Avoid outrageous upfront fees. A small initial fee (up to $50 or, in rare cases, as much as $100 if you have a lot of debt or high income) is normal, but large upfront fees are out of line. If any agency asks for a fee (or donation) make sure that you know what it will cover, and get it in writing. Find out if you'll have to pay any additional fees to start the program. Don't get tricked into paying one "consultation fee," and then an "application fee" or "an enrollment fee." If you're truly unable to pay, look for an agency that is willing to waive the fee or spread it out (without charging additional fees for doing so).
It will decimate your credit scores and stay on your credit report for up to 10 years even as you restore your credit history. That’s no small thing, because poor credit history can affect your eligibility for certain jobs, your chances of getting an apartment lease, and how much you pay for car insurance. When your credit is already bad, a bankruptcy may allow you to rebuild your credit much sooner than continuing to try to repay. (Learn more about when bankruptcy is the best option.)
If you're interested in starting a debt management plan, you'll first need to find a credit counselor. The Federal Trade Commission recommends you never agree to any debt management plan until a reputable credit counselor has thoroughly reviewed your financial situation with you. The U.S. Department of Justice maintains a state-by-state list of approved credit counseling agencies, so you can search for someone near you.
Afterward, a National Debt Relief specialist will contact you to discuss options and require that you provide proof of your debt balance, income, assets and basic necessity expenses. Any proof that you are struggling with financial hardship needs to be provided during the initial financial review to assess whether a debt settlement program is right for you.
How Is Debt Negotiation Different From Bankruptcy? Bankruptcy is an option that is generally treated as a last resort. It will remain on your credit report for 10 years & you can be denied employment, state licenses, insurance, as well as tenancy of an apartment. Most importantly, you can be denied virtually any type of credit with a bankruptcy on your report for several years. In addition, since the bankruptcy laws have changed recently, it is even more difficult to qualify for Chapter 7, the method of liquidating assets to eliminate your debt. You will not be allowed to discharge alimony, child support, taxes, student loans, judgments, or any loan on the bankruptcy petition. Under Chapter 13 bankruptcy, your debt payments are simply restructured meaning you will still have to pay a percentage of your debts while you suffer the consequences of bankruptcy. Debt negotiation is an alternative to bankruptcy.
Pay off any past due debts first so that you’re current on all accounts, which prevents late fees or continuing damage to your credit. When deciding how to prioritize debt, you can also consider which ones present a greater “risk” or cost to you than others. If you suddenly were unable to make your loan payments on a car, for example, your vehicle might be repossessed. This could have far-reaching effects if you became unable to get to work on time, or at all. So, while they aren’t always the most expensive debt, paying off a car loan can provide greater security.
A debt management plan sets up a payment schedule for you to repay your debts, with the goal of helping creditors receive the money owed to them and ultimately improving your financial and credit standing. By voluntary agreement, you deposit funds with your credit counseling agency each month, who sends those funds directly to your creditors. It usually takes 3-5 years to complete payments under a debt management program, after which you may be able to reestablish credit.