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While your credit score may suffer if you’re falling behind on monthly payments before you get your debt management plan set up, starting your plan should provide some relief. Your credit score should increase as you begin making regular monthly payments and your debt balances drop. Experian does note that you may see some negative side effects when accounts are closed, usually due to changes with your credit utilization rate or credit mix.
It sounds like you are in a Catch-22 – you can’t pay down your debt without consolidating, and you can’t consolidate until you pay down your debt. That makes me think that you could be a good candidate for credit counseling. A credit counseling agency does not care about your credit scores. Your interest rates and payments will likely be reduced, and you will have a plan for paying back your debt in a reasonable period of time. We talked about that more in this article: Does Credit Counseling Work?
If you are a careful money manager who fell into debt because of unusual circumstances (medical or veterinary bill, loss of employment or some other emergency) and NOT because you spent more on your credit cards than you could afford to pay off each month, then leave the accounts open. Doing so will help your credit score, because the amount of revolving debt you have is a significant factor in your credit score. Just be sure to put the cards away. Don’t use them while you pay down your debt consolidation loan.
Get the advice of a nonprofit credit counselor before consolidating your credit card debt. Credit counseling offers free debt help and the expert advice could save you time and money. You may find out that your debts are indeed overwhelming and bankruptcy is best your option, or that your debts are judgment proof and thus you have nothing to lose by defaulting.
Credit repair is critical to saving money on insurance, loans, and credit cards, but that's not the only reason to repair your credit. A better credit score opens up new employment opportunities, even promotions and raises with your current employer. If you dream of starting your own business or just want the security of knowing you can borrow money when you want to, you should repair your credit sooner rather than later.
One of the sneaky-quick ways to increase your score is to add yourself as an authorized user on someone else’s. According to FICO, 35% of your score is based on your history of on-time payments, so when you become an authorized user on a friend or family member’s credit card, car loan, or installment loan, etc. you automatically “assume” the same positive history of payments on your credit report. Viola! Your score will go up as well. You do need to make sure the lender registers your social security number and will start reporting the change, and it can take 30 days to reflect on your own credit report (unless you do a Rapid Rescore—see below). But becoming an authorized user is a fantastic way to benefit from a great payment history that’s not even yours.
Once your cards and debts are paid off, will you cancel the credit cards? Sure, you get credit cards with zero balances and no bills out of the loan, but one of the biggest problems with debt consolidation loans is that they do nothing to change the behaviors that got you into debt in the first place. Instead, they add another creditor to your pile, and fan the flames of going into debt to pay off more debt. If you even think you might be tempted to use those cards again after paying them off, or if you're using debt consolidation as an easy out or way to avoid really looking at your budget, it's not right for you. The last thing you want is to take out a loan, pay off your cards, and then charge up your cards again—now you've done nothing but dig your hole twice as deep.
When you work with a bank or other for-profit debt consolidation firm, you will pay fees in the form of interest and loan origination charges to secure and maintain a debt consolidation loan. If you work with a nonprofit organization, like InCharge Debt Solutions, you will pay a set-up fee (on average, $40) and a monthly fee to maintain it (average $25). It’s important when you consider debt relief solutions that you compare interest rates and fees. Before pursuing any credit card consolidation program, ask your the following questions:
What is it? A 401(k) loan is when you borrow money from your existing 401(k) plan to pay off debts. The amount you can borrow is limited to the lesser of $50,000 or 50% of your vested balance. After you withdraw the money, a repayment plan is created that includes interest charges. You typically have five years to pay off the loan, and if you take out the loan to buy a house, your term may be extended to 10-15 years.
People typically consolidate credit card debt if they have debt on high-interest credit cards and are incurring high-interest charges. By consolidating credit card debt, they can potentially save a great deal of money on interest payments and get out of debt sooner than if they left their debt on high-interest credit cards since more of their payment will go toward their principal balance.
If you already have a good-to-excellent credit score and a low debt-to-income ratio, you may want to consider refinancing your student loans. When you refinance your loans, you take out a new credit-based private student loan and use the money to pay off some or all of your current loans. (The lender will generally send the money directly to your loan servicers.)
It’s likely that the debt collector has the incorrect amount for your debt or has tacked on high fees — Rheingold said you may owe $500, but a third-party debt collector may inflate that number to $2,500 with fees. Both of these practices are illegal. Third-party debt collectors cannot misrepresent the amount you owe or collect fees or interest above what’s stated in your original contract.
Closing out delinquent accounts or those with a history of late payments can also help, as long as you've paid them off in full. Because history is important, if you do decide to close a few more accounts, close the newest ones first. The length of your credit history is 15% of your score, so even after you've paid down your balances, keep your oldest cards open. Be sure use these cards to make occasional purchases (then pay the bills in full), so the card company won't close your account for inactivity.
If you need money fast, a home equity loan might be a good option. A home equity loan can provide you with a lump sum of money in a matter of weeks; the borrowed amount can then be paid off on a monthly basis for a fixed rate. It can be especially helpful to use this type of loan to help consolidate your current debt. A home equity loan can combine debt from various lenders, such as different credit card companies, and place it into one convenient payment.
The best way to handle this is first pull your credit reports from the three major credit agencies – Experian, Equifax and TransUnion. And this can be done free of charge once every 12-months through the site AnnualCreditReport.com. Go through each of the reports as thoroughly as possible looking for any inaccuracies, like – incorrect information on collections, judgments, balances, new accounts, and payment history.
Unfortunately, some credit blunders may be out of your hands. Unfairly reported or inaccurate information can plague an otherwise clean credit score. Protect yourself by staying up-to-date. Order a free copy of your credit report and review its contents. Check to verify your correct name, address, and other basic information. Look closely at your accounts to make sure your balances are accurate and there is no duplicate reporting. If you need help, contact one of our legal experts for a free credit repair consultation and analysis. False reporting is illegal, and your credit health depends on action.
Next, estimate your monthly spending habits for other expenses such as gas, groceries and entertainment. Create a limit, based on your income, of what you can spend in each of the different categories of expenses. For example, if you tend to spend $400 a month on groceries, try to stick to $300 a month on groceries by making changes like buying generic brands, using coupons, and resisting impulse purchases.