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Debt management. Debt management is a service offered by credit counseling companies. Credit counseling services work with customers and creditors to create a plan for managing debt. With this plan, the agency negotiates to make paying down debt easier for the customer, usually by lowering interest rates or forgiving late fees. The credit counseling service will take payments from you and use your payments to pay off your debt according to the new schedule. For every payment you make, the credit counseling service receives a percentage from the creditor.
All credit scores are based on the contents of your credit reports. Any errors in those reports can cause undeserved credit-score damage. They can also indicate fraud. So check your reports, dispute any errors you find, and take steps to protect yourself from identity theft if necessary. In particular, look for collections accounts, public records, late payments and other bad credit-score influencers.
Home equity loan or home equity line of credit (HELOC): If you own a home and have built up equity, you can borrow against that equity with a home equity loan or HELOC to consolidate debt. These can be easier to get approved for and can come with lower interest rates. But watch out for closing costs and weigh the risks of using your home to guarantee this loan.
If you have multiple credit cards and especially if they’re high-interest cards another option would be to make a balance transfer either to a card with a lower interest rate or, better yet, a 0% interest balance transfer card. If you were able to transfer credit card debts that averaged 15% to a new one at 12% you would have a lower monthly payment and this could make easier for you to reduce your credit card debts. An even better deal would be to transfer those debts to a 0% interest balance transfer card, which would give you a timeout of anywhere from six to 18 months during which you would not be required to pay any interest at all. This means all of your payments would go against reducing your balance and if you were able to heavy up on those payments you could actually be debt-free before your promotional period ended. If this sounds like a good option be sure to read the fine print before you sign up for that new card. It could have a high transfer fee that would wipe out some of the savings you would achieve by transferring your debts.
Beyond that is creditor information, which makes up most of your reports. This includes different accounts you have—loans, credit cards, etc.—and their status (open/closed, in collection), balances, credit limits and payment details. It can also include dates of missed payments or late payments and when the accounts were sent to collections. It’s this information that’s used to determine your credit scores, which are broken down into five major areas:
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After you’ve resolved the negative items on your credit report, work on getting positive information added. Just like late payments severely hurt your credit score, timely payments help your score. If you have some credit cards and loans being reported on time, good. Continue to keep those balances at a reasonable level and make your payments on time.
Credit utilization accounts for about 30% of your credit score. A healthy utilization ratio hovers between 10% and 30% of your total credit limit. Personal loans and home equity loans don’t have much, if any, impact on your utilization ratio. If you use either of those vehicles to consolidate credit card debt and avoid racking up more credit debt, you may initially see your credit score spike after paying off your credit cards.
Debt consolidation is the process of combining several debt accounts into one in order to make monthly payments more manageable. On the other hand, debt management does not involve any formal debt restructuring. Instead, debt management plans aim to reduce monthly payments and/or interest rates for your various accounts where possible. But your accounts will stay separated.
The accents change as calls are coming in from all over the country but the problems are the same: the plates they had kept spinning for so long have smashed on the floor and they need help to sort through the pieces. To better understand the underlying causes of Britain’s debt crisis, the Guardian was allowed to listen to calls but not to report any personal details or experiences.
The helpline is based at StepChange’s headquarters on the edge of Leeds’s sprawling shopping precinct. With rows of spotless desks and headset-wearing advisers bowed over their computers, it looks like a call centre. But there are no sales targets on white boards and a prominent sign dangling from the ceiling reminds staff: “We know debt. We understand the causes, but most importantly we know the way out.”
If you don’t own your home or if you don’t have much equity in it the alternative would be to get personal or unsecured loan. These are called unsecured loans because they don’t require you to use any asset as collateral to secure them. These loans typically have higher interest rates then secured loans and can be more difficult to get if you’re already having a big problem with debt.
Each of the nationwide credit reporting companies — Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion — is required to provide you with a free copy of your credit report once every 12 months, if you ask for it. To order, visit annualcreditreport.com, or call 1-877-322-8228. You may order reports from each of the three credit reporting companies at the same time, or you can stagger your requests throughout the year.
Credit card balance transfer: If you have a smaller credit card balance that you can pay off within up to 21 months, consider a credit card balance transfer. You can open a new credit card that offers an introductory 0% APR. Then, you can transfer other credit card balances to this card and repay them interest-free. Compare balance transfer fees and credit limits on 0% cards before you apply.
A lender’s maximum debt-to-income ratio is the amount of your monthly debt payments divided by your gross monthly income. Lenders use this figure to determine your ability to make loan payments each month. Some debt consolidation lenders allow a debt-to-income ratio as high as 50 percent, meaning your monthly debt obligations should add up to 50 percent or less of your gross monthly income. Others recommend little revolving credit.
U.S. News examined lenders and lending partners that offer personal loans for consolidating existing debt. The research was based on each company’s eligibility requirements, loan terms, fees, repayment methods and additional features. U.S. News limited the analysis to lenders with an online application that offer loans in most of the U.S. so the lenders profiled are accessible to most consumers.