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I have about $10-11,000 in credit card debt. I am thinking about consolidating, however, after doing some research I’m not sure I want to go that route. I have a good creadit score and I do not want to hurt my credit score by having to close accounts, etc. However, I feel like I can’t make any progress with my credit cards due to interest, and I’m trying to avoid opening anymore credit cards that would have low or no interest. I’ve thought about taking out a bank loan to pay my credit cards off. Does this seem like it would be the best option for me? Do you suggest any other options?
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.

Public Records – Negative information from public records can include bankruptcies, civil judgments or foreclosures. Bankruptcies can be on the report for seven to 10 years, but all other public records must be removed after seven years. If the public record on your report is older than is allowed, dispute the information with the credit bureau and send documentation to prove that the debt is too old and should no longer be on the report.
A higher credit score: If you have maxed out your credit cards, your utilization ratio will be very high. That ratio can have a big, negative impact on your credit score. By paying off credit cards with a loan, you will be reducing the utilization on your cards. According to a study by Lending Club , people who used a loan to pay off credit cards saw an average score increase of 21 points within three months of the loan. The best way to improve your credit score is to eliminate your credit card debt burden completely.
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.
A good idea would be to keep three to four credit card accounts open, but only use one or two of them; put away or cut up the others. Once you have paid off a card, though, keep the account open, even if you don’t want to use it anymore. Closing a card will lower your credit score, even if you always paid on time and never carried an outstanding balance. If a card's high annual fees are making it undesirable, try asking the credit card company for a downgrade to one of their free or lower-fee cards. This allows you to maintain a longer history with the company, which is important for a healthy credit score. The company will report to the credit bureau that you have a good record with them, which will increase your credit rating.
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 the amount of debt you’re trying to pay off is relatively small and you have a great credit score, a balance transfer credit card might be a better choice. Many balance transfer credit cards offer a 0% APR for an introductory period of time, which could allow you to pay off your debt without accruing any additional interest. This can help you save a great deal of money, but there are a few things you should know first.
Your bill-paying habits can help or hinder your ability to get a good interest rate. It’s not uncommon for lenders to review your track record of paying noncredit accounts, such as rent, utilities and phone bill. Lenders, credit bureaus and credit scoring firms generally believe that the past is the greatest indicator of future behavior, so this data can provide telling insights.
Are you the type of credit-holder who likes to open multiple credit lines at the same time, like store credit cards during the holiday season? This type of financial behavior will impact the fourth factor used to calculate your credit score: new credit lines. With this category, it’s not so much about opening many new credit lines, it’s about how many new credit lines you are opening. In other words, you do NOT want to open 3 to 4 new credit cards at the same time – this will be counter productive to your credit score.
The Citi® Diamond Preferred® Card – 21 Month Balance Transfer Offer has the longest intro period on our list at intro 0%* for 21 months on Balance Transfers* made within 4 months from account opening. There is also an intro 0%* for 12 months on Purchases*. After the intro periods end, a 14.99% - 24.99%* (Variable) APR applies. The balance transfer fee is typical at 5% of each balance transfer; $5 minimum. This provides plenty of time for you to pay off your debt. There are several other perks that make this card great: no annual fee, Citi® Private Pass®, and Citi® Concierge.

How it works: You can add your teen as an authorized user to your account by logging in to your online account or calling the number on the back of your card. The information required typically includes their name, birthday and SSN. After adding your teen as an authorized user, they will receive their own card that is linked to your account. They can use their card to make purchases just like you would.
Collections – If there are collections on your credit report, check to be sure there are not multiple reports of the same unpaid bills. Collection accounts are bought and sold, so the same information could be reported by more than one agency, which would make your credit history look worse than it is. Send documentation to prove the debt is listed more than once.
Cons: You lower your retirement savings, and you may have to pay income taxes and an early withdrawal penalty if you’re younger than 59 ½. Also, you can usually only borrow up to 50 percent of your account balance (up to $50,000), and you must pay back the money within five years unless you’re using it to buy a home that will be your principal residence.
If you have a rewards card, you may be tempted to spend more money than you have just to earn rewards. As a result, you may need to rethink why you’re using your credit card. You may come to the conclusion that a rewards card isn’t the best option for you. That doesn’t mean you can’t still use credit cards — there are plenty of credit cards you can choose that are basic and don’t have rewards.
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.
Each time you apply for credit is listed on your credit report as a “hard inquiry” and if you have too many within two years, your credit score will suffer. In general, a consumer with good credit can apply for credit a few times each year before it begins to affect their credit score. If you’re already starting with below-average credit, however, these inquiries may have more of an impact on your score and delay your ultimate goal of watching your credit score climb.
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