Financial Literacy 2008 - Debt Management
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6-step debt-elimination program

Your chances of successfully negotiating with creditors increase greatly if you have a "deal breaker," such as another creditor willing to take on your debt at better terms.   Watch related video

Scott Bilker wrote a book about negotiating with creditors: "Talk Your Way Out of Credit Card Debt." He claims an 80 percent success rate using the methods outlined in his book.

"Pretty much everything is negotiable. Those banks want to keep us."

The better your credit, the more you'll be able to save; however, no matter how bad your credit has been, you'll often be able to make some improvement.

Bilker's tips
  • Have a deal breaker. Tell the creditor what you'll do if they don't give you the deal. For instance, refer to a low-rate credit offer from another bank that you received in the mail.
  • Be persistent. When you call, they put you on hold. If the first person can't help you, ask to speak to supervisor. Keep calling back until someone helps you.
  • Have confidence. Remember that you're in control. Be prepared and know what you've spent on your account.

You may even negotiate down debt amounts if you demonstrate your dedication to repayment.

If you feel uncomfortable negotiating, let a more confident friend or family member intervene on your behalf. Make sure to get all agreements in writing. You may have even greater success with the help of a credit counseling service.

Sometimes the best way to improve your terms is to take matters into your own hands.

Consumer credit expert Gerri Detweiler suggests a system of continuous balance transfers to get the best rates while hacking away at debt.

"It's not a solution, just a tactic to lower your interest rate," she says. "You still have to focus on getting your balance paid off. But the lower your interest rate, the faster the process will be."

This process works even for those with less-than-stellar credit, just not as well.

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"You may not get the 2.99 percent offers," she says. "But as long as you're reducing it from 25 percent to 15 percent, that's significant progress."

There's normally a fee for balance transfers, usually about 3 percent of the transfer or amount of the check. It's all in the fine print, so make sure you understand the details and factor that in when deciding if it's a good deal for you.

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