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Is A Debt Management Plan Right For You?

By Charles Hopkins Published 01/2/2008 | Self Improvement
Are you up to your eyeballs in credit card debt? Can't see an end to the harassing phone calls generated by credit card companies reminding you of your late payment?

You have several options.

You can declare bankruptcy (bad idea for only 10,000 worth of credit card debt), get a debt consolidation loan, pick up a second job, or enroll in a debt management program.

A debt management plan allows you to work with a credit counseling company who in essence "consolidates" all of your credit card bills into one low monthly payment. You send them a cashier's check or money order each month.

They in turn distribute the appropriate funds owed to your creditors on your behalf.

They work with the creditors to get your interest rates lower and possibly waive any late and over the limit fees you accumulated over the last several months.

A debt management plan does not erase your debts or eliminate them in anyway. It is money that you spent that must now be repaid.

A debt management plan gives you a reasonable and practical way to pay back what you owe based upon how much income you take home and your basic living expenses.

The credit card companies may report to the three national credit bureaus that you are on a repayment plan. This is because the terms and conditions of your original contract with the credit card company have been changed.

However, if you have already been late on your payments, maxed out your credit cards or have done anything else that could have already damaged your credit, then the effect of enrolling in a debt management plan is probably negligible at best.

The debt management company will ask you to close out all of your credit cards. The purpose of this is so you do not rack up any new debt while paying off your old debt.

You do sign an agreement with the company facilitating your debt management plan. Remember that this arrangement is voluntary on everyone's part, so it is advisable to cooperate with what you are told to do.

There are a few things you must keep in mind if you choose to go this route.

If you call a credit card counseling service, make sure they do not ask you to pay any kind of "pre-consultation" fee up front or have you sign any kind of agreement or contract on the initial contact.

If you are able to pay off all of your debts earlier than the planned pay off date, there should be no pre-payment penalty of any kind.

Check through your local credit union to see if they are partners with a non-profit consumer credit counseling company. If your credit union does have a partnership, chances are you can work with the credit counseling company for free.

If not, be careful of any companies claiming outrageous things in their advertising, especially on the Internet. Check them out. Do they have any negative reports from the Better Business Bureau?

Look up their names with your Secretary of State. Are they real and legitimate companies? Are they licensed to actually do business in your state. Most states have tough guidelines when it comes to credit counseling.

It is important you work with a consumer credit counseling service that actually has your interests placed ahead of theirs. You don't want some counselor disguised as a salesman pushing a multi-thousand dollar debt cure all program on you.