A debt consolidation loan streamlines existing debts into one new loan. Most unsecured consumer debt can be consolidated, including credit cards, medical bills, utility bills, payday loans, student loans, taxes and bills sent to a collection agency. Having one monthly payment instead of several can make it easier to get your finances in order and could allow you to save money on interest fees. When shopping around, it’s essential to find a loan with a lower interest rate and better terms than the original debts.
The good news is that, by choosing a nonprofit credit counseling agency, you can end up with an affordable option that will leave you better off. Despite the monthly fees these plans charge, debt management can help you save thousands of dollars through reduced interest rates and creditor concessions. Plus, you get valuable advice and financial guidance all along the way when you choose to work with a nonprofit credit counseling agency versus a for-profit agency who is “not directed to provide coaching or advice,” said McClary.
If you see missed payments that shouldn’t have been there, write it down. Your credit score is negatively impacted when you are 30 days or more past due. If you see a balance on a card that you haven’t used in years, it could be because the account has been stolen. Misinformation in the accounts section harms your credit score, so make a note of all incorrect information.
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.)

When the investigation is complete, the credit reporting company must give you the results in writing, too, and a free copy of your report if the dispute results in a change. If an item is changed or deleted, the credit reporting company cannot put the disputed information back in your file unless the information provider verifies that it’s accurate and complete. The credit reporting company also must send you written notice that includes the name, address, and phone number of the information provider. If you ask, the credit reporting company must send notices of any correction to anyone who got your report in the past six months. You also can ask that a corrected copy of your report be sent to anyone who got a copy during the past two years for employment purposes.
There is no magic ratio that is “good” but generally if your balances on any of your cards start creeping above 20 – 25% of your available credit, you may see an impact on your scores. Have you checked your credit scores to see how this factor is impacting your credit? Here’s how to check and monitor your credit score for free. As for the new account, it may have an impact on your score but usually for most people that levels out once the bills are paid on time for a few months. If it will save you a good chunk of money it may be worth it!
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.
If you pay a charge-off in full, your credit report will be updated to show the account balance is $0 and the account is paid. The charge-off status will continue to be reported for seven years from the date of charge off. Another option is to settle charge-offs for less than the original balance if the creditor agrees to accept a settlement and cancel the rest of the debt.

If you find that you're always struggling to have enough money in your account, establishing automatic payments is a simple way to pad your savings. "When you get your direct deposit from your payroll, you can set it up with your bank that a certain portion automatically goes into your savings account," says Danial Tariq, vice president at Quontic Bank in New York City. "The idea is that you do not spend what you get. You are not tempted to spend a portion of your income because you don't even see it. It's human [nature to think] 'Oh, I have $500. I can spend $500.'"
However, there is a big risk to using a debt consolidation loan. Once you pay off your credit cards, you will be tempted with a lot of newly available credit. If you got into debt because you spent too much money on credit cards, creating more spending power on your credit cards can be a dangerous strategy. Dave Ramsey regularly tells listeners that they cannot borrow their way out of debt. On his blog, he write that "debt consolidation is nothing more than a "con" because you think you’ve done something about the debt problem. The debt is still there, as are the habits that caused it — you just moved it!"
Beyond that is creditor information, which makes up most of your reports. This includes different accounts you have (loans, credit cards, etc.), their status (open/closed, in collections), balances, credit limits and payment details. This may also include dates of missed payments or late payments, or when the accounts were sent to collections. From these details, your credit scores will be formed.
The number of credit accounts you have open is also important to control. Credit cards are easy to get: Almost every store has a quick, convenient way to get you a new card. Attractive incentives, such as big discounts on purchases the day you sign up, add to the temptation. If you shop in that store often, it may be worth getting its card; otherwise, resist the urge.
You can start to resolve identity theft issues by visiting www.identitytheft.gov to report identity theft and get a recovery plan. This is an excellent, free website created by the Federal Trade Commission. In addition to reporting identity theft, you will receive a free action plan, and you’ll gain free access to people who can guide you through the identity resolution process.
You cannot pay down your debt on your own and you continue falling further and further behind. “It makes sense to file bankruptcy when you can no longer keep up with your bills,” said Leslie H. Tayne, a debt resolution attorney and founder of Tayne Law Group, based in Melville, N.Y. “If commercial creditors are breathing down your neck or if you are in danger of losing your home, it may then make sense to file bankruptcy.”
Johnson said it makes sense to use this type of loan to help consolidate high interest debt such as with various credit cards because “the savings can be significant.” Using home equity loans to pay off other debts, such as student loans might also be wise, said George Burkley, owner of American Mortgage & Financial Services in Indiana — “[the] rates are usually much lower.”
Once you have completed credit counseling, you can start your bankruptcy case with your attorney. This involves filing a packet of forms with the local bankruptcy court. Required forms include the bankruptcy petition, forms for your financial information, a list of your income and expenses, and proof you have passed the Chapter 7 means test. You will also list your property exemptions based on limits in your state.
Not only does a Chapter 13 filing require a long-term commitment and an understanding of the impact on your credit, but it also carries an expense, as the filer must pay the court, the trustee and their attorney. Before you consider attempting a Chapter 13 without an attorney, note that the U.S. Bankruptcy Court instruction packet states that it is “… extremely difficult to succeed in a Chapter 11, 12 or 13 case without an attorney.”

How to use it effectively: The money you withdraw from your 401(k) loan should go directly to paying off your credit card debt. After your debts are paid off, payments most likely will be taken from your paychecks until your loan is repaid. If not, continue to make regular, on-time payments. While you’re repaying your loan remember to keep your job — don’t quit and avoid any actions that may lead to your dismissal so you aren’t subject to penalties.
Most people don’t realize that it’s not mandatory for creditors to submit information to the credit reporting agencies. Of course, credit cards, mortgage lenders, etc. always will, but some smaller accounts don’t bother because there’s really no upside for them. But that also presents an opportunity for the average consumer that needs a quick credit score increase, as you can ask a variety of creditors or lenders if they will start reporting. For instance, cell phone companies, utility providers, and even landlords can report your history of on-time and in-full payments to the credit bureaus. Once that positive track record hits your credit, your score will go up proportionally!
Yesterday, Margot used Card #3 to buy an $800 flat-screen TV. Although she only used 8 percent of her total credit limit of $10,000, she charged 80 percent of Card #3’s $1,000 limit. While it’s not an exact science, making an effort to even distribute expenses will likely help your score. Next time Margot wants to spend $800, she should take advantage of Card #2, which would only charge 16 percent of its limit. Utilization can be a friend or foe—practice some planning and let this credit repair component work for you.
Once you resolve issues on your credit report, it’s time to implement a strategy to start improving your credit score. The single best thing that you can do to improve your credit score is to pay current accounts on time and in full every single month. You can picture it as burying negative information under a mountain of positive credit information.
If you are a candidate for Chapter 13 bankruptcy, you will need to complete mandatory pre-filing credit counseling with an approved credit counseling agency. The cost of this type of credit counseling session is typically $50 to $100. During this meeting, a credit counselor will go over your finances, including your debts and your income, to counsel you on your options.
Both Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 bankruptcy can allow you to keep your house if requirements are satisfied. Chapter 13 bankruptcy is especially popular with homeowners who have considerably equity since it allows them to stay in their home and continue making payments while they pay off all, or a portion of, their other debts through a repayment plan..
Offer a variety of deferment options: Discover offers four different deferment options for borrowers. If you decide to go back to school, you may be eligible for in-school deferment as long as you are enrolled for at least half-time. In addition to in-school deferment, Discover offers deferment to borrowers on active military duty (up to 3 years), in eligible public service careers (up to 3 years) and those in a health professions residency program (up to 5 years).
The earlier you find out about a credit report or identity theft issue, the easier it is to solve. To ensure that you find out about issues in the future, consider signing up for a credit monitoring service. Some companies, like CreditKarma, offer free credit monitoring. Other companies offer daily three-bureau monitoring and resolution services. You can learn more about these options here.
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