There is no one-size-fits-all option when it comes to debt relief. If you’re seeking help with your debt, it is important that you find a debt relief program that is tailored to your needs. With so many options out there, how can you find one that works for you? American Consumer Credit Counseling is here to explain everything you need to know about different debt relief programs and how to find one that works for you!
The first thing most people think of when they hear “debt relief program” is debt consolidation. A debt consolidation plan combines multiple debts into a single loan. This makes it easier for to pay down your debt, since you only have to worry about one payment. Debt consolidation can also be helpful in that your interest rate on the debt consolidation loan is likely lower than your other debts. The average credit card interest rate is around 18%, so it can certainly add up over time. If you have good credit, the interest rate on a debt consolidation loan could be as low as 6%. However, that’s only if you have a credit score of 700 or higher.
Debt consolidation may not be the best debt relief option for you if you have poor credit. You might not get approved for the debt consolidation loan, and even if you do, it might not be worth it. With bad credit, the interest rate could be just as high as the interest rates on your credit cards.
An alternative to debt consolidation is debt management. Debt management is a form of debt consolidation, but it does not involve taking out another loan. You still have your debts combined into one monthly payment, which is typically lower than what you would pay otherwise. Instead of being administered through a bank or other lender, debt management plans are done through nonprofit credit counseling agencies. These agencies negotiate with the credit card companies to get you lower interest rates, and in many cases, other fees are also waived.
This is a good option for those who do not want to take out another loan, or can’t due to poor credit. Additionally, many credit counseling agencies provide you with financial education materials to help you get back on your feet.
Debt settlement is not a good option for debt relief, and the only reason we’re including it here is to warn you about the consequences. At first, debt settlement may sound like a good debt relief program. In a debt settlement program, you don’t have to pay the full amount of debt that you owe. For example, if you have $10,000 in credit card debt, you may only have to pay $6,000. On the surface, it seems like you’re saving $4,000, and who wouldn’t want that? Unfortunately, these programs often come with high fees that cancel out any money you might think you’re saving. Additionally, any debt you settle on can be counted as income by the IRS, so you would have to pay taxes on that $4,000 you “saved.”
One of the biggest downsides of debt settlement is that it can significantly damage your credit. Because the debt settlement agency waits to pay your creditors until you are delinquent (otherwise creditors won’t agree to settle), your credit score will plummet due to the late payments. Also, debt settlement shows up on your credit report and stays there for seven years. This can be a red flag to potential lenders in the future because it tells them you might not pay back your debts.
Which debt relief program will you choose?
Now that you know what options are available, which debt relief program will you choose? Take a look at your overall financial picture to see what option makes the most sense to you. Do you have good credit? Are you in a position to take out a loan? Will one option be more beneficial to your financial life than another? Don’t forget to do your own research as well. Look into every company from which you are considering seeking debt help. Make sure they are licensed to do business in your state, and read reviews on their website and social media too.
If you are struggling to pay off debt, ACCC can help. Sign up for a free credit counseling session with us today.