Advertiser Disclosure: Many of the companies featured here provide compensation to us. This is how we maintain our free service for consumers. Compensation, along with hours of in-depth editorial research, determines where & how companies appear below.
As of 2024, the average credit card balance for Americans is just under $5,589. This means that many people are carrying around at least one credit card with them.
Credit cards can be a convenient way to make purchases, but they can also lead to debt problems. Managing your credit card debt and making timely payments is essential to avoid financial difficulties. There are several ways to manage your credit card debt, including the debt snowball method or working with a credit counseling organization. Creating a debt management plan that fits your budget and financial situation is important to get your debt under control.
What is debt management?
Debt management is a method of getting your finances under control by organizing your debts and making a plan to pay them off. The purpose of a debt management plan is to use these strategies to help you lower your current debts and work towards eliminating them.
There are two ways to create a debt management plan – by yourself or through credit counseling. Each option has its advantages and disadvantages. The simplest way is to set up your plan, but sometimes it can be helpful to have someone else providing help or accountability.
How does debt management work?
Debt management plans are designed to help people pay off their unsecured debts, like credit cards and personal loans. There are two main ways that these plans work.
DIY debt management
There are many options available when it comes to managing your debt. One option is to do it yourself, by creating a budget that will allow you to pay off your debts and maintain your financial stability. This can be done using either the debt snowball or avalanche method.
Overspending can be a real problem, but there are ways to overcome it. One approach is to make sure you can afford your monthly debt payments by being more disciplined. This may not be easy, but it can be effective.
Several things can help protect your credit rating, including making monthly payments on time and in full. Another helpful option is to create a plan that outlines milestones and a date by which all debt will be paid off. Having a clear goal to work towards can help keep motivation high during the repayment process.
Debt can be a difficult thing to manage on your own. Often, it can be helpful to seek out the advice of a professional to find the most effective strategies for getting out of debt.
There are many ways to stay on top of your finances and reduce debt. One way is to use budget and repayment calculators to help keep track of your expenses and income. Another way is to negotiate with creditors to try and lower monthly payments or interest rates. Once the debt is under control, decide whether to keep or close accounts.
Debt management with a credit counselor
There are two main types of debt management: credit counseling and debt consolidation. Credit counseling involves working with a credit counselor to budget and manage your finances. Debt consolidation entails taking out a loan to pay off your debts. Both options have their pros and cons, so it’s important to do your research before deciding which one is right for you.
Debt can be overwhelming, but there are options to help you get out of debt and back on track. Credit counselors can assist you in creating repayment plans and, in some cases, may be able to negotiate debt management plans (DMPs) with your creditors. DMPs typically last three to five years and include reduced interest rates, lower monthly payments, or fee waivers to help you become debt-free more quickly. Once each debt is paid off, the creditor may close your account to avoid accumulating any new debt.
Individuals who are seeking assistance from a professional to better manage their finances and improve their credit score.
There are many benefits to enrolling in a debt management program. DMPs can be more cost-efficient than paying creditors directly, and successful negotiations can result in reduced monthly payments and timelines for debt payoff. In addition, collection calls may stop, and the impact on your credit score may be less significant than with other methods of resolving debt.
As part of your debt management plan (DMP), your credit accounts will be frozen and inaccessible. In addition, control over your debts will be transferred to the counseling agency. Each month, a single payment (which may include a monthly fee) will be made to the agency on your behalf and then distributed to your creditors.
Debt relief company
There are several options available to those struggling with unsecured debt. One such option is to hire a debt relief company. These companies specialize in negotiating with creditors and lenders to reach settlement deals for less than the full outstanding balance.
When an individual signs up for this service, they will make monthly payments into an account held by the relief company. In the meantime, the company will often advise its client to halt payments to creditors and lenders to speed up the negotiation process.
Once a settlement has been reached, it will be presented to the client. Should they agree, funds from the account they have been paying into will be used to make the payment, the debt relief company will also collect a settlement fee from this same account.
Debt relief could be a great option for people struggling with unsecured debts who have tried to settle them on their own without much success. It could also be a good choice for those who would prefer not to file for bankruptcy.
Debt settlement may be a good option for reducing your monthly payments and getting out of debt faster. With this method, some or all of your debt may be settled for less than the full amount owed.
Settling your debts could land you in court and damage your credit score, so it’s important to understand the risks involved before making any offers to your creditor or lender. Remember that they are under no obligation to accept your settlement, and you may also owe federal income tax on any amount forgiven that is over $600.
Does debt management affect your credit score?
Debt management can help you get your debt under control, but it can also hurt your credit score. Therefore, you should carefully consider whether or not debt management is right for you.
Debt management may require some tough decisions. For example, getting a lower interest rate could trigger a hard inquiry into your credit report. Hard inquiries stay on your credit report for two years and can impact your credit score for one year.
This might seem like a short-term effect, but it can easily be countered by other factors. For example, lowering your rate could mean that you’re able to pay your monthly bill consistently. This would have a positive effect on your payment history, which makes up 35 percent of how your credit score is calculated.
Making regular, on-time payments is essential to maintaining a good credit score. However, missing even one payment can cause your score to drop significantly. So, even though it may be tempting to withhold payment from your creditor in an attempt to get a better rate, doing so will likely result in a lower credit score.
It’s important to keep your credit utilization low to have a healthy credit score. Credit utilization makes up 30% of your score and is determined by how much debt you have compared to your available credit. The ideal credit utilization is 10-30%. This means that your debt should be no more than 30% of your available credit across all accounts.
Consolidating all your debt into one bill can make paying things off easier. However, closing some of your accounts can affect your credit mix (10% of your score) and credit history (15% of your score). So before you close any accounts, weigh the pros and cons carefully.
Other financing options to handle debt
There are a few different ways that you can handle your debt. You should consider all of your options and choose the one that is best for your current financial situation. Debt management is one option, but there are others worth considering as well.
Balance transfer credit cards
There are many benefits to transferring your credit card balances to a new card with 0% interest. This can help you save money on interest and pay off your debt more quickly. However, it’s important to be aware of the fees associated with this type of transaction before you get started. In most cases, there will be a fee for each balance transfer. Additionally, you may see a hard inquiry on your credit report if you’re not transferring your balances to a pre-approved card.
Credit cards with 0% APR introductory periods can be a great way to save on interest and pay down debt. But these cards are not for everyone – you need to have a good credit score and a solid plan for repaying your debt before the intro period ends. Otherwise, you’ll be stuck with a high-interest rate on any remaining balances.
Debt consolidation loans are a great way to get your debt under control. With a debt consolidation loan, you can receive a lump sum of money to pay off your outstanding debts. This can be a great option because it will offer you a repayment period that typically ranges from two to seven years. Unlike with credit cards, you will have to repay your loan by the end of the specified period.
Your interest rate for a debt consolidation loan will depend on your credit score. Interest rates for debt consolidation loans can range from 5 to 36 percent, so make sure that the rate you receive is lower than the rate you are currently paying on your outstanding debt. Bankrate has a tool that can estimate your interest rate for some of the top debt consolidation loans on the market.
Is debt management right for you?
Debt management can help you to pay off your debts, but it is not a quick fix. Secured debts, such as mortgages, cannot be managed through this process. However, it might be an option to explore if you:
- Have multiple high-interest, unsecured debts like credit cards.
- You’re nearing or at the maximum credit limit for each account.
- Have reliable income to make your payments.
- Don’t anticipate needing to open a new credit account during your DMP.
- You prefer that an agency or company negotiate your DMP rather than DIYing it.
- Have addressed risky financial habits, like overspending.
Debt management can seem like a daunting task, but there are options available to help you get relief from your debt. The debt snowball, debt avalanche, DMPs, and debt settlement are all viable options to help you get out of debt. Do your research and find the option that best suits your needs to get started on the path to financial freedom.
Debt management is not a one-size-fits-all solution. Some strategies may have more long-term adverse effects than others. It is important to weigh each approach’s benefits and drawbacks before deciding. A balance transfer credit card or personal loan may be a more suitable option for some people. Ultimately, the goal is to find a debt management method that works best for your financial situation and helps you meet your debt-payoff goal in record time.