Before you consolidate credit cards, make sure you have a clear payment plan that can help you tackle your debt. Beware of simply moving your debt from credit cards to another form of debt; it may feel like you’re suddenly debt-free but you are definitely not. You’ve simply reorganized your debt and it should become more manageable now. If you fail to make sizeable, consistent payments toward your debt, you could find yourself back in the same cycle of debt. Also, when selecting your consolidation method — for example, an intro 0% APR credit card, personal loan, etc. — be sure to look closely at the fees you may be charged. The fees are typically outweighed by the amount you save in interest, but it’s a good idea to review them.
Do the math on your credit cards and their interest rates, and figure out how long it would take you to pay them all off at your current payment rate. Compare that to the length of the consolidation loan you're looking at taking out. Your average 5 year (60 mo) debt consolidation loan, even at a lower interest rate than your credit card, may cost more over the long haul than if you just paid your cards down faster. Photo by 401(k) 2012.
Consumers can apply for a debt management plan regardless of their credit score. Once they set up an initial consultation with a credit counseling agency, they will go over the details of their debts and their income with their agency who will come up with an action plan on their behalf. If the consumer decides to move forward with a debt management plan, it can take a few hours or a few weeks to get started. “Once the recommendation for a debt management plan is made, it’s up to you to decide how quickly to enroll,” said McClary.
Your best bet is to call and ask to see if they can put you on a payment plan where you can afford to pay them (even if it’s just the bare minimum a month) or if they will possibly settle for less money. A tip: anything that has your name attached (banking account,utility bills, credit cards, anything you finance, student loans, medical bills, car loans, home loans, your apartment, etc) that you miss a few payments on or don’t pay at all can be reported to the credit agencies and sold to collections companies.

If a collector contacts you, they could be breaking the law as they try to get you to repay debts. Rheingold said one common fraud is debt collection companies buying past-due debt for extremely low prices at “debt auctions” and then trying to collect it. Often, the debt collection company only has a little information about the debtor and no information about the actual debt. If you don’t pay, however, they may try to take you to court.

Chapter 13 also makes it easier to repay debt since it effectively consolidates all the listed debt into one payment that can be made to the trustee monthly. In the case of what’s called a “cramdown,” Chapter 13 may even allow a debtor to reduce the amount owed on their secured debt by reducing the balance to match the value of the underlying collateral and effectively reducing the interest.


One of the biggest mistakes that any borrower can ever make is trying to dispute their entire credit report. Typically, traditional credit repair companies will utilize this tactic; however, it has been proven very risky and potentially debilitating to the overall purpose. By disputing your entire report, you may remove some of positive aspects that are boosting your score.
No one can legally remove accurate and timely negative information from a credit report. You can ask for an investigation —at no charge to you — of information in your file that you dispute as inaccurate or incomplete. Some people hire a company to investigate for them, but anything a credit repair company can do legally, you can do for yourself at little or no cost. By law:

* Our low monthly retainer of $29 per month is charged in accordance with all applicable laws for all services performed in the preceding month. Upon retaining our services there is an industry low one time file intake fee of, for a VERY LIMITED TIME ONLY - $29, which covers the costs associated with providing access to setting up your files in our systems and providing access to our exclusive Client Central area containing educational material regarding your credit and credit matters.
There are two main ways to dispute errors on your credit reports – you can either do it yourself, or you can hire a professional credit repair firm to handle it for you. If you’re situation is such that you’re in need of quick credit repair, the credit repair firm is probably the way to go. They would have in place procedures for effectively challenging, communicating, and monitoring the removal of incorrect information. If you were to do it yourself, you would have to go through the learning curve of putting that all in place, and knowing how to get the results you desire.
Credit reports typically have a space for you to provide your comments at the bottom: explaining why a particular debt hasn't been paid or to point out any factual errors. While this is another area of recourse, with the credit bureaus you're seen as guilty until proven innocent, and the burden's on you to correct things. When you write to the credit bureau, be sure to send copies (not the originals) of any proof that can be used. 
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Next, your credit counselor will compile your data and ask you to commit to a debt management plan if they believe it’s the best option. If you choose to move forward, you will begin making a single monthly payment to the credit counseling agency who will disburse the funds on your behalf. Your credit counselor may also suggest alternatives to debt management plans if they believe a better option is available.
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Dispute any negative items on your credit report that aren't yours or are otherwise reported incorrectly. These could include late payments, charge-offs or collections errors that shouldn't be on your report. You can do this by requesting verification, and if the items cannot be verified, the credit bureaus have to remove them. If items older than seven years (10 years for bankruptcy) have not automatically been removed from your report, you can request that the credit bureaus delete them.
That is for you to decide. You do have to weigh the certainty that your credit score would take a hit (and some time to rebuild) against the advantage of a program that will allow you to make progress and pay off your debts. A bank loan is another option. You could check on the interest rate . . . but you should do this knowing you will not run up credit card balances again. Otherwise, you end up in an even worse situation than you are in now.
Trying to get a little bit of business advice, hope someone can help. We are struggling to make it through our slow months right now. We have about $100,000 in business debt currently active and all in good standing, we have never made a late payment. But we are getting buried with making sure we are paying all of these bills on time while still being able to order products to keep the business fully functional. We are scared we are heading towards bankruptcy or even closure. Would a debt consolidation company be able to help us? Or does it seem we are too far gone? I guess I was hoping with a debt consolidation company we could lower our monthly burden, stretching out our payment to 48-60 months.
We all have bills to pay, so why not leverage your payments to work for you? Making credit card payments ahead of schedule will reduce the accrued interest and your debt-to-income ratio. Staying ahead of the curve on rent and utilities will help strengthen your credit score as well. If you have a financial calendar, move your payments up by seven days—it could make all the difference.
If you're living with bad credit, this probably isn't the news you want to hear. The good news, however, is that there are several things you can do right now that will start to improve you credit score. Just keep in mind that there are no magic fixes in the credit world. Credit repair done right takes patience, persistence, and an understanding of how your credit score is calculated. Here are a few ways you can start repairing the damage to your credit score:
You need to show you can handle credit wisely, so having occasional balances on your credit cards can be a good thing. But in general, when you use your credit cards, try to pay them off as soon as you can (you don't have to wait for the statement in the mail but can pay online anytime). In fact, you can make your record look better than it is by making your payments just before your statement is sent, rather than waiting until you receive it. Most credit card companies report your balance at the same time that they mail your bill. If, for example, your statement goes out on the 15th of the month, pay your bill early (let’s say by the 13th) so the money will arrive prior to the statement being sent out. That way your outstanding credit balance reported to the credit bureaus will be lower.
Home Equity Loans and Lines of Credit: Before the 2008 financial crisis, this was one of the most common methods of consolidating credit card debt. The benefit of a home equity loan is the low interest rate and the ability to deduct the interest. However, you put your home at risk and tempt yourself with extending the term. Credit unions offer particularly low interest rates. You can visit your local credit union, or work with a national credit union like PenFed, which offers home equity loan interest rates as low as 3.74%.

Start online credit counseling to see if you qualify for our debt consolidation alternative. During your free counseling session, we’ll help you identify the root cause of your financial problems. We’ll also help you develop a budget that minimizes your monthly expenses. Finally, based on your income, assets and budgets, we’ll recommend a debt relief solution tailored to your personal situation. This solution may be the debt management plan which consolidates your monthly payments. Other solutions include bankruptcy and referrals to other nonprofit organizations who can help you save money and eliminate debt. If you’d prefer to speak with a live counselor, call the number on the right.

Negative records that you cannot successfully dispute will remain on your credit reports for roughly seven to 10 years. The best way to overcome such negatives is to add a pile of new positive information to your credit reports. Doing so dilutes the negative information and shows that you’re really a responsible borrower who just made a few mistakes. We’ll explain how to go about doing that in the steps below.


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The payment amount and duration are not based on what it would take to pay off the full amount of the debt, but are instead based on calculations determined by the income of the filer, their discretionary income, their assets and their debt. Instead of forcing the debtor to tackle the full amount of their current debt at its current interest rates, Chapter 13 gives a debtor the opportunity to pay off a percentage of the debt based on what they can afford to pay over a three- to five-year period.
If you use your credit card at an ATM, it will be treated as a cash advance. Most credit cards charge an upfront cash advance fee, which is typically about 5%. There is usually a much higher “cash advance” interest rate, which is typically above 20%. And there is no grace period, so interest starts to accrue right away. A cash advance is expensive, so beware.
Unlike traditional debt consolidation loans, a nonprofit debt management program can help you lower your interest rates and consolidate your credit card payments, even if you have bad credit. That is because a debt management program isn’t extending new credit or a loan to you. They are simply helping you bundle your payments and make them on-time, and helping you lower your interest rates, despite a poor credit history. Why? Creditors may see you as a bankruptcy risk. By giving helping make your payment more affordable with lower rates, and supporting nonprofit debt consolidation programs, the creditors are attempting to prevent you from defaulting on your debt.
Once you’ve filled out the form and requested reports from all three bureaus, you’ll fill out some security questions and be directed into your report, one agency at a time. If the security questions trip you up, the website will lock you out of your report, but it will offer a phone number that you can call to get your credit report via mail. If you get locked out, request the report via mail.
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