You can get rid of credit card debt in several different ways. Debt consolidation loans are one way. You can also take out a home equity loan (or a cash-out refinance) from your mortgage lender, or you can open a new credit card and transfer the balances over. The latter might come with a zero percent introductory interest rate, giving you several months or more to pay down your balance interest-free.
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With credit consolidation, you take out a new loan and use it to pay off smaller loans. Because you now only have one loan, you have one monthly payment. However, taking out a big loan can be tricky. If your credit score is not high, you may not qualify for a consolidation loan. If you do qualify, you may not qualify for competitive interest rates. Additionally, whenever you take out a new loan, there are loan origination fees which can run into the thousands. Finally, if you are able to secure a debt consolidation loan with a low monthly payment, it may be at the expense of the repayment period: you may be paying the loan for a decade or longer.
Those with poor credit or no credit can obtain a low credit limit secured credit card (by putting up a security deposit). This is reported to the credit bureaus as a regular credit card and allows you to build a positive payment history quickly. Eventually, the credit card company (and others) will offer you a higher traditional credit limit without the security.
This is a basic balance transfer deal with an above average term. If you don’t have credit card balances with Discover, it’s a good option to free up your accounts with other banks. With this card, you also have the ability to earn cash back, and there is no late fee for your first missed payment and no penalty APR. Hopefully you will not need to take advantage of these features, but they are nice to have.
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In general, you should try to keep credit card balances low. When you consolidate the cards you’re consolidating will have much lower credit utilization ratios, but your overall ratio will remain the same. However, the lower interest rate you’re paying during the introductory period means you can pay more toward your balance each month, helping lower your overall credit utilization more quickly.
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:
Rapid rescoring is a little-known strategy explained by credit guru Liz Pulliam Weston in her book, "Your Credit Score: Your Money and What's at Stake." Unlike credit repair services, which are almost always a scam, rapid rescoring is a legitimate way to improve your credit score in as little as a few hours – if there are verifiable inaccuracies on your credit report. For rapid rescoring to work, you must have proof that negative items on your credit report are incorrect.
If you are considering using a debt relief or debt consolidation company, arm yourself with information. For a fee, they negotiate with your creditors on your behalf, resulting in lower balances or interest rates. Legitimate debt relief companies will obtain a written agreement from each one of your creditors, detailing the terms of the agreement, your obligations, and what will be reported to the credit bureaus. In some cases, if your balances are lowered the creditor might report bad debt or a charge-off, which will negatively impact your credit history and score. Also keep in mind that debt relief companies generally charge higher interest rates than your bank or mortgage lender, particularly if you have less than stellar credit. So you might not save much in the long run, especially once you factor in fees. It’s up to you to do the math.
Following the 2007-2008 implosion of the housing market, banks saw mortgage borrowers defaulting at higher rates than ever before. In addition to higher mortgage default rates, the market downturn led to higher default rates across all types of consumer loans. To maintain profitability banks began tightening lending practices. More stringent lending standards made it tough for anyone with poor credit to get a loan at a reasonable rate. Although banks have loosened lending somewhat in the last two years, people with subprime credit will continue to struggle to get loans. In June 2017, banks rejected 81.4% of all credit applications from people with Equifax Risk Scores below 680. By contrast, banks rejected 9.11% of credit applications from those with credit scores above 760.22
While the steps above may seem lengthy and cumbersome, debt management plans exist because some consumers are simply unable to get out of debt on their own. Bruce McClary, vice president of communications for the National Foundation for Credit Counseling (NFCC), said that an array of circumstances can lead to situations where families need outside help. Job loss, chronic overspending, reduction in work hours, loss of income and unexpected major expenses are often the biggest culprits when consumers spiral into debt they cannot control.
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Survey of Consumer Expectations, © 2013-2017 Federal Reserve Bank of New York (FRBNY). The SCE data are available without charge at http://www.newyorkfed.org/microeconomics/sce and may be used subject to license terms posted there. FRBNY disclaims any responsibility or legal liability for this analysis and interpretation of Survey of Consumer Expectations data.
Taking out a home equity loan could also require you to pay closing costs that can add up to hundreds or thousands of dollars, according to the CFPB. If the property declines in value, you could also run the risk of falling underwater on it. With that said, a home equity loan or a home equity line of credit could serve as an optimal way to pay off debt. As with any major financial decision, being well-informed will help you make the best choice for your unique situation.
Improving your credit score is a bit like losing weight: It takes a while. Unless there are major errors on your credit report that you can easily get erased, there is no quick fix. Often, it takes at least a couple years to go from a low score to a high one. But at least, you'll be improving your financial position, and building up good financial habits, in the interim.
If you're hopelessly drowning in debt, know that you can't negotiate any lower interest rates with your credit card companies or creditors, or if the math works out, a debt consolidation loan may be a good decision for you. Similarly, if you're in serious trouble with high interest rates, high monthly payments (that you're having trouble with already), and too many bills, a debt consolidation loan might help. Combined with a debt repayment plan or credit counseling, it can be used to pay off all of your debt at a fraction of their original cost. If it may be a good time to strike, pay it all off, and walk away debt-free. Photo by erules123.
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If someone has opened accounts in your name, without your knowledge, you could be the victim of Identity Theft. The best first place to start managing identity theft is IdentityTheft.gov. This is a government website that enables you to report an identity theft and get a recovery plan. As part of that plan, you will be encouraged to freeze your credit and file disputes with the credit bureaus. It is critical to keep a good paper trail.