ClearPoint Credit Counseling has been in business for 50 years, and their wide range of educational offerings includes “ClearPoint U,” a series of free, on-demand online courses on personal finance topics. The company has 50 branches across the U.S. and is accredited by the BBB, NFCC, and COA. Their website is polished and easy to navigate, but is a bit less transparent about fees and potential reductions in interest rates than their competitors.
Hybrid loan option: CommonBond offers a unique “Hybrid” rate option in which rates are fixed for five years and then become variable for five years. This option can be a good choice for borrowers who intend to make extra payments and plan on paying off their student loans within the first five years. If you can a better interest rate on the Hybrid loan than the Fixed-rate option, you may end up paying less over the life of the loan.
Who’s it best for? Anyone who doesn’t like surprises will appreciate Cambridge. The clear FAQs include questions any prospective client would want answered (for example: “How will the program affect my credit rating?”) and there are a lot of financial basics, including budget worksheets and a debt payoff calculator. Cambridge is also willing to work with limited kinds of secured debt.
A debt collector generally is a person or company that regularly collects debts owed to others, usually when those debts are past-due. This includes collection agencies, lawyers who collect debts as part of their business, and companies that buy delinquent debts and then try to collect them. The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) prohibits debt collectors from using abusive, unfair, or deceptive practices to collect from you.
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.
*Clients who are able to stay with the program and get all their debt settled realize approximate savings of 50% before fees, or 30% including our fees, over 24 to 48 months. All claims are based on enrolled debts. Not all debts are eligible for enrollment. Not all clients complete our program for various reasons, including their ability to save sufficient funds. Estimates based on prior results, which will vary based on specific circumstances. We do not guarantee that your debts will be lowered by a specific amount or percentage or that you will be debt-free within a specific period of time. We do not assume consumer debt, make monthly payments to creditors or provide tax, bankruptcy, accounting or legal advice or credit repair services. Not available in all states. Please contact a tax professional to discuss tax consequences of settlement. Please consult with a bankruptcy attorney for more information on bankruptcy. Depending on your state, we may be available to recommend a local tax professional and/or bankruptcy attorney. Read and understand all program materials prior to enrollment, including potential adverse impact on credit rating.
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.
You may want to set net worth goals, too. Getting to a positive net worth might be an initial goal, and you might also set a series of savings goals for arriving at what you need for retirement. First, though, you'll need to have your debt under control -- and, ideally, wiped out. Keep these goals handy and regularly reflect on them to assess whether you're making progress, and what behaviors are hindering your success.
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.
Some companies make use of unethical practices in order to quickly boost a person's credit score. For instance, some companies will instruct people to dispute all debt on their credit report, even accounts they know are legitimate. Since debts are removed while credit bureaus investigate, this can provide a temporary boost in a person's credit score but no long-term benefit. Some state laws, such as the Michigan Credit Services Protection Act, make this practice illegal as well.
The big downside is, if you need to leave your job for any reason, including if you're terminated, you must pay back the 401(k) loan quickly -- often within 60 days. If you don't, the unpaid loan is treated as a taxable distribution and you'd have to pay a 10% penalty. Not only can a 401(k) loan trap you in your job, but you could also hurt your retirement savings goals, because you'll have less money invested and growing.
If you are really unable to repay your debts because you have no source of income at the moment or if there is just no realistic way that you could repay them in two to three years the final option is to file for bankruptcy. However, this would tarnish your credit history very seriously. You will be unable to get new credit for at least two or three years after your bankruptcy and when you do it will come with a very high interest rate. You will be required to pay more for your auto insurance and may have a problem renting a house or apartment. The bankruptcy will stay in your credit reports for 10 years and in your personal file for the rest of your life. Many employers now routinely check the files of prospective employees and some may decide to not hire you if they see a bankruptcy in your history.
Experian, one of the three major credit bureau companies in the U.S., said the impact on your score should be minimal if you and the agency making payments for you, are on-time every month. If lenders look at your full credit report while you are in a DMP, they will see that you are repaying the debt at a reduced rate and it may affect their final decision on whether to grant you a loan.