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Consolidating Your Credit Card Debt
Credit card consolidation is the process of transferring all your credit card debt to one card with a lower interest rate. This process can help save you money on interest and finance charges, and ultimately help you get out of debt sooner.
How’s it Different from a Credit Consolidation Loan?
A credit consolidation loan is a loan you get from a bank or other financial institution. You use this loan to pay off other non-secured consumer loans and credit cards.
These loans can be secured or unsecured. A secured loan will provide you with a lower interest rate because there’s collateral, like a vehicle or house, that the financial institution can take from you if payment isn’t made.
There’s some disagreement among financial advisors as to whether it’s good practice to get a secured loan to pay off credit card debt. If you have the assets to get a secure loan, then that choice is entirely up to you. Banks and financial institutions may be more comfortable giving you a lower interest credit consolidation loan if they feel that their financial behinds are covered in the event that you don’t pay.
Credit consolidation loans are not practical for everyone. They should only be used if you’re having difficulty making your credit card payments through normal budgeting. They’re a great way to reduce your debts, but in order to prevent further debt you’ll need to completely change your spending habits.
Rates for credit consolidation loans vary. They will ultimately cost you less money each month since you’ll be making one payment to one creditor instead of several to numerous creditors. Try to get a fixed interest rate so that your payments don’t change.
Some banks charge a small service fee to set up a consolidation loan. The same is true for any company specializing in such loans. Be wary of a company that makes grandiose promises about permanently reducing your debt. Also be cautious of companies that charge you a consultation fee or large commission to reduce your credit card debt.
A consolidation loan will not usually have a bad affect on your credit rating, but be sure all the loan procedures are explained to you before you get it.
Debt Reduction with Credit Card Consolidation
If you’re not interested in getting a credit consolidation loan, you can reduce your monthly credit card payments by consolidating all your balances to one low-interest card.
Credit card consolidation may also be the your only option to reduce credit card debt if you don’t have the assets to get a secured low-interest loan.
While low interest credit cards or cards with zero-interest introductory periods can help you manage overwhelming credit card debt, they will not provide a magic solution to your debt problems.
Chris Viale, general manager of Cambridge Credit Corporation, a non-profit credit counseling agency in Agawam, Massachusetts warns about the dangers of these low interest or introductory zero-interest credit cards. Viale points out that “you’re getting symptomatic relief, not a credit cure.”
According to Viale’s statistics, 70% of Americans who use credit card consolidation (as a loan or credit card balance transfer) to pay off their credit card debts end up with the same or higher debt loan within two years.
This is not to discourage you from getting a credit card with a great promotional offer. Most people find themselves back in debt because of poor financial planning and unrealistic expectations and not because of the card itself.
When you apply for any new credit card, do so with your eyes open. Companies that offer a zero-interest introductory period are only doing so to entice you to switch to their card. You will be required to pay interest on your balance sooner than you may want to.
These cards can work for you, but to make them work you need to be disciplined. You’ll need to stop charging purchases to your credit card. It’s also a good idea to make double payments to make sure that you’re paying the principle.
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