Still, even if the math of a debt consolidation loan works out in your favor, your behavior may be the real problem. Paying off all of your credit cards and debts with a loan only shuffles the deck chairs around—you still owe money you have to pay, and if you go charging up those freshly paid-off credit cards again, those deck chairs may as well be on the Titanic.

Start by getting debt help from a credit counselor. The counselor might even help you negotiate your own agreements with creditors. If you develop and follow a get-out-of-debt plan with the help of a counselor (as opposed to consolidating your debt), your credit score will rise over time faster than it will if you declare bankruptcy or ignore your debts, as you make on-time payments and reduce your overall debt load. You’ll also avoid the hit to your score that comes with the new hard inquiry we talked about earlier.
If you need a long time to pay off at a reasonable rate, and have great credit, it’s hard to beat this deal from Unify Financial Credit Union, with an APR of 6.99%-18.00% Variable with no expiration. The rate is variable, but it only varies with the Prime Rate, so it won’t fluctuate much more than say a variable rate mortgage. There is also no balance transfer fee.
You could consolidation the loans with a federal Direct Consolidation Loan. The Department of Education will issue you a new loan and use the money to pay off your existing loans. If you include your defaulted loan, that loan will be paid off, and your new consolidation loan will be current. To be eligible, you must agree to either repay the consolidation loan with an income-driven repayment plan or to make three monthly payments on your defaulted loan before applying for consolidation.

In a competitive market, credit card companies are always trying to lure customers with their frequent flyer miles and cash back offers. Even if you have found a new-and-improved credit line, keep your oldest account active and in good standing. While new credit is important, credit history has a larger impact on your score. Use your old card for occasional purchases to keep things balanced. It could help boost your score with little effort.
If you’re thinking about filing for bankruptcy, be aware that bankruptcy laws require that you get credit counseling from a government-approved organization within six months before you file for bankruptcy relief. You can find a state-by-state list of government-approved organizations at www.usdoj.gov/ust, the website of the U.S. Trustee Program. That’s the organization within the U.S. Department of Justice that supervises bankruptcy cases and trustees. Be wary of credit counseling organizations that say they are government-approved, but don’t appear on the list of approved organizations.

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.
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.
Once you have your credit reports, read through them completely. If you have a long credit history, your credit reports might be several pages long. Try not to get overwhelmed by all the information you're reading. It's a lot to digest, especially if you're checking your credit report for the first time. Take your time and review your credit report over several days if you need to.

I do not agree with the secured card info you've provided.  They are great tools when used correctly.  You can find one with no/small annual fee.  The interest rate won't come into play if you pay your balance in full each month.  Even if you don't pay in full, the interest on a very low balance is a non-factor.  Alomst any credit union will allow you to open an account with as little as $5 and secured card with $300/500.  My card is $500 and I never charge more than $150(30%).  It takes will power to not max it out.  You don;t want to fall back into old habits (if that is what got you into this situation in the first place).
If you’re looking specifically for a nonprofit credit counseling agency to work with, explore NFCC member agencies, all of which are nonprofit. NFCC member agencies are required to meet eligibility criteria that ensure they are accredited by a third party, upfront about included fees and provide consumers with counseling and financial guidance that can help them improve their finances over time.

There’s a way to boost your credit score that doesn’t involve paying down debt or any of the other more traditional score boosting tactics. Since credit scores are determined, in part, on the difference between your credit limit and the amount of credit you use, ask for a higher credit limit. Your chances of increasing it are likely better than you think. Of those who apply for a higher credit limit, 8 out of 10 are approved, according to a recent Bankrate Money Pulse Survey. While it helps to be over 30, odds are good for all adults. To avoid having your credit diminished by asking for a higher limit, ask for the highest credit line increase that won't trigger what's called a hard inquiry. (See also: Credit Score: Hard vs. Soft Inquiry.)
You cannot sign up for new credit cards, nor can you use the ones you have. While it may sound unreasonable to bar you from using credit, the point of your debt management plan is helping you dig your way out. “The last thing you want to be doing is running up more high-interest debt on the side,” said McClary. “You’re not doing yourself any favors in that situation.”
Reputable credit counseling organizations can advise you on managing your money and debts, help you develop a budget, and offer free educational materials and workshops. Their counselors are certified and trained in the areas of consumer credit, money and debt management, and budgeting. Counselors discuss your entire financial situation with you, and can help you develop a personalized plan to solve your money problems. An initial counseling session typically lasts an hour, with an offer of follow-up sessions.

While multiple hard inquiries can increase score drops, particularly for those who are new to credit, credit-scoring agencies recognize the importance of rate shopping. As a result, multiple inquiries for student loans that occur with a 14- to 45-day window (depending on the type of credit score) only count as a single inquiry when your score is being calculated.


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.
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.
The days of “the expert” were gone once and for all. Even critically important practices like lending borrowing and banking were performed “on the fly.” Waiting for anything became unheard of and as a direct result of the “life in a hurry philosophy” quality products and services found their way into that “hand basket” headed for that destination people don’t like to talk about at parties. Credit Repair was no exception – fast credit repair companies raked in huge upfront fees while others sold “fix your own credit” programs to quench that uptick in do-it-yourself clients. Consumer credit files and credit scores fell into that same basket with all of the other “misfit” results. More damage was done by amateur “credit-mechanics” rushing to collect upfront fees from clients who expected their FICO scores to bounce before the next mouse-click than may ever be known.
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