how consolidate credit card debt

Stop stressing about juggling multiple credit card payments you can't afford and a low credit score. Use these tools to consolidate credit card balances and be debt-free.

This is a complicated subject, so I’ve put together a comprehensive list of what you need to know about getting out of credit card debt, and moving on to building financial security and wealth.

Start with a side-by-side comparisons of the best 0% balance transfer cards.

Where to get credit card debt help

Debt consolidation for credit card debt

Credit card debt is unsecured debt. You didn’t have to put down any collateral to borrow the card issuer’s money. That’s why the interest rate is so high: You don’t really have any skin in the game.

Trouble is, a little bit of credit card debt can get out of hand really fast. Say you have a $10,000 balance on a 15% interest credit card, and normally pay $200 a month against it. By the time the debt is finished, you will have paid out a budget-busting $5,132 in interest. That’s more than half of the original balance, which is just insane.

What does ‘consolidate debt’ mean?

Just what it sounds like: Putting all your debts in one place and paying them off, either with a credit card debt consolidation loan or through a 0% balance transfer credit card. Either of these options can save you some serious bucks.

However, most balance transfer deals are good only for 12 to 21 months. If you haven’t paid off the balance by then, you’ll go right back to paying interest – and that interest could be as high as 25% or more, depending on your creditworthiness.

But with a personal loan, you could have as many as five years to pay what you owe. For people who can’t swing total repayment in 12 to 21 months, the five-year plan could be a real lifesaver.

Embarrassed by the idea of asking for a loan at your local bank or credit union? You don’t have to! Online lending makes the process fairly simple – and completely anonymous.

Consolidate debt pros and cons

Pros

The cards that are eating you alive with high interest charges will be replaced by a lower (maybe much lower) interest rate.

That interest rate is set for the entire term of the loan.

You’ll make one payment a month instead of several, so there’s less chance of missing a card payment (and getting hit with a late fee).

Cons

With credit cards, you have the (unhealthy) option of minimum payments during months you’re overextended. With a loan, you have to make the entire payment – no exceptions, no excuses.

The full loan payment is due even if you get sick or lose your job, whereas with a credit card you could temporarily switch to minimum monthly payments.

If you don’t address the issues behind your debt – a shopping addiction, say, or too-high housing costs – you’ll end up in money trouble again once this loan is paid off.

Debt management for credit card debt

A credit card debt consolidation loan or 0% balance transfer aren’t the only ways to pay what you owe. Those who aren’t eligible for a loan or credit card – or who simply don’t want either one – can also opt for debt management, debt settlement or bankruptcy.

Best debt management programs

Whether you use a for-profit debt management company or a nonprofit credit counseling agency, the result is the same: You repay what you owe.

That means a smaller hit to your credit score than either debt settlement or bankruptcy. However, if the credit counselor thinks either of those is warranted, they’ll say so.

If you go with debt management, the counselor will work with your creditors to see if you can get a lower monthly payment and/or lower interest rates. The counselor might even be able to get rid of late fees.

All your credit card balances are pooled into one monthly payment, which the counselor makes for you. You’ll also need to pony up a monthly fee (typically $20 to $30) and probably an initial enrollment fee.

In addition, you must agree to: 

  • Stop using credit during repayment (some card issuers close the account anyway)
  • Not take on any new credit – if you do, the creditors could decide to quit playing nice
  • Never miss a payment – again, the creditors might quit working with you

Nonprofit debt management

A nonprofit debt management company does the same thing that a for-profit one does: negotiate a better deal, work with you to create a repayment plan and handle the money for you.

Look for a company that has accreditation from the National Foundation for Credit Counseling. Most provide help at low or no cost.

Single-mom tips for debt repayment

Debt management pros and cons

Pros

Clear, actionable plan for debt repayment

A single monthly payment, at potentially lower interest rates

Potential end to collection agent phone calls and/or legal action

Counselors help you figure out how to prevent future debt

Cons

Credit use isn’t allowed during repayment 

To deal with unexpected expenses you’ll need to build an emergency fund – which could be tough if you’re already having money issues

Debt settlement for credit card debt

Ideally, you’d be able to pay what you owe. Sometimes it isn’t possible, however, especially if you’re having trouble paying for basic expenses. For some, debt settlement is the way to go.

Debt settlement programs

With debt settlement, the creditor will take a smaller amount than you actually owe them. This can take a long time (up to four years!) and can wind up costing you big money anyway, for two reasons:

  • Fees from debt settlement companies
  • You might owe taxes on some written-off debt

Basically, this is a last resort. Creditors who realize you probably can’t ever pay in full might agree to get something rather than nothing. A debt settlement company will tell you to stop paying altogether, and put that money in the bank. Eventually it will hammer out a deal with your creditors.

Until then, the fact that you’ve quit paying means two more bad things:

  • Late fees and interest will balloon your credit card balances
  • Your credit will be trashed

Any debt the creditors charge off will stay on your credit report for seven years, along with all your non-payment info. Worse, there’s no guarantee your creditors will want to play along; in fact, some creditors outright refuse to work with debt settlement companies.

A debt settlement company can’t ask for money upfront, but once your case is concluded you’ll owe fees. Typically that’s a percentage of the eliminated debt.

Here’s one example:

Jess owes $10,000 total; the debt settlement company gets her creditors to agree to settle for $5,000. Jane now has to come up with five grand in cash plus $1,250 to the debt settlement company – and since the IRS typically considers forgiven debt to be income, she might also owe taxes!

Since her credit is now trashed, Jess probably won’t be able to get a decent deal on a car loan or mortgage for the foreseeable future. Any credit cards she’ll qualify for will likely have low limits and high fees. And since some potential landlords and employers want to have a look at credit reports, Jane will be in the doghouse there, too.

No wonder the National Consumer Law Center noted that debt settlement companies “often do more harm than good and turn out to be a waste of money.”

Debt settlement pros and cons

Pros

The debt is finally cleared

No more calls or letters from creditors

You no longer have to fear lawsuits

Cons

Your credit will be trashed

You might owe taxes on forgiven debt

High fees

No guaranteed results

Bankruptcy for credit card debt

Filing bankruptcy for credit card debt is pretty extreme. But it might be the right thing to do if there’s no way to pay your debt within five years, or if your total debt (not counting mortgage) is more than 40% of your income.

Get expert advice before deciding to file for bankruptcy. You may have options you hadn’t considered. Talk with an NFCC-affiliated counselor and/or a bankruptcy attorney (some will give free consultations).

How bankruptcy works

Consumers have two options:

Chapter 7 bankruptcy

The most common form, Chapter 7 allows for forgiveness of most unsecured obligations, including medical bills, personal loans and credit card debts. (It won’t zero out child support, recent taxes or student loans, however.)

In order to qualify, you have to pass a “means test.” The test judges your income and expenses to see if you truly can’t afford to repay your debt.

Chapter 13 bankruptcy

This one doesn’t forgive your debt, but it does give you up to five years to pay them off. In order to file, you must be current on your taxes and have a regular source of income (it’s sometimes called “the wage earner’s bankruptcy”).

Chapter 13 is designed for people who make too much to qualify for Chapter 7, or who have certain assets they want to keep and/or secured debts (such as a mortgage) that they want to keep paying.

Bankruptcy pros and cons

Pros

Your consumer debt may disappear

If you file Chapter 13 bankruptcy, you can hang on to some of your property

No more collection calls or lawsuits

You’ll be able to save for retirement instead of throwing every dime at an ultimately lost cause

Cons

Major blow to your credit score

It can stay on your credit report for up to 10 years

Psychological impact of being bankrupt — it can feel devastating to have to file for bankruptcy

How to get through divorce without going bankrupt

Credit card debt consolidation options

Want to deal with debt on your own? Here are your credit card debt consolidation possibilities.

Balance transfer credit cards

How does 0% interest sound to you? A balance transfer credit card lets you move your higher-interest debt to a card with no interest during a promotional period.

If you can qualify for a balance transfer credit card, all the interest you would otherwise have been paying can go toward paying off your debt. And you do want to get that balance paid off: Once the promo period ends, your new card’s usual interest rate will kick in. So throw all that “extra” money toward the debt and zero it out as soon as you can.

A balance transfer fee of 3% to 5% is part of the deal; the fee combined with promo period length determines your monthly payment. For example, suppose you have a $5,000 debt and transfer it to a card with a 5% fee and a 21-month promo period. The debt is now $5,250, or $250 per month.

But if you could swing a slightly higher monthly payment, a 3% balance fee for 18 months would result in just a $5,150, or a little over $286 per month – a faster repayment period and a savings of $100 over the previous example.

It’s also vital to pay the bill on time every month, because if you’re late, the card issuer might yank that 0% promotional period. In fact, you might even be hit with a “penalty rate” higher than the card’s usual interest rate.

Oh, and don’t go shopping with the new card, even if the 0% rate applies to new purchases. Charging the card up will make it that much harder to pay the balance down. Card issuers know that some people just can’t resist a sale. Don’t be one of those people. Pay your debt off – don’t add to it.

Credit card debt consolidation loans

Again, you’ve got a couple of ways to do this. Here’s what you need to know to make the decision that’s right for you and your finances.

How to consolidate credit card debt with a balance transfer credit card

Don’t just apply for the first balance transfer credit card offer you see online. Instead, visit a site like Credit-Land.com to look at side-by-side comparisons of the best 0% balance transfer cards out there. You’ll be able to read card reviews written by credit experts, and find the card that’s right for you.

Generally you can’t transfer debt to a card held by the same company. So if your Visa is issued by Big Bank X, you won’t be able to get a 0% balance transfer credit card offer from Big Bank X. But that’s OK – other options exist. Even people with a fair credit score can qualify for some of them.

Once you’ve done a balance transfer it’s crucial that you pay on time every month. If you’re late, the card issuer might yank that 0% promotional period out from under you. You might even get hit with a “penalty rate” higher than the card’s usual interest rate – which means you’d be worse off than when you started!

Note: Applying for a new card could affect your credit score in both positive and negative ways. The “hard pull” needed for a card application might mean a slight hit to the credit score. If you get the card, it will reduce the average age of your credit accounts somewhat, which could also ding your score.

On the other hand, having the additional amount of spending power could lower your credit utilization ratio – and that’s the second-most important factor in determining your credit score. Experts suggest using no more than 30% of available credit, and ideally no more than 10%.

For example, if you currently have $10,000 in debt and $20,000 in available credit, that’s a whopping 50% – but if you get an additional $20,000 worth of credit with your new balance transfer card, your credit utilization ratio drops down to 25%. Still not perfect, but once you zero out that debt you’ll be golden.

Speaking of which: Don’t go shopping with the new card, even if the 0% rate applies to new purchases. Charging it up will make it that much harder to pay the balance down. Card issuers know that some people just can’t resist a sale. Don’t be one of those people. Pay your debt off – don’t add to it.

How to consolidate credit card debt with a credit card debt consolidation loan

As noted above, a high interest rate can turn a relatively small balance into out-of-control debt pretty quickly. Taking out a credit card debt consolidation loan means paying a lot less interest over the long haul. You’ll also have a fixed rate that won’t change, compared to variable credit card rates.

The loan also gives you an end date. Instead of wondering how long it’ll take to be free of your credit card debt, you’ll know for sure: three years, or however long of a loan rate you choose.

This needs to be said: Those with good credit will get the best loan interest rates. But having a less-than-stellar credit score won’t necessarily keep you from getting a loan. Even if you wind up with a higher interest rate and maybe more fees you’ll still probably come out ahead, given that the average credit card interest rate is 15.10%.

Before you apply for a credit card debt consolidation loan, add up what you owe. Some people never do this because they’re scared of what they’ll find out; instead, they just pay as much as they can each month and hope for the best. Don’t do that: Take charge of your finances like the smart, determined woman you are.

Once you’ve got the total, you can apply with one (or more) of the companies below. Only oneof them is actually a lender. The others put your loan request out to banks and other lenders, and then send you the results. Which is great, because you don’t have to go from place to place and talk face to face.

How to consolidate credit card debt with Credible

How does Credible work?

Credible is an online loan marketplace that works with a number of lenders. When you apply, Credible gives you side-by-side loan options, so you can compare the details and decide which one works best for you.

How to apply for a personal loan with Credible

Visit the Credible.com website and select “personal loans.” (Credible also provides mortgage and student loans, and credit cards.) It should take two minutes to fill out the application. 

You’ll need to provide information like name, date of birth, Social Security number, salary and how much you want to borrow. After that, Credible displays up to 11 lenders you’re eligible to borrow from, and what rates those lenders are offering based on your credit history.

Since all the lender names and rates are published in one place, you’ll be able to compare details like monthly payment amounts and payment options. Some lenders even offer a discount if you set up a monthly autopay.

Credible is confident about its lenders – so much so that Credible offers $200 if you find and close a loan with a better rate. (Terms and conditions apply, of course, but they’re serious about this.)

How to qualify for a personal loan through Credible

Since Credible works with multiple lenders, the qualifications vary. A few things that all lenders look for, though, are:

  • Steady income
  • Good credit history
  • U.S. citizenship or permanent residency
  • Valid Social Security number

Credible’s partners generally do most of their loans in the $35,000 to $50,000 range. However, a qualified borrower might could get a personal loan for up to $100,000. 

Once your loan is accepted, you’ll get the funds in your bank account within one week – and sometimes as soon as one day.

Does Credible charge any fees?

Credible doesn’t charge any fees because it doesn’t actually make the loans. All it does is pull together a list of potential lenders. Each has its own rules about origination and application fees.

It’s important to read all the details, since fees also need to be considered along with the interest rates each lender offers.

None of Credible’s lending partners charge a prepayment penalty for paying off your loan early. Learn more about Credible now >>

Pros and cons of Credible

Pros

People with credit scores as low as 580 could be approved

High loan limits (as much as $100,000)

Long loan terms (up to 84 months)

That $200 “better loan” offer

Cons

Those great advertised APRs (as low as 4.99%) are generally for people with great credit scores.

If you have a poor or limited credit history, you might need a co-signer (Credible has a tool that lets you check rates with different potential co-signers, so you can make the best choice)

Apply for Credible now >>

How to consolidate credit card debt with PersonalLoans.com

At the loan marketplace PersonalLoans.com, you fill out one application and wait to hear back from several financial sources: online lenders, banks and peer-to-peer (P2P) lending companies.

How to apply for a personal loan with PersonalLoans.com

Sign on at PersonalLoans.com and tell them what they want to know. This is pretty basic stuff:

  • Employment and income info
  • Home address and e-mail address
  • Date of birth and Social Security number
  • Driver’s license/state ID number
  • Bank account
  • And, of course, the amount you want to borrow

After you’ve completed the (secure) application, lenders who work with PersonalLoans.com will decide whether they’re willing to work with you. Compare details like fees and interest rates (more on this in a minute), and choose the one that best fits your needs.

How to qualify for a personal loan PersonalLoans.com

Each lender that works with PersonalLoans.com has its own rules. Here’s the minimum you need to qualify, though:

  • Age 18 or older with a valid Social Security number
  • U.S. citizenship or permanent residency
  • Checking account
  • A credit score of at least 580

Does PersonalLoans.com charge any fees?

PersonalLoans.com doesn’t charge any fees because it doesn’t make any loans. What it does is find potential lenders.

If you’ve got good credit (a 740 or higher credit score), then you might be able to get a no-fees loan. And if your score is less than 740? Again, it’s vital to look at all aspects of a loan, since origination fees can be as high as 8% and some lenders charge a penalty for being a responsible borrower who wants to pay off her loan early.

Pros and cons of PersonalLoans.com

Pros

PersonalLoans.com applications and user management can all be done online. In other words, you won’t have to go from moneylender to moneylender, filling out forms and talking about your finances face-to-face.

You can borrow for any reason you want, including credit card debt consolidation.

You might be approved instantly, and the money can show up from 1 to 5 days later.

Cons

You won’t know who you’re borrowing from until you fill out an application and hear back from PersonalLoans.com.

There might be minimum income and credit score requirements, which can be hard to meet if you’re already having money trouble.

As the offers come in, you’ll have to pore over a lot of fine print to compare the details of each potential loan. Those fees can be sneaky.

Start consoliding debt with PersonalLoans.com now >>

How to consolidate credit card debt with Prosper

One of the major players in the online loans marketplace, Prosper pioneered the “peer-to-peer lending” (P2P) concept in the United States. Prosper puts your name out there for P2P lenders – everyday people who invest by lending money to others.

You can request anywhere from $2,000 to $40,000, and choose either a three- or five-year repayment schedule.

How to apply for a personal loan with Prosper

Start by visiting Prosper.com and providing some personal information (name, address, date of birth, income, housing costs) plus with the amount of money you want to borrow. You also pick the reason you’re taking out the loan, from categories like “medical expenses,” “business purchase,” “adoption,” “vacation” and, yes, “debt consolidation.”

Immediately you’ll get information on the lowest rates for which you’re eligible. When you pick an offer, the loan goes through underwriting (reviewing and analyzing your info). If approved, your loan will be displayed to P2P lenders. Once funded, the money gets direct-deposited to your bank account.

How to qualify for a personal loan through Prosper

You need a FICO credit score of at least 640 to apply, and to meet these other requirements:

  • Debt-to-income ratio lower than 50%
  • Some source of income
  • At least two years’ worth of credit history
  • Fewer than seven credit pulls within the previous six months
  • No bankruptcy filings within the past 12 months
  • Minimum of three open trades on your credit report

Does Prosper charge any fees?

It doesn’t cost anything to apply. However, if you loan then you’ll be charged an origination fee of 2.4% to 5% of the loan amount – and that money gets paid upfront.

For example, if you’re approved for a $10,000 loan with a 3% origination fee, then you’ll get $9,700 ($10k minus the 3% fee). So you might need to ask for enough to cover the money you need plus the origination fee.

Note: If you want to pay your loan back with paper checks, Prosper will assess a fee for each one – either $5 or 5% of the monthly payment, whichever is less.

Pros and cons of Prosper

Pros

If you’re approved, you can pay off multiple debts and focus on single monthly repayments.

It’s all done online – no need to talk to talk about your debt in person.

Approval is quick, so you’ll know almost immediately whether you’re getting a loan.

Your personal info is secure, due to Prosper’s safeguards. No one – including the lenders! – will know it’s you.

You have the choice of a three- or five-year term – and you can pay it off early.

Cons

You need good credit and income.

Once you’ve chosen a payment schedule, you can’t change it – so you need to plan carefully.

You can’t change your due date, either; however, you can pay it ahead of time.

Finally, you can’t change the loan amount once it’s been approved – even if an emergency pops up. (Life is uncertain.)

How to consolidate credit card debt with Purefy

Student loans can torpedo your budget. It can be hard enough just to pay for household essentials and sock away a little in your emergency fund and retirement plan. Sometimes you just have more month than money, so you have to put the pediatrician’s bill or the grocery order on plastic – and the credit card interest keeps growing.

A great way to stay on budget is to reduce monthly costs – which is where Purefy comes in. The company works with a handful of lenders to offer low-interest refinancing for student loans. This could save you thousands of dollars (or maybe tens of thousands) over the long haul.

If you qualify, you can refinance any combination of federal, private and Parent PLUS loans into one single loan. Then you’ll spend less each month on repayment, which means you can put the “extra” money against your credit card debt.

An example:

If your student loan is at 6.6% interest and you owe $60,000, you will pay more than $22,000 in interest during a 10-year repayment plan.

But if that loan got refinanced to 3.50% with Purefy, you’d pay a little over $11,000 in interest.

That $10,000+ that you didn’t have to pay could go toward other financial goals – like paying off credit card debt.

How to apply for a personal loan with Purefy

Start by pre-qualifying: Give your name, date of birth, address, college degree, monthly income and the amount of money you want to borrow. This prequalification doesn’t affect your credit score.

Purefy uses those details to come up with a range of available loans and interest rates. Qualified borrowers can opt for loans between $5,000 and $300,000, and choose a repayment schedule of 5 to 20 years.

If you select a preliminary option, you’ll be asked a few more questions, such as whether you’ve ever defaulted on a student loan or whether you’ve declared bankruptcy within the past five years.

At that point you can create a Purefy profile and apply for the loan of your choice. Once approved, you’ll receive the funds within 14 business days.

How to qualify for a personal loan through Purefy

To get a personal loan with Purefy, you’ll need to be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident with a strong credit history. You’ll need a qualified co-signer if your income is less than $42,000 a year; you’ll also need a co-signer if your credit score is between 670 and 699.

Does Purefy charge any fees?

Nope! No application or origination fees, and no prepayment penalties.

Pros and cons of Purefy

Pros

One monthly payment instead of several, and lower interest rates

In some cases two lenders (such as a married couple) can combine their loans into one refinanced loan

No fees!

High limits: Depending on your degree, you can borrow as much as $300,000.

Cons

When you use a private lender like Purefy to refinance federal student loans, you lose the options of income-driven repayment, deferment and forbearance.

To qualify on your own, you’ll need great credit; if it isn’t, you’ll need a co-signer.

If you don’t earn at least $42,000 a year, you’ll need a co-signer.

See if you qualify with Purefy now >>

How to consolidate credit card debt with SoFi

SoFi is harder to qualify for – and it says so right up front. According to the website, “We provide personal loans at higher balances and lower rates because we’re confident our members will pay it back.” Because of that, the lender is able to charge lower interest rates.

So yeah, it can be tough to be accepted. But oh, the benefits:

  • Very competitive interest rates
  • A community feeling, complete with special events around the country
  • Job-loss insurance (more on that below)

SoFi also does student loan refinancing. As noted above, consolidating a bunch of loans into one loan with a lower interest rate could save you a ton of money – which means more money to throw at your credit card debt.

Bonus: If you first take out a personal loan with SoFi and then decide to take out another loan of a different type, you’ll get a 0.125% interest rate discount on the new loan.

How to apply for a personal loan with SoFi

Head over to SoFi.com and give the usual info: name, date of birth, degree, and proof of citizenship, permanent residency or certain types of visas. You’ll need to prove your identity (driver’s license or state ID card), and upload current loan info and pay stubs. SoFi will contact you if more info is needed.

Next, decide whether you want 5, 7 or 10 years to pay it back. (Pro tip: Longer terms have higher interest rates.) You also can choose a fixed- or variable rate loan.

Within a couple of weeks you’ll learn whether you were approved, and soon after that your loans will be consolidated and you’ll start getting one monthly bill from SoFi.

How to qualify for a personal loan through SoFi

With SoFi it isn’t only about credit scores and debt-to-income ratios. The lender also looks at career, education and estimated cash flow.

That said, here’s what you’ll probably need in order to qualify:

  • Credit score of at least 680, but more typically 700 or higher
  • Minimum $45,000 annual income (the average income of SoFi borrowers is more than $100,000)

Note: SoFi does not operate in Mississippi.

Does SoFi charge any fees?

No fees at all!

Pros and cons of SoFi

Pros

Very competitive rates, and no fees (even for missed payments or overdrafts)

Discounts to qualifying members, such as $500 discount off your first mortgage

Cash bonuses for referrals

A “community” feeling, with social events, dinners for members, career coaching and an online forum

That job-loss insurance: If through no fault of your own you become unemployed, you can pause your loan for up to three months at a time and 12 months total during the loan term.

Cons

The qualification process is pretty strict

With debt consolidation loans, SoFi doesn’t pay your creditors directly

If you don’t have a good credit score, you’d better look elsewhere

SoFi’s “community” tends to be very young, which can be off-putting to people in their 30s and beyond (but the heck with that – get that great rate if you qualify!).

How do you qualify for a loan with LendingTree?

While LendingTree doesn’t offer debt consolidation loans itself, it does connect users with a wide range of lenders that compete for your business via low-interest rates and beneficial terms.

LendingTree lenders offer easy-to-access personal loans with low rates and equally low ongoing fees.

Terms for their personal loans are also fairly short on average (1-5 years), making it possible for you to pay down consolidated debt quickly.

While loan amounts for various LendingTree debt consolidation products vary, you can typically borrow up to $35,000.

LendingTree also works with lenders who offer loans to people with bad credit, although interest rates may be higher.

LendingTree Summary of Benefits

  • LendingTree makes it easy to compare loan rates and terms across several reputable lenders
  • Receive your funds in less than 24 hours
  • Competitive interest rates
  • Some loans have no fees
  • Easy online application process

How do you qualify for a loan with Lending Club?

If you’re considering options outside of a traditional debt consolidation loan, you may want to consider Lending Club.

This platform offers loans that are crowdsourced by investors – not by traditional banks. As a result, loans are offered to people in nearly any credit score range, and rates may be lower than you can qualify for elsewhere.

Like other lenders on this list, Lending Club makes it easy to apply online.

After submitting some basic information – including the reason for your loan application – you’ll find out whether you qualify and the type of rate you’ll receive.

Keep in mind, however, that many Lending Club loans come up with an upfront processing fee of 1% – 6% of the loan amount.

Lending Club Summary of Benefits

  • Borrow money from investors and not a bank
  • Apply online in minutes
  • Receive a fixed rate loan with a fixed monthly payment and fixed payoff date
  • Borrow up to $40,000
  • Get your money in as little as 7 days
  • No prepayment penalties and no hidden fees

How do you qualify for a loan with National Debt Relief?

National Debt Relief is one of the top-rated debt consolidation companies in the country, and their ratings really speak for themselves.

As of this year, the company had achieved top ratings from TopConsumerReviews, TopTenReviews, Consumers Advocate, and Consumer Affairs.

The company is BBB-accredited, and they promise to help you consolidate your high-interest debts into a new loan via their easy online loan application process.

You can also qualify for a free quote online with no obligation to move forward.

National Debt Relief summary of benefits

  • Get free financial counseling and guidance from debt relief experts
  • Secure a new loan with a lower interest rate
  • Large loan amounts and flexible repayment terms
  • Find a loan that is tailored to your needs
  • Improve your credit score with regular, on-time payments

How do you qualify for a loan with Avant?

Avant is yet another debt consolidation lender that promises to simplify your life and save you money with their dynamic debt consolidation products.

Loans are offered with repayment timelines of 24 to 60 months, but you can customize your loan to secure a payment that fits your budget and lifestyle.

Fixed interest rates are offered to new borrowers, and Avant promises no surprises during the loan application or funding process.

A recent survey of Avant customers also showed that 95 percent were satisfied with their loan product and the customer service they received.

You may be charged an administration fee when your loan is funded, although the amount varies.

Avant summary of benefits

  • Customize your repayment timeline and monthly payment to fit your budget
  • Fixed interest rates
  • Receive your funds as soon as the next business day
  • Pay off high-interest debt with fixed monthly payments

Consolidated Credit Counseling Services

Consolidated Credit Counseling Services was recently rated #2 among debt consolidation companies by Consumer Affairs, and for good reason.

This highly-rated company promises to help you escape overwhelming credit card debt by moving you into a new loan with better terms.

According to the firm, working with one of their accredited credit counselors can help you reduce or eliminate credit card interest charges and lower your monthly payments by 30% – 50%.

To get the process started, Consolidated Credit Counseling Services offers a free consultation and debt repayment plan.

The company also has excellent reviews on Trustpilot, with an average rating of 4.8 out of 5.

Consolidated Credit Counseling Services summary of benefits

  • Lower your monthly payments by 30% – 50%
  • Secure a lower average interest rate on all your debts
  • Avoid bankruptcy and restore your credit score
  • Free consultation and debt quote

Freedom Debt Relief

Freedom Debt Relief is a highly-rated debt consolidation firm with accreditation from the AFCC for highest ethical standards.

The company has also received an average of 4.5 out of 5 stars across its 11,000+ reviews on Consumer Affairs.

Not only will you receive free debt counseling, but you can get help with a debt consolidation plan that could slash your interest rates, lower your monthly payments, and help you get out of debt faster.

Freedom Debt Relief summary of benefits

  • Get a free quote online
  • A+ rating with Better Business Bureau (BBB)
  • Reduce your monthly debt payments and save money on interest

Marcus by Goldman Sachs

Last but not least, Marcus by Goldman Sachs holds a spot on this list thanks to its fixed-rate debt consolidation loans with no fees.

This company lets you borrow up to $40,000 for the purpose of debt consolidation, then repay your loan for anywhere from 36 to 72 months.

Your interest rate will vary depending on your creditworthiness, with the highest loan amounts and lowest rates going to those with good or excellent credit.

Like others on this list, Marcus by Goldman Sachs makes it easy to apply for a debt consolidation loan and get a free quote online.

Marcus by Goldman Sachs Summary of Benefits

  • No signup fees, no prepayment fees, and no late fees
  • Fixed rate debt consolidation loans with repayment terms of up to 72 months
  • Apply online
  • 148 years of experience in the lending industry

What if you don’t qualify for any of those debt consolidation options?

People who have fair credit (a FICO score between 580 and 669) or bad credit (a FICO score of 579 or lower) are in danger of landing in debt because it’s tough to get decent interest rates on products like:

  • Auto loans (especially at “buy here, pay here” dealerships)  
  • Mortgages (and they may have to pony up a higher down payment)
  • Credit cards  

Consolidating your debt could help you kick-start a better future. Unfortunately, fair-to-bad credit could mean you don’t qualify for any of the debt consolidation options noted above.

It’s a real Catch-22, but you could still pull this off – by repairing your credit. The DIY credit repair approach includes:

  • Checking your credit report for errors
  • Adopting good credit habits   
  • Getting a secured credit card  
  • Using a credit-builder loan  

You might have heard or seen ads for credit repair companies. Some of these places are legit. But some super-shady folks are out there, asking for money upfront and making promises they can’t keep. Do your homework.

Consider a debt management plan

Agencies like Cambridge, GreenPath, ACCC, and Money Management International work like this: The agency gathers your debts into one monthly payment, and negotiates with creditors to reduce your interest rate. In exchange, you agree to a payment plan that usually runs three to five years. These typically are only for credit card debt.

Consider debt settlement companies

Freedom Debt Relief bills itself as the largest debt negotiator in the United States, and has both good and bad reviews, though the company does have an A+ Better Business Bureau rating.

The service is meant for people with unsecured debt — credit card charges, personal loans, unsecured student loans and medical bills, and requires a minimum of $7,500 in debt.

Freedom Debt Relief's goal is to talk your creditors into accepting less money than the total amount of debt you owe, in exchange for fees of 18% to 20% of the enrolled debt.

in the short-term, this typically hurts your credit score, but can help you pay off your debt faster, and saves you on interest charges.

Related: Lies that keep single moms broke, overwhelmed and alone

The bottom line

Debt does more than keep you up at night. Every dollar of interest you pay is a dollar that can’t work for you somewhere else: investing, travel, homeownership, helping your kids through college or any of the other things that matter to you.

If you’ve got debt, take control. A personal loan or a 0% balance transfer credit card will save you thousands (or tens of thousands) of dollars, and let you go back to living your best life.

About Donna Freedman

Longtime personal finance journalist Donna Freedman created the Smart Spending blog for MSN Money and has written for dozens of other publications, including The New York Times Review of Books, NerdWallet, Magnify Money, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Vox, Get Rich Slowly, All You, The Simple Dollar, the Chicago Tribune and Wise Bread. Her work has won regional and national awards. She is a member of Mensa, but people are much more impressed by the fact that she was once on the game show "Jeopardy!" Donna lives and writes in Anchorage, Alaska.

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