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What is consolidated credit?

Consolidated credit programs are an assisted form of debt consolidation. You work with a certified nonprofit credit counseling agency to set up a repayment plan that works for your budget. It consolidates your debts into a single monthly payment with reduced or eliminated interest charges. Lower interest charges mean that more of your monthly payment goes towards the balance owed, instead of accrued interest charges. This typically reduces your total credit card payments by up to 30 to 50 percent.

This option tends to work best when you have too much debt to pay off effectively with a do-it-yourself solution. If you can’t pay off debt efficiently with a balance transfer or debt consolidation loan, this provides an effective alternative. You can also use this solution regardless of your credit score. So, even with bad credit you still have a solution that allows you to achieve consolidated debt.

How does a consolidated credit program work to consolidate credit card debt?

  1. First you get a free consultation with a certified nonprofit credit counselor.
  2. They evaluate your debts, credit and budget to see if you’re eligible to enroll.
  3. You and the counselor work together to set up a consolidated debt repayment plan that works for your budget.
  4. Then the counselor calls each of your creditors to negotiate lower interest rates and stop future penalties.
  5. Once your creditors sign off that you can include their debts in your consolidated credit program, the payments start.
  6. You make one payment to the counseling agency to cover all your consolidated debt.
  7. They distribute the payment amongst your creditors as agreed.
  8. You complete the program once all your debt is paid off in-full.

Eligibility requirements for consolidating credit through this program

  • Credit score is not a factor in qualifying for a consolidated credit program. That means you can have a FICO credit score of 500 or even less and still qualify.
  • You must have the means to make the reduced monthly payment. If you can’t afford to make the monthly consolidated debt payment, this solution won’t work for you.
  • You need at least $5,000 in credit card debt. If you don’t have that much debt, there are other solutions that generally work better than this program.

Pros and cons of consolidated credit programs

Benefits of consolidated credit

  • You can consolidate credit card debt regardless of your credit score.
  • People generally complete the program in about 36 to 60 payments, so you can be out of debt in less than five years.
  • On average, consolidated credit programs reduce a borrower’s total payments by up to 30 to 50 percent.
  • Interest rates on consolidated credit accounts typically fall between 0-11% APR, reducing your total cost to get out of debt.
  • When executed correctly, a debt management program generally has a neutral or positive effect on your credit score. You usually don’t have to worry about credit damage and may see your score improve. Credit damage typically only becomes an issue if your plan is not executed correctly.
  • Enrollment is voluntary, so you can drop out at any time. Your original creditors still credit the consolidated debt payments. However, creditors will reset your rates back to the interest rates you had before entering the program; they may also reapply penalties, so dropping out is not recommended
  • In most cases, you can choose to leave a credit card out of the program, if you think you may need one for emergencies.

Concerns with consolidated credit

  • All credit accounts included in the program freeze as soon as you enroll. You can’t make any new charges until you complete the program.
  • You also can’t apply for new credit cards until you complete the program, although you can qualify for loans. That means you can still seek financing for a new home or car if you need it.
  • If the program is not set up correctly, there can be a gap between your last individual payment to the creditor and first program payment. This can cause a late fee and your account to fall behind; it may generate a negative mark on your credit for the missed payment. Make sure to make the monthly payments until your program formally starts to ensure your accounts stay current and you avoid credit damage.