1. Get Educated
There are various types of credit card consolidation, and the credibility of companies varies drastically. The decision to consolidate your debt will have very significant consequences and all cases affect your credit. Educate yourself and do your homework in advance.
2. Get References
A good company should be able to provide you with the history of the company’s success as well as positive references from satisfied clients. Check
with the Better Business Bureau and the Department of Consumer Protection before choosing any company to handle debt on your behalf.
3. Review The Numbers
Check the plan the company gives you carefully to be sure that all of the numbers add up. Review all monthly payments and any associated fees over
the length of the plan to be certain the totals are correct. Do NOT start a plan that simply does not look right. Do NOT be afraid to ask questions and get answers in advance.
4. Be Sure To Include All Your Accounts
Make sure you know exactly which accounts are not covered. Many credit card companies or collectors will not participate in certain plans. As a result the
creditors of accounts that are not included can send you to collections, or pursue other legal action against you. This often means additional fees, interest and costs of collections that you will have to pay. Be Aware. Consolidation can NOT help with student loans, tax debt, foreclosures, repossessions, or any debt where a lawsuit or arbitration has already begun. Credit consolidators are also often unsuccessful with medical bills, legal bills, and cosigner
5. Consumer Beware!
Stay clear of companies that claim to be able to settle your debt at a later date but require the money immediately. NEVER use these companies. These are often the worst scams in an already dangerous industry. Be aware and very wary of internet companies. Don’t depend on a company you can’t meet in person.
6. Verify Your Budget
All plans depend on having enough surplus income to pay all your regular monthly bills and still leave extra. Be sure that the numbers in your monthly expense budget make sense and take into account one-time or “surprise” expenses. Leave a “cushion” of at least $100 – $200 extra each month – You will need it.
7. Payment Methods
Be careful of direct deductions from your bank account. All direct deductions give 3rd party direct access to your family’s checking account. This direct access by others should be avoided whenever possible.
8. Do Your Own Checking
Finally, check on your own that the arrangements have been agreed to by each individual creditor. Be sure ALL accounts are included. No amount of hard work and payments can protect you from a plan that is flawed at the start. Nothing is sadder than making months or even years of payments and then having a plan fail, often through no fault of your own.