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.
Some folks swear by setting automatic payments using their bank’s online bill-paying system or their creditor’s automatic-payment system. If you prefer more control, at least sign up for automatic payment alerts from your lender, via email or text. Then set up a place in your house where you always pay bills, and get an accordion file that enables you to arrange the statements by due dates. Be sure to time your payment so the check or electronic funds transfer will arrive on time.
Balance transfer rules to follow: Transfer balances soon after opening the card since many offers are only available for a limited time, usually around 60 days. And, make sure you aren’t late on payments since that may result in the cancellation of your 0% intro period. Also, make sure you pay your balance before the intro period ends so your debt isn’t hit with the ongoing APR and you avoid possible deferred interest.
2. First Premier – The bank claims to want to offer people a second chance when it comes to their finances, but its fee structure and fine print prove the exact opposite. First Premier charges you a $95 processing fee just to apply for a credit card. Then it levies a $75 annual fee on the credit cards and most cards only come with a $300 limit. You’re paying $170 for a $300 credit line! The APR is a painful 36%. In year two the annual fee reduces to $45, but then you’re charged a monthly servicing fee of $6.25. And to top it all off, you’ll be charged a 25% fee if your credit limit is increased. Stay away from this card! Use the $170 it would take to open the card and get a secured card instead.

If following the steps above seems daunting, some organizations specialize in paid credit repair services. Most of the services require a monthly subscription fee between $60-$100 per month, and most reviews report that the negative items are completely removed within 3-5 months. Despite the high cost, legitimate companies provide a valuable service if you’ve been the victim of identity theft and you want someone else to do the work for you.
Ultimately, the best way to consolidate credit card debt depends on your financial situation. If you want a quick application process and the potential for no fees, you may choose a balance transfer credit card. Meanwhile, if you don’t have the good or excellent credit needed for a balance transfer credit card, you may look toward loans. If that’s the case, the question becomes whether you’re willing to put your home up for collateral to get a potentially higher loan amount, or withdraw from your 401(k) or simply receive cash from an unsecured option like a personal loan. And, if you struggle with managing payments for various credit card debts, you may lean toward a debt management plan. Whichever option you settle on, make sure you have an actionable plan that allows you to fully repay the loan during the term and maintain a debt-free life.
A third of your overall credit score is based on the credit utilization ratio across all of your cards. Because of the way credit scoring works, it's better to carry a $1,000 balance on a card with a $5,000 limit (20% credit utilization) than to carry a $500 balance on a card with a $1,000 limit (50% credit utilization). That's why, in discussing payment pecking order, we recommended paying off the cards closest to being maxed out. That's also why you shouldn't terminate accounts. It'll increase the percentage of total available credit that you’re using – and that will reduce your score.
Rachel Kampersal said debt management plans require you to change your habits dramatically since you will have to stop using credit. “Per requirements from creditors, any card that is entered into a debt management plan will be closed, meaning you can no longer make charges to these cards. While difficult, it’s important to stop incurring new debt.”
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.
A major driver of increased scores is the decreased proportion of consumers with collection items on their credit report. A credit item that falls into collections will stay on a person’s credit report for seven years. People caught in the latter end of the real estate foreclosure crisis of 2006-2011 may still have a collections item on their report today.

Did you just get a tax refund, a bonus, a raise or an inheritance? Instead of spreading it out and making small extra payments to all of your debts, opt for the snowball method. Consider paying as much as you can towards the debt with the lowest balance so you can reduce or eliminate it entirely (while keeping the account open). This reduces your credit utilization dramatically and can increase your credit score just as dramatically and quickly. Reducing your credit utilization from 50% of your credit limit down to 30% of your credit limit can result in a 50-point score lift, according to the VantageScore report.
If you’ve missed enough payments that an account was sent to collections, it can be a tricky proposition. Leave it alone, and it will continue to appear as a blemish on your credit report for a long time. But pay it off, and it still might hurt your score in the short term. Luckily, there’s another way to deal with collections that will help—not hurt—your score, and that’s paying for deletion. Just like it sounds, you’ll contact the collections agency (which will love to hear from you!) and make a deal; if you send in full payment, the collections company will erase the negative reporting from your credit. They may even take less than 100 cents on the dollar to do so – as many debts settle for far less than what was originally owed. Just make sure get this arrangement in writing and mail a check to them certified mail with “Cash only when you delete the account from my credit report” written right above the endorsement line.
The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA), a federal law that was passed in 1978, provides guidelines on the actions that debt collectors can take when they try to get consumers to make payments on their debts. It prohibits abusive, deceptive or unfair practices and puts limits on when and how third-party debt collectors can contact people who owe money.

If you are unable to get a credit card, consider applying for a secured credit card instead. You need to provide a deposit, and you will be given a credit limit that is tied to your deposit amount. A secured credit card is reported to the credit bureau and can help you build your credit score. You can shop for the best secured cards at sites like MagnifyMoney and NerdWallet.


Throughout much of 2007 Fair Isaac Corp, credit card issuers, and consumer rights groups battled over the proposed elimination of authorized user credit score benefits. In the end Fair Isaac implemented a software update that has effectively blocked benefits of brokered accounts while allowing legitimate family member accounts to continue to reap the awesome score benefits of authorized card memberships. The bottom line is that if you are trying to rebuild your credit and have a sympathetic family member with perfect credit who is willing to add you to one of their good, low balance accounts you can see a dramatic score boost in about sixty days. This can be a great credit repair blessing.

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.

Beyond that is creditor information, which makes up most of your reports. This includes different accounts you have (loans, credit cards, etc.), their status (open/closed, in collections), balances, credit limits and payment details. This may also include dates of missed payments or late payments, or when the accounts were sent to collections. From these details, your credit scores will be formed.
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