If you are working with a credit counselor and think you’ll miss a payment, they can take proactive steps to mitigate consequences and create a plan to get you back on track. They can even negotiate to have additional late payments or late fees reduced or waived if you miss a payment. The key to making this work is being completely open and honest about your situation and speaking with your credit counselor as soon as you realize your payment will be late.
Look for a licensed, accredited, non-profit agency, and be sure to verify that they are currently licensed in your state (unless you're in a state that doesn't require licensing), have current accreditation and that they do indeed have non-profit status. Understand, however, that while these measures can help establish a firm's legitimacy, they are no guarantee, and you still need to research the agency. Note also that a non-profit company does not mean that they do not charge for their services, it only means that the company will distribute all profits to the corporate officers at the fiscal year end, thereby zeroing their profit.
Visitors to Credit.com are also able to register for a free Credit.com account, which gives them access to a tool called The Credit Report Card. This tool provides users with two free credit scores and a breakdown of the information in their Experian credit report, updated twice monthly. Again, this tool is entirely free, and we mention that frequently in our articles, because we think that it’s a good thing for users to have access to data like this. Separate from its educational value, there is also a business angle to the Credit Report Card. Registered users can be matched with products and services for which they are most likely to qualify. In other words, if you register and you find that your credit is less than stellar, Credit.com won’t recommend a high-end platinum credit card that requires an excellent credit score You’d likely get rejected, and that’s no good for you or Credit.com. You’d be no closer to getting a product you need, there’d be a wasted inquiry on your credit report, and Credit.com wouldn’t get paid. These are essentially what are commonly referred to as "targeted ads" in the world of the Internet. Despite all of this, however, even if you never apply for any product, the Credit Report Card will remain free, and none of this will impact how the editorial team reports on credit and credit scores.
On the flip side, the Debt Management Plan is designed to be paid off with regular monthly payments over approximately four years (our clients use an automated payment system so their consolidated debt payments are transferred electronically). These timely payments over the course of years have a very positive impact on the client’s payment history, which is the largest factor in calculating one’s FICO score. (That also means, of course, that if a client is late with their Debt Management Plan payments, there will be significant negative impact on his/her score.)
While National Debt Relief claims that people who finish its debt relief program save on average 30% off their original debt, it’s important to consider the interest and fees you’ll accrue during the time you’re enrolled in the program. Furthermore, If you don’t finish the program, or if National Debt Relief is unsuccessful at negotiating the terms, you can end up stuck with a higher balance than you started off with.
Credit score takes a beating. This definitely will happen with either debt settlement or bankruptcy. Even if you eventually reach a debt settlement with a lender, there will be a note on your credit report for seven years that says you missed payments and settled for less than what was owed. Chapter 7 bankruptcy stays on a credit report for 10 years and Chapter 13 bankruptcy is there for seven years. This will make it difficult to get a loan for a home or car at an affordable rate.
As you read through each item, you'll probably think "This will only save me $5 or $10 a month." If you can cut back on 10 different things and save even $100 a month, that's an extra $100 you can put towards your debt. Not all of these will apply to you and that's ok. Adopt as many as you can, even if it means making a small sacrifice. The more of these you can adopt, the more money you'll have to accomplish your goal.
Do yourself a favor, if you were ripped off like me by National Debt Relief, submit a complaint to ConsumerFinance.Gov. My lawyer counseled me on this. When I called from my job, they did not disclose they were a for profit agency, I had to ask them. They did not tell me the percentage that they would take as profit. I did not learn that until about 3 weeks ago when I demanded to know the profit they took. Their answer after a long time of questioning was they took 25% off the original debt for themselves. When I said that I did not know this. Their response was : “it is in page 3 of the contract.” I could not find this information anywhere nor it was said to me. The representative who enrolled me Berlinda C only said ” We take a small fee” but would not specify the amount. So far, they have taken from me $2,500 and my creditors have hardly seen any money. When a settlement is negotiated, they take everything they have taken from my account for themselves and on top of that charge about $60 monthly extra in order to make the payments to the creditors. I find this sum exorbitant. I now closed my account with them because I have realized the rip off that this company is. I have lost $2,500 for their profit.
You’ll pay a nonprofit credit counseling agency to consolidate your debts into one monthly payment, while also reducing your interest rate, in an effort to pay off your debt faster. This is a good option for consumers in credit card debt who have a steady income to repay the debt within three to five years. Unlike debt settlement, a debt management plan should help improve your credit score.
This won’t be an option for everyone but if you’re paid hourly, speak to your boss and see if you can pick up a few extra hours. Or if you’re job has shifted, check if the less desirable shifts pay a bit more per hour. Working nights isn’t fun, but it could make you some extra money without doing any more work. Maybe less if there’s no one watching!
Talk with your credit card company, even if you have been turned down before. Rather than pay a company to talk to your creditor on your behalf, remember that you can do it yourself for free. You can find the telephone number on your card or your statement. Be persistent and polite. Keep good records of your debts, so that when you reach the credit card company, you can explain your situation. Your goal is to work out a modified payment plan that reduces your payments to a level you can manage.
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.
Getting out of debt is a long-term commitment; there’s not an overnight solution. The most important step you can take is to develop a realistic plan and set a time-bound goal for paying down your debts. For example, you plan to pay off your $10,000 in credit card debt in three years by paying $280 toward your debt every month. However, make sure your goal is realistic for your budget. If you can’t afford that $280 per month, then you’ve set yourself up for failure and may need to consider extending your timeline to five years for a more affordable payment. Having your goal planned out and written down can go a long way to helping you successfully get out of debt.
Many people fail to recognize that there are many instances where you can negotiate and in turn, lower your debt. Take medical bills, for example. “It can really help to negotiate with the medical provider,” said McClanahan. “If you’re willing to pay them real money over time, you can end up paying pennies on the dollar of what you own,” she said. In addition to negotiating, McClanahan suggested asking hospitals or health centers whether they have any financial assistance programs that you might qualify for.
Bill “No Pay” Fay has lived a meager financial existence his entire life. He started writing/bragging about it seven years ago, helping birth Debt.org into existence as the site’s original “Frugal Man.” Prior to that, he spent more than 30 years covering college and professional sports, which are the fantasy worlds of finance. His work has been published by the Associated Press, New York Times, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, Sports Illustrated and Sporting News, among others. His interest in sports has waned some, but his interest in never reaching for his wallet is as passionate as ever. Bill can be reached at email@example.com.