What is it? A debt management plan, or DMP, consolidates your credit card payments — not your credit card debt. Instead of making several payments to various creditors, you make one payment to your DMP and your credit counselor will use that payment to pay the debt you owe to various lenders. Your counselor may also try to negotiate lower rates and fees associated with your debt.
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The Island Approach also gives you a built-in warning system for overspending. If you ever see finance charges on an account earmarked for everyday expenses, you’ll know you’re overspending. Separating everyday expenses from a balance that you’re carrying from month to month will help you save on finance charges, too. Interest charges are based on an account’s average daily balance, after all.
A personal loan is for a set period of time; three to five years is common. It's important to understand that your monthly payments will be a fixed amount. That's a bit different than a credit card balance, where you can vary your payments month-to-month as long as you hit the minimum amount due. And a credit card does not have a fixed payback period.
A credit card could very well be the source of your credit-score sorrow. But it’s also your score’s best chance at recovery. You can’t remove negative records that are accurate from your credit reports. So the best you can hope for is to devalue them with a steady flow of positive information. And credit cards are perfect for the job because anyone can get them, they can be free to use, and they don’t force you to go into debt. Plus, they report information to the major credit bureaus on a monthly basis.
Harzog was a successful freelance journalist for over 20 years, writing for major national magazines and custom publications. She became so entrenched in the credit industry, that in 2008, she was approached by CardRatings.com to be a credit card spokesperson for their site. In 2010, Harzog then went on to become the credit card expert for Credit.com.
Debt management companies will often use marketing language that makes them sound like consolidation loans. Typically, a debt management company will ask you to start paying them instead of the credit card companies. These companies will hold the money in an escrow account and will not pay the credit card bills. As a result, your accounts will become delinquent. Your credit score will be negatively impacted. And collection calls will be initiated.
In more cases than not, debt consolidation loans don't make sense. They're certainly attractive: the lure of being able to pay off all of your credit cards is a strong one, especially in exchange for a single monthly payment to your bank or credit union at a lower interest rate. It's definitely a tantalizing opportunity, but it's not perfect. Remember, debt consolidation loans are financial products, which means financial institutions wouldn't offer them to you if they didn't make money from them. Here are a few tips to make sure you're not falling into a trap:
Credit reporting companies must investigate the items you question within 30 days — unless they consider your dispute frivolous. They also must forward all the relevant data you provide about the inaccuracy to the organization that provided the information. After the information provider gets notice of a dispute from the credit reporting company, it must investigate, review the relevant information, and report the results back to the credit reporting company. If the investigation reveals that the disputed information is inaccurate, the information provider has to notify the nationwide credit reporting companies so they can correct it in your file.
Consolidation means that your various debts, whether they are credit card bills or loan payments, are rolled into one monthly payment. If you have multiple credit card accounts or loans, consolidation may be a way to simplify or lower payments. But, a debt consolidation loan does not erase your debt. You might also end up paying more by consolidating debt into another type of loan.
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.