The right way: You should expect some fees, but avoid excessive fees when you consolidate. You don’t want to make your journey out of debt any steeper than it has to be. It’s worth noting that a debt management program has fees, but they get set by state regulation. They also get rolled into your program payments, so you don’t actually incur an extra bill.
The debt settlement process involves hard-core, long term debt collection attempts by your creditors, and serious credit score damage that will last for many years. Debt consolidation companies like National Debt Relief and Freedom Debt Relief offer to help you through the process for a fee (eating into your savings). They will instruct you to stop paying your bills, which leaves you open to lawsuits by your creditors.
Each time you apply for credit is listed on your credit report as a “hard inquiry” and if you have too many within two years, your credit score will suffer. In general, a consumer with good credit can apply for credit a few times each year before it begins to affect their credit score. If you’re already starting with below-average credit, however, these inquiries may have more of an impact on your score and delay your ultimate goal of watching your credit score climb.