Sometimes unexpected circumstances can lead to financial difficulties which in turn would lead you to consider consolidating your debts. Some of these circumstances are loss of job, loss in business, death of an earning member and so on. If you are finding it hard to pay off your credit card loans, then it is wise to consider consolidating your debt. This is much better than bankruptcy. This article will help make you aware of the advantages and disadvantages of of these programs so you can decide whether consolidating your credit card loan is the best option for you or not.
Basics of Debt Consolidation
Debt Consolidation is a big loan that will pay off your credit card loans. There are several ways these programs work. The most popular way is to take one lump sum amount of money from you (the borrower) and distribute it to your credit card companies (the lenders). All your loans will be consolidated into one payment usually withdrawn directly from your bank on a fixed date every month. These programs make the card holders life easier.
As a general rule, if you have many credit cards from different companies with high interest rates, then debt consolidation can help you manage your debt with only one bill and much lower APRs. These companies negotiate a lower interest rate for you and this can save a lot of money in the long run. This will work out in your favor if you have credit cards with APRs of around 30% because these programs can reduce these interest rates to between 12% – 18%. These programs require a monthly administration fees, which is usually around and this will come off your savings. Remember if the admin fee does not come off your savings, then it is not a good idea to sign up for a debt consolidation program.
So it looks like everything about the credit card debt consolidation is positive. Well, it is not always the case. There are a few advantages and also disadvantages of these programs. You have to find a balance between them. The fact is that these programs do help you in paying off your credit card loan. Here are some advantages and disadvantages of these programs.
1. Decreased payment amounts: The monthly payments will be less than what you were paying before debt consolidation because you are paying off the loan over a longer duration.
2. Simpler to manage: After you signup for a program, you will have a relief from reading your credit card statements, deciding how much to pay for each credit card and then making the payments one by one. Usually, the company will withdraw the money directly from the bank and you will not have to be concerned about late payments.
3. Decreased interest rates: This is one of the major advantages for many credit card owners. Some of these companies bring down the interest rates much lower than the current ones. This can save lots of money for you.
4. Debt Management tips: Many of the good companies give lots of free tips on managing your debt. They draw out a plan on debt management. These tips are invaluable. They even mail out booklets on debt management.
1. Lower FICO scores: Many experts debate that debt consolidation does not have any effect on credit (FICO) scores the fact is that this has a negative effect on the credit scores. Enrolling in such programs will always be reflected in your credit history. Most credit repair companies mention that it is difficult to increase your credit score if you are currently working with a debt consolidation program. Your credit scores can be raised after you have paid off the loans and are not currently enrolled in any of these programs. Even if you can remove one credit card from the program that can help you increase your credit scores.
2. Higher Payment: Since your payments are made over a longer duration of time i.e. in more number of the years, then you will end up paying more in the long run. One way to prevent this is – if your financial situation has improved, then you can pay off larger sum of money. Most of times there will be no penalty for paying off the debt sooner than the agreed number of months. Before enrolling in a credit card debt consolidation program, you can confirm if there is a penalty or not for paying off the debt sooner than the agreed number of months.
3. Credit cards inactivation: If a credit card payment is enrolled in such a program, then that particular card account will be inactivated. i.e., that credit card can no longer be used.
4. Negative Impact on Future Loans: Once you have enrolled in a credit card debt consolidation program, this will remain in your credit history. So, all future loan requests new credit card applications, home loan, car (automobile) loans etc. will involve references to your debt consolidation. i.e., the lender will have knowledge about your participation in debt consolidation program. Some people are very uncomfortable about this but it is up to you decide. Your credit history is a private record and will be provided by credit score companies only on a need-to-know basis. If you apply for home loan, then the chances of getting rejected is higher and if you get accepted, then mortgage broker will ask for explanation. Again all these conversations are kept confidential.
So, the question is – when should you consider a credit card debt consolidation? If you are paying high interest rates around 30% on a credit card, you have many credit cards, you are unable to make payments or your are barely able to make just the minimum monthly payments, you are finding it difficult to manage all the payments etc., you must consider signing up for a credit card debt consolidation program. After reading through the advantages and disadvantages mentioned earlier, make decision about signing up or not signing up for such a program.
For a few months or years, if you can handle the disadvantages of these programs, then enroll in a program. Credit card debt consolidation can get you out of your current debt problems and save you a lot of money by lowering your interest rates but if you do not spend judiciously, then you will be back into the same debt problems and this cycle will never end. So the long term solution to debt problems is to change your spending habits and live slightly below your means. Remember you need to manage the money / debt and not let the money / debt manage you.