. An initial counseling session typically lasts an hour, with an offer of follow-up sessions. A reputable credit counseling agency should offer free information about itself and the services it provides without requiring potential clients to release any details about their situation.
But it’s more than a method for paying off bills. The debt snowball is designed to help you change how you behave with money so you never go into debt again. It forces you to stay intentional about paying one bill at a time until you’re debt-free. And it gives you power over your debt. When you pay off that first bill and move on to the next, you’ll see that debt is not the boss of your money. You are. 
I am in my mid 50’s and am considering early retirement. It is very rewarding to be debt free. There were a couple rules I lived by. I would not charge something that would be gone before I got the bill. Such as meals, drinks, vacations, If I could not pay cash I waited until I could. I still refuse to to pay interest on anything that depreciates. Which is almost everything except a house. Why pay more (interest) for something that is going to be worth less? I am very fortunate that I have been able to pay off my home, have zero debt, and have enough in investments and savings that I will be able to retire about 10 years early. Keep up the work, it does pay off in the long run.
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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.
Veteran journalist/blogger Tom Jackson has worked for newspapers in Washington D.C., Sacramento, Calif., and Tampa, Fla., racking up state and national awards for writing, editing and design along the way. Tom also has been published in assorted sports magazines, and his work has been included in several annual “Best Sports Stories” collections. Most recently, his blogging for various websites on the 2016 election won a pair of top honors from the Florida Press Club. A University of Florida alumnus, St. Louis Cardinals fan and eager-if-haphazard golfer, Tom splits time between Tampa and Cashiers, N.C., with his wife of 40 years, college-age son, and Spencer, a yappy Shetland sheepdog.
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