Credit Cards Blog

Finance Blogs » Credit Cards » 4 debt relief options

4 debt relief options

By Lucy Lazarony · Bankrate.com
Wednesday, February 2, 2011
Posted: 11 am ET

Feeling weighted down by credit card debt?  These debt relief options can help.

Transfer card balances. Having trouble making headway with your credit card debt because of high interest rates and hefty monthly finance charges?  Consider transferring your card balances to a new card with a rock-bottom rate for balance transfers.

Balance transfer card offers with zero-percent interest rates for a year or more are available to people with good or excellent credit.

You'll need to use extra care when transferring larger balances, especially if you have less than stellar credit.

If your credit isn't up to snuff, you may not qualify for the zero-percent card deal that you have your eye on.

And even if your credit is good enough to qualify for a credit card with a rock-bottom rate on balance transfers, your new credit line may not be big enough to handle all the debt that you'd like to transfer.

These tips will help to make a larger balance transfer as smooth as possible.

Consolidation loan. Another way to consolidate credit card balances is through a consolidation loan.  But before you apply, you'll want to study the offer carefully.

What company is offering the loan?  Is it a bank or local credit union or one of your credit card issuers?  Or is the loan being offered by a debt management firm or debt relief company that you're unfamiliar with?

It's best to stick to loan offers from lenders that you know and trust.

How good is the interest rate on the loan?  And how much money will you save?

This debt consolidation calculator will help you crunch the numbers.

Keep in mind that only people with good credit are likely to qualify for a consolidation loan with a low interest rate.

If you have banged up credit, you may have a tough time qualifying for a consolidation loan or you may get stuck paying a much higher interest rate.

Debt management plan. Another option for people who are feeling overwhelmed with credit card debt is signing up for a debt management plan with a credit-counseling agency.

A debt management plan is a structured workout proposal that is agreed to by your creditors with the help of a credit counselor.  In a debt management plan, you make a monthly payment to the credit-counseling agency and the agency sends payments to your creditors.

Any accounts included in a debt management plan must be closed. So if you're not ready to let go of your credit cards this option may not be the right one for you.

Signing up for a debt management plan will not hurt your FICO score, the most widely used credit scoring model.

"There is no negative impact simply due to an account being reported as 'paid through a debt management plan' or similar description on an account being paid through a credit-counseling agency," says Barry Paperno, consumer operations manager at FICO.

What will hurt your credit score is if a credit-counseling agency should fail to pay your creditors.

"Any late payments can affect the FICO score with the same impact as late payments made outside of a debt management plan," Paperno says.

So you'll want to choose a credit counselor carefully.  These tips will help you find a credit counseling agency that's right for you.

Debt settlement. One way to alleviate stress over an overwhelming credit card debt is to simply settle the debt by choosing to pay the creditor less than you owe.

Agreeing to a debt settlement may help you financially but your credit score will take a serious hit.

"Any account reported to the credit bureau as 'settled' is considered negatively by the FICO scoring formula," Paperno says. "The scoring impact from a debt settlement can be similar to that of serious delinquent or charged-off credit card debt."

Think debt settlement may be a good option for you despite the damage to your credit score? Follow these tips.

«
»
Bankrate wants to hear from you and encourages comments. We ask that you stay on topic, respect other people's opinions, and avoid profanity, offensive statements, and illegal content. Please keep in mind that we reserve the right to (but are not obligated to) edit or delete your comments. Please avoid posting private or confidential information, and also keep in mind that anything you post may be disclosed, published, transmitted or reused.

By submitting a post, you agree to be bound by Bankrate's terms of use. Please refer to Bankrate's privacy policy for more information regarding Bankrate's privacy practices.
7 Comments