If you’re struggling with debt, you may find that debt consolidation could be your solution. There are a few basic types of debt consolidation, and familiarizing yourself with their primary features will help to choose the best debt consolidation solution for your individual financial situation.
Debt Consolidation Programs
In some circumstances, the best debt consolidation solution is to find a good debt consolidation program. Providers of this service will negotiate with your creditors, typically obtaining a reduction in interest rates, ensuring that more of your money goes toward the principle of the debt, reducing the debt faster. This approach blends negotiation with aggressive financial planning. One of the advantages, in addition to debt reduction, is the development of the financial skills you need to avoid being in this situation again.
There are two general types of debt consolidation programs, those that are run for profit and those that are non-profit. Both charge fees, and both approach the problem in similar ways, though there are slight differences in the closing of open credit accounts. Non-profits often require that all open accounts be closed and for-profits may allow you to keep one or two open. Claiming non-profit status does not guarantee the honesty or quality of a debt consolidation program, you’ll have to assess non-profits in the same way you would for-profits.
A good debt consolidation program will charge reasonable fees, most generally monthly. They will be able to estimate the full payment date of each account. You should beware of companies that make a big deal out of their non-profit status, using it as part of a hard-sell approach. If a debt consolidation program offers to reduce your monthly payments, rather than your interest, or offers debt settlement, be careful. Find out exact details and get a second opinion.
Debt Consolidation Loans
In some circumstances, a debt consolidation loan may be your solution, one that will allow you to reach your goal of financial control sooner. However, you’ll need to be careful, as in many cases, you’ll be betting your house – in the form of collateral for the loan -- on your ability to manage the monthly payments.
Getting a debt consolidation loan and paying off creditors at once, then making the monthly payment to the lender can feel like a fresh start. In choosing your lender, look for reasonable rates and fees, as well as a record of good business practices. An especially important quality is making payments on time. Some disreputable lenders hold back payments for a period of time, adding the bank interest to what they profit in fees and loan interest charged to you.
Debt management plans (DMP) work to reduce your unsecured debt. They can also reduce your interest rates with most types of unsecured loans. To know what plan will work best for you, identify your own needs first. Then look for a company that has answers to your questions, reasonable rates, and a good record.
Identify Your Needs
Before you begin searching for a DMP, identify which accounts you want handled. Interest rates on credit card accounts and bills, such as medical, can be lowered with a DMP, but some types of accounts, like mortgages and student loans, can’t. DMP can still handle payments for these accounts, but they will charge you a fee for the service.
Make a list of the accounts you want handled. Include the lenders’ names and account balances. You can use this information to get quotes from DMP companies. Do not give account numbers or social security numbers until you have researched the company and signed a contract.
Compare Pay Off Dates And Information
As with any service, you want to compare companies before choosing one. To find a reputable plan, ask about pay off dates and the process. Legitimate companies will be able to give you specific closing dates for each account based on the balance and creditor’s name. All DMP receive the same low rate from creditors, so pay off dates should be the same.
Companies that require money upfront or give vague dates should be avoided. Such companies are either more interested in taking your money or are not qualified.
With a list of reputable companies, begin researching rates to find the best deal. Some companies have a small start up fee with monthly charges of no more than 15%. Other companies are subsidized in part, and may have a reduced fee, especially if you have poor credit.
Companies that charge a large, partially refundable initial fee are betting that you will drop out of the program before your accounts are paid. They keep your money without providing service. You should be cautious with such plans.
Check With Others
Another step to checking a DMP company is to look up their record with the Better Business Bureau or your state government. You can find records of past complaints online with these agencies.
Taking the time to investigate DMP companies can save you money and headaches later on.