Credit Counseling
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Credit Counseling

Depending on your situation, a Debt Management Program may be your best option. With a Debt Management Program there are many benefits, such as lower interest rates, accounts that are past due could re-age (brought current) and late fees would end. But most importantly, you would pay off these debts in 5 years or less. If going on a Debt Management Program is not an option for you, or not something you are looking to do, then here are some strategies that you may want to consider.

  • Target one debt at a time. Make sure you are paying at least the minimum payments on all your cards but then pay extra to one of your cards. Which one? You can compare interest rates and pay extra on the card with the highest balance OR pay off the lowest balance card. Once you have a card paid off apply the payment (and extra funds) to the next card.

  • Pay More than the minimum. Pay a little extra on every card. Every dollar over the minimum goes towards the balance, not interest. The smaller the balance, the less interest that occurs.

  • Apply any extra funds to your debt. Any extra income you get, put towards your debt.

  • Analyze where you have been spending your money the most and cut back. Then apply the money that you have saved towards your debts.

  • Call Creditors directly to see if they have any internal programs that can help you. If paying extra towards your credit cards is not permitted based on your budget and income and you are not looking to work with a debt management company, call the creditors and see if they can help.

A good place to start is to first review your credit report. One way to do this is to pull a copy of all three of your credit reports on www.AnnualCreditReport.com. This site is free of charge, and you can access a copy of your credit reports from Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax once a year. It’s a good idea to review for any inaccuracies, and to see if there is anything reported that you may be unsure of. The first way to build credit is to obtain credit. A secured credit card is a great tool for people with a limited credit history. Many credit unions offer these cards to applicants with no credit or bad credit. A secured card is backed by a deposit from the applicant, which the credit limit is usually the same amount of the deposit. The minimum deposit varies by bank but is generally at least $300. These cards work similarly to a debit card, but the information is reported each month to the credit bureaus. The best way to utilize these cards is to use them for smaller monthly expenses and pay them off each month when the statement comes. It is important to make your payments on time each month, as payment history accounts for 35% of your credit score. Credit utilization is also a major portion of your credit score. Keeping your balances at 30% or less than your total credit limit helps your score. And avoid applying for unnecessary credit cards since this results in a hard inquiry on your credit and can bring your score down two or more points each time.

A Credit Counseling Session is an overview of your total financial situation.  It can be done on the telephone or in person.  During this session, a certified counselor will review all of you income, expenses and debts.  At the conclusion of this comprehensive session, the credit counselor will make recommendations to help you get back on track financially (one of which may be a debt management program).

The average credit counseling session will last about one hour.  This may vary depending on your specific situation.  Beware of agencies that claim they can help you get rid of your debt in 15 minutes or less.  These types of agencies may be trying to push you into their program without providing the full benefits of a credit counseling session.

On your own it may take ten or more years to pay off average debt amounts when making only minimum payments. RethinkingDebt can devise a debt management plan to significantly reduce or eliminate most unsecured debt within three to five years.

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