Seeking debt relief? Here’s how credit counseling can help

Non-profit credit counseling agencies provide free or low-cost financial services to consumers struggling to manage debt or considering bankruptcy. Here’s what a credit counselor can do for you. (iStock)

Unmanageable high-interest debt can take a heavy toll on a consumer’s finances. It may seem that no matter how much you try to repay, the balances continue to grow as interest accumulates over time.

According to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. Becoming in default can cause some consumers to consider bankruptcy — and in the worst-case scenario, debt collectors can sue borrowers for unpaid debts, resulting in wage garnishment.

If you’re having trouble paying off your debts, you might consider seeking help from a nonprofit credit counseling agency. Credit counselors can help you develop a plan to pay off several types of debt, such as credit cards, unpaid medical bills, and payday loans.

Keep reading to learn more about credit counseling, as well as your alternative debt consolidation options. You can compare debt consolidation loan interest rates for free without affecting your credit score on Credible.

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What is credit counseling?

Non-profit credit counseling agencies provide free, low-cost financial services to consumers struggling to manage their debts. Some consumers who file for bankruptcy may be required to seek credit counseling as part of their court filing. A credit counselor can help you by:

  • Provide advice on how to manage your money and debts
  • Analyze your finances and create a monthly budget
  • Get free copies of your credit report and credit scores
  • Sign up for a debt management plan (DMP), which may have a monthly cost
  • Negotiate with your creditors on your behalf to lower interest rates and waive late fees

Consumers should be aware that some for-profit debt management companies may disguise themselves as non-profit organizations. A reputable credit counseling agency should send you free information about the services they offer, depending on Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). If an advisor is unwilling to provide this information, that’s a red flag.

You can find reputable credit counselors through a few professional organizations, such as National Credit Counseling Foundation (NFCC) or the Financial Counseling Association of America (FCAA). You can also view the full list of approved credit counseling agencies at the Department of Justice website.

To learn more about your alternative debt consolidation options, contact a knowledgeable lending expert at Credible.

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3 Alternative Debt Repayment Methods

Credit counseling is a relatively low-risk way to manage multiple debts, but it’s not your only option. Here are some other strategies to quickly pay off your debts.

1. Debt avalanche or debt snowball

The debt avalanche method involves paying off the debts with the highest interest rate first to save the most money over time. On the other hand, the debt snowball method is to pay off smaller balances first to speed up your debt repayment plan.

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2. Credit Card Balance Transfers

It may be possible to transfer the balance of one or more credit cards to a new account at a lower interest rate with a balance transfer card. Credit card issuers typically charge a balance transfer fee of 3-5% of the total amount.

Some consumers may even qualify for a 0% APR introductory offer, which allows you to pay off your credit card debt over up to 18 months without interest. These promotions are generally reserved for borrowers with very good to excellent credit, as defined by the FICO model like 740 or higher.

You can compare balance transfer cards from multiple credit card issuers at once on Credible.

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3. Debt consolidation loans

A debt consolidation loan is a type of personal loan used to pay off unsecured debt at a lower fixed rate. Personal loans are lump-sum loans that you repay in monthly installments over a set period, usually a few years.

According to the Federal Reserve, two-year personal loan interest rates are currently at record highs, which means there’s never been a better opportunity to refinance your debt at a lower rate. Remember that the interest rate you are entitled to depends on your credit score and your debt-to-equity ratio.

Pay off $10,000 in credit card debt

A recent analysis estimates that well-qualified applicants can potentially save up to $174 on their monthly payments by consolidating their credit card debt into a personal loan. Over time, this can translate into thousands of dollars in interest cost savings.

If this strategy interests you, use a personal loan calculator to estimate your monthly payments. You can also visit Credible to compare debt consolidation loan interest rates to determine if this debt repayment strategy is right for your financial situation.

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Do you have a financial question, but you don’t know who to contact? Email the Credible Money Expert at [email protected] and your question might be answered by Credible in our Money Expert column.

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