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All You Need to Know About Credit Card Debt Relief

Have you been having trouble keeping up with your credit card bills lately? It may be time to consider some form of credit card debt relief. Many companies offer different kinds of debt relief, but some may be better in the long run than others. Let’s take a look at the different types of credit card debt relief companies, what they do, and how they affect your credit!   

ACCC explains credit card debt relief options.

ACCC explains credit card debt relief options.

What kind of credit card debt relief is available?

  • Debt settlement: A debt settlement company will administer this debt relief plan. These are usually for-profit companies. Consumers will be the debt settlement company directly, then the company will distribute payments to the creditors. This type of debt relief allows consumers to settle for less than the principle amount they owe. For example, a consumer might have $25,000 worth of debt, and when they settle, they only have to pay $15,000.
  • Debt consolidation: With debt consolidation, a lender will issue the consumer a loan to pay off their credit card debt. The consumer pays the lender one monthly payment, rather than paying multiple creditors. The loan can have an APR of anywhere between 18% and 25%, depending on the consumer’s credit. Similar to other types of loans, consumers with poor credit may not qualify.
  • Debt management: A debt management plan is administered by a nonprofit credit counseling agency. Like the other types of credit card debt relief, a consumer only has to pay the agency that distributes the payment to the creditors. However, unlike the other options, a debt management plan is not a loan, and the consumer pays the principle amount. The monthly payments are lower because the credit counseling agency has negotiated with the creditors to give consumers lower interest rates and waive certain fees.

How does credit card debt relief affect my credit?

These credit card debt relief plans will all affect your credit differently – not all in a positive way. When it comes to debt settlement, your credit could take a significant hit. Because you are not paying the full amount of debt you owe, this will have a negative impact on your credit score. Additionally, the debt settlement companies don’t start paying your creditors right away. They wait until your accounts are in default, because that is when creditors are going to agree to debt settlement. You will probably get calls from debt collectors because your accounts are not being paid. Having debt settlement on your credit report could show potential lenders later on that they cannot trust you to pay your debts. This may mean higher interest rates for you on future loans, if you even get approved for any.

Debt consolidation involves taking out a loan, so as long as you pay on time and don’t miss any payments, your credit score should increase. However, if you are late or miss a payment, it will negatively impact your score. With debt management, a neutral notation is put on your credit report that you are in a debt management program. This does not hurt or help your credit score. However, once you finish paying off your debt through the debt management plan, you should see your credit score increase because the you have significantly reduced the amount of debt you have.

What other factors should I consider?

Before choosing which type of credit card debt relief program you want to do, there are other factors to consider besides how it affects your credit. One of the most important factors for many consumers is how much it will cost. Some of these companies charge high fees for their services. Debt settlement companies are notorious for their fees, which may cancel out any money saved from settling on the debt. Plus, the money that you save from settling may be counted by the IRS as taxable income. Between the fees, the taxes, and the negative impact on your credit score, debt settlement is not an ideal choice.

A debt management program, on the other hand, does not charge high fees, and most credit counseling agencies are willing to waive maintenance or enrollment fees for low-income consumers. Additionally, calling a credit counselor to figure out your best options is free. The credit counselor can help you come up with a workable budget, and analyze your income, assets, expenses, and liabilities to help you figure out your next financial steps. All of this is free of charge!

How do I get started? 

  • First things first, do your research. Before committing to any debt relief company, make sure that they are reputable. They are probably a good choice if they:
    • Are a member of the NFCC
    • Are licensed in your state, and
    • Have a good rating with the Better Business Bureau

It might be helpful to look at their social media for reviews from current clients too.

Once you have decided what company to work with to pay off your debt, give them a call! From there, they can help you determine the best plan for you.

If you struggle to pay off debt, ACCC can help. Schedule a free credit counseling session with us today.    


Madison is a Marketing Communications & Programs Associate at ACCC. She is excited to share her tips on saving money and being financially responsible here on the Talking Cents blog!

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