A debt management plan is a formal plan to restructure and pay off your debt. A company will manage the plan and negotiate some cost reductions with your creditors, such as waived fees or a lower interest rate. You’ll make a single payment to the plan manager, who will distribute the funds to your creditors. While you’re in the program, you won’t be able to use your credit cards or open new ones. The plan is designed to get you out of debt in three to five years, after which all of your accounts should be reported as paid-as-agreed.
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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.

The best way to consolidate debt is to consolidate in a way that avoids taking on additional debt. If you're facing a rising mound of unsecured debt, the best strategy is to consolidate it through a credit counseling agency. When you use this method to consolidate bills, you're not borrowing more money. Instead, your unsecured debt payments are consolidated into one monthly payment to the agency, which in turn pays your creditors each month. Your credit counselor works with your creditors to try to reduce your interest rates and eliminate extra fees, like late charges or over-limit charges.

Next, pay the balances due on any collection or charged-off accounts. Paying what you owe will not immediately cause a significant improvement in your credit score, but anyone considering granting you a loan or new credit will want to see that you did pay what you owed, even if it was late. Lastly, pay down balances on your open credit card accounts to between 30 and 50 percent of your credit limit. Even better, pay them off in full, and pay them in full each month thereafter. Low balances relative to your limit will add points to your score.
Unsurprisingly, consumers across the southern United States are far more likely to have subprime credit scores than consumers across the north. Minnesota had the fewest subprime consumers. In December 2016, just 21.9% of residents fell below an Equifax Risk Score of 660. Mississippi had the worst subprime rate in the nation: 48.3% of Mississippi residents had credit scores below 660 in December 2016.35
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.
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