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10 Unsecured Credit Cards After Bankruptcy (2020)

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Bankruptcy is a fact of life in today’s economy — but there’s life after bankruptcy — as witnessed by this review of 10 unsecured credit cards after bankruptcy for consumers who lack good credit.

All these cards accept applicants with a low credit rating and do not require you to put down a security deposit to open a credit card account.

All of the cards below are an acceptable choice for folks who once experienced bankruptcy and now seek new credit. All offer modest credit limits but differ in the fees they charge.

Pay close attention to one-time and recurring fees as well as the interest rate and other APRs. Unless you see a unique feature that you need, we recommend you choose the card that costs the least to get and to own.

  • Pre-qualifying today will not affect your credit score
  • Less than perfect credit histories can qualify, even with prior bankruptcy!
  • Mobile friendly online access from anywhere
  • Fraud protection for stolen or lost cards
  • Account history is reported to the three major credit bureaus in the U.S.

N/A

N/A

24.9%

$0 – $99

Fair/Good

The Indigo® Unsecured Mastercard® – Prior Bankruptcy is Okay markets to consumers who want to rebuild their credit, even after a prior bankruptcy. You can prequalify for this card without hurting your credit score.

You must be at least 18 years old, with a physical and U.S. IP address, a valid Social Security number, and no history of owning an Indigo® Unsecured Mastercard that was charged off because of delinquency. You also must meet additional underwriting criteria, including a review of your debt and income.

BAD CREDIT RATING

★★★★★

4.8

  • All credit types welcome to apply!
  • Free access to your Vantage 3.0 score From TransUnion* (When you sign up for e-statements)
  • Monthly reporting to the three major credit bureaus
  • See if you’re Pre-Qualified without impacting your credit score
  • Fast and easy application process; results in seconds
  • Free online account access 24/7

See website for Details

N/A

25.90% – 29.99%

See website for Details

Bad, Poor Credit

The Surge Mastercard® invites consumers with previous credit problems to apply. You can prequalify by submitting information about your checking account, monthly income, and whether you foresee taking cash advances. You’ll also have to supply your Social Security number.

Fees are about average for this type of card and consist of an annual fee and fees for cash advances, foreign transactions, and additional cards. A monthly maintenance fee is waived during the first year. You can get a higher credit limit by paying your bill on time for the first six months. The card provides $0 fraud liability.

BAD CREDIT RATING

★★★★★

4.5

  • Prequalify for a card today and it will not impact your credit score
  • Less than perfect credit is okay
  • Mobile account access at any time
  • Protection from fraud if your card is stolen
  • Account history is reported to the three major credit bureaus in the U.S.

  • *Dependent on credit worthiness

N/A

N/A

24.9%

$35 – $99

Bad, Poor Credit

When you attempt to prequalify for a Milestone® Mastercard® – Less Than Perfect Credit Considered, you’ll actually be considered for several variations of the card that differ in certain fee amounts. With a prior bankruptcy, you’ll probably be considered for the “Gold-X” variety, which packs the highest annual fee.

You’ll also face fees for cash advances, foreign transactions, late payments, over-limit spending, and returned payments. However, there are no application fees nor monthly maintenance charges. You cannot qualify if you’ve ever had a Milestone® Mastercard® charged off due to delinquency.

BAD CREDIT RATING

★★★★★

4.5

  • Checking Account Required
  • Fast and easy application process; response provided in seconds
  • A genuine Visa credit card accepted by merchants nationwide across the USA and online
  • Manageable monthly payments
  • $300 credit limit (subject to available credit)
  • Reports monthly to all three major credit bureaus

N/A

N/A

See Terms

See Terms

Fair, Bad Credit

On the plus side, the Total Visa® Card welcomes folks with bad credit. Moreover, you can choose a card design from a set of six.

However, you’ll have to pay a one-time program fee, a yearly fee, and starting in year two, a monthly servicing fee and a cash advance fee. There are also fees for late or returned payments, the credit limit is low, and the APR is higher than average for this group.

BAD CREDIT RATING

★★★★

4.4

  • Pre-qualify for a card today and it will not impact your credit score
  • Less than perfect credit is okay
  • Mobile account access at any time
  • Fraud protection for stolen or lost cards
  • Account history is reported to the three major credit bureaus in the U.S.

N/A

N/A

24.9%

$0 – $99

Bad, Poor Credit

The Indigo® Mastercard® for Less than Perfect Credit is part of a trio of platinum cards from Celtic Bank. Folks with prior bankruptcies or very poor credit will probably be offered the Plat-18 version, which has the highest yearly fee and charges several penalty fees, foreign transaction fees, and a cash advance fee that is waived for the first year.

The APR is about average for this group and the initial credit limit is low, especially after you net out the annual fee that is assessed before you begin using the card.

BAD CREDIT RATING

★★★★

4.3

  • Checking Account Required
  • Reporting monthly to all three major credit reporting agencies
  • Perfect credit not required for approval; we may approve you when others won’t
  • Easy and secure online application
  • $300 credit limit (subject to available credit)
  • The First Access Visa Card is issued by The Bank of Missouri pursuant to a license from Visa U.S.A. Inc.

N/A

N/A

See Terms

See Terms

Bad Credit

The First Access Visa® Card is available in six designs. The card charges the typical fees for this category, including an initial program fee, penalty fees, and an annual fee. Starting in the second year are fees for credit line increases, cash advances, and monthly servicing.

The APR is on the high side, but the card is easier to get than are some of the other cards in this group.

BAD CREDIT RATING

★★★★

4.3

  • Easy application! Get a credit decision in seconds.
  • Build your credit history – Fingerhut reports to all 3 major credit bureaus
  • Use your line of credit to shop thousands of items from great brands like Samsung, KitchenAid, and DeWalt
  • Not an access card

N/A

N/A

See Issuers Website

$0

Poor Credit

The Fingerhut Credit Account lets you charge purchases when you shop at the Fingerhut online store or at one of its affiliates. This card charges no annual fee and will occasionally offer special repayment terms.

As with most store cards, this one is easy to obtain. If you don’t qualify, you may be offered Fingerhut’s Fresh Start Installment Loan. Once repaid, Fingerhut may then offer you the credit account.

BAD CREDIT RATING

★★★★

4.3

  • Seeing if you Pre-Qualify is fast, easy, and secure
  • Get 1% cash back rewards on eligible purchase, terms apply
  • Rewards post automatically to your account each month
  • Automatic reviews for credit line increase opportunities
  • With $0 Fraud Liability, you won’t be responsible for unauthorized charges
  • Pick a card that fits your style. Multiple card designs are available, a fee may apply

N/A

N/A

17.99% to 23.99% Variable

$0 – $99

Poor

The Credit One Bank® Unsecured Visa® with Cash Back Rewards lets you earn cash back rewards on eligible gas and grocery purchases as well as on internet, phone, satellite TV, and cable services. Better yet, you’ll earn extra rewards when you purchase from a participating merchant.

The APR is relatively low for this group, and the annual fee is modest. Other fees are assessed for cash advances, foreign transactions, returned payments, and late payments.

BAD CREDIT RATING

★★★★

4.3

  • See if you Pre-Qualify in less than 60 seconds—without affecting your credit score. It’s fast, easy, and secure.
  • Get 1% cash back rewards on eligible purchases including gas, groceries, and services such as mobile phone, internet, cable and satellite TV. Terms apply.
  • This is a fully functional, unsecured credit card—not a debit card, prepaid card, or secured credit card with deposit requirements.
  • Credit One Bank evaluates every account for credit line increase opportunities. We’ll let you know as soon as you’re eligible for a higher credit line.
  • Take advantage of free online access to your Experian credit score and credit report summary so you can track the key factors impacting your credit health. Terms apply.
  • Zero Fraud Liability protects you if your card is ever lost or stolen. Rest easy knowing you won’t be held responsible for unauthorized charges.

N/A

N/A

17.99% to 23.99% Variable

$0 – $99

Poor Credit

The Credit One Bank® Visa® with Free Credit Score Access is a good choice if you want to monitor your Experian score. Note that this is a ScoreX score, rather than the industry-standard FICO score. Therefore, you should use the score for your own non-commercial, personal educational review.

You can conveniently manage your card account on your tablet or phone using the Credit One Bank mobile app. You can also customize your transaction notifications and fraud alerts delivered via email or text.

BAD CREDIT RATING

★★★★

4.0

  • Find out if you Pre-Qualify without harming your credit score
  • Eligible purchases earn 1% cash back rewards automatically, terms apply
  • Get a credit line between $300 and $3,000 based on your credit history
  • Accounts are automatically reviewed for credit line increase opportunities
  • Choose your monthly payment due date for added convenience, terms apply
  • With $0 Fraud Liability, you won’t be responsible for unauthorized charges

N/A

N/A

17.99% to 23.99% Variable

$0 – $99

Poor

The Credit One Bank® Unsecured Visa® for Rebuilding Credit welcomes consumers who have had credit trouble in the past. It offers cash back rewards for purchases at grocery stores and gas stations, as well as your phone, cable, internet, and satellite TV providers.

The annual fee varies with your creditworthiness, but the fees for cash advances, foreign transactions, late payments, and return payments are fixed. There is also a card fee if you add an authorized user.

Bankruptcy is a tool to protect your assets against creditors while you and the state court work out new arrangements. Depending on the type of bankruptcy, you may be relieved of your debts, or you may agree to a partial restitution plan.

Here are the answers to some questions regarding credit cards after bankruptcy.

What is an Unsecured Credit Card for After Bankruptcy?

An unsecured credit card, like an unsecured loan or personal loan, is backed by your general assets rather than a cash deposit. If you’ve experienced a bankruptcy in the past, you may find it difficult to obtain an unsecured credit card right away.

The cards in this review have been selected because they may approve your application even after a bankruptcy, but approval is by no means guaranteed.

However, time heals all wounds. While a bankruptcy will linger on your credit report for seven years or longer, its impact on your credit score will begin to diminish after the first couple of years. In other words, it pays to be patient when applying for a credit card after your bankruptcy, during which time you can improve your prospects by paying your bills on time and reducing your credit card debt.

The credit cards in this review share several characteristics. All may approve your request for a post-bankruptcy credit card, but it depends on the specific circumstances. Things these cards have in common include:

  • Relaxed standards: These cards are willing to approve applicants that others reject. They provide a valuable alternative to secured cards for those who have a poor credit history and prior bankruptcies. These issuers give consumers the opportunity to have Mastercard and Visa credit cards without having to put up collateral to secure the credit line.
  • Annual fees: While some of the cards show a range of annual charges as low as $0, consumers who have undergone bankruptcy will probably pay the maximum annual fees charged, which is typically around $99.
  • Plenty of fees: The issuers of these cards charge a myriad of fees. The reason is simple: You are considered a credit risk, and they would like to collect some money from you to reduce the impact of that risk. In addition to annual fees, some cards charge you an initial one-time program fee (typically less than $100). You can expect stiff penalties (typically $40) for misdemeanors such as late payments, returned payments, and spending over the credit limit. The least desirable cards also charge a monthly maintenance fee starting in the second year. All fees are included in each card’s standard credit card disclosure.
  • High APRs: The purchase annual percentage rates on these cards seldom fall below 20% and several exceed 30%. Cash advances, if available, may have a separate, higher interest rate.
  • Few benefits: Only a few of the cards in this review offer cash back rewards. Most of the cards offer paltry benefits, such as the choice of a card design. The better cards offer benefits that may include free credit scores, $0 balance transfers, customizable activity alerts, $0 fraud liability, and letting you choose the monthly payment due date.

All of these cards report your payments to at least one credit bureau — Experian, TransUnion, or Equifax — but most report to all three. This gives you the opportunity to raise your credit score by paying on time and keeping your credit card debt to a minimum.

How Do I Get an Unsecured Card After Bankruptcy?

Most of these cards offer a prequalification step before you formally apply for the card. The good thing is that it won’t hurt your credit score.

In a prequalification process, the credit card company makes a soft pull of your credit information from any of the three credit bureaus. A soft pull is an inquiry about your credit history that will not count against you.

When you apply for a card after passing the prequalification step, the credit card company does a hard pull, which can temporarily reduce your credit score. Too many hard pulls in a short time period can hurt your score further.

Hard Credit Inquiry vs. Soft Credit Inquiry

The prequalification step requires you submit basic information about yourself, your income, your Social Security number, and other data. You must be at least 18 years old and not have certain derogatory marks, such as previously defaulting on the card for which you are applying.

The card application will consist of further questions about your living arrangements, your job, existing unsecured debt, credit utilization, and other nosy items. Typically, the harder step is to prequalify, but not all prequalified applicants are approved.

While the cards in this review will not necessarily reject your application because of an old bankruptcy, they probably will say no if you are currently undergoing bankruptcy proceedings.

Many of the cards also limit how frequently you can apply. For example, some reject multiple applications within a set period, such as six months. Other reasons for rejection include having a delinquent credit account, being underage, and not being a U.S. citizen or resident.

What is the Difference Between an Unsecured and a Secured Credit Card?

A secured loan requires collateral. To obtain a secured credit card, you must make a cash deposit into an account controlled by the card issuer. The deposit covers the secured debt and is usually greater than or equal to a card’s credit limit.

Contrast this to unsecured credit cards, which require no upfront deposit and are considered lower-priority debt.

Secured credit cards can make a lot of sense for folks with poor credit and/or prior bankruptcies. While it’s true that you must secure your credit limit with a cash deposit, the credit limit is for a revolving account.

That means you can, over time, spend much more than the credit limit/security deposit because you have to make repayments to the card each month. In effect, you can use the same security deposit over time to secure purchases far in excess of the credit limit.

Unsecured vs. Secured Credit Cards

A secured credit card differs from its unsecured cousins in other ways as well. You’ll find most secured cards have lower APRs and fees than do similar unsecured cards. In fact, most secured cards charge no annual fee, which is remarkable for cards aimed at consumers with poor or no credit.

Also, some secured cards offer more generous benefits than do equivalent unsecured cards. A good example of a secured card with generous benefits is the Capital One® Secured Mastercard that’s aimed at consumers with bad credit.

Another alternative to an unsecured card is a credit builder loan for bad credit consumers, in which the loan proceeds are locked in an account until repaid. You build your credit rating by repaying on time.

One thing both card types offer is to report your payment activity to one major credit bureau or more. By doing so, the cards give you the opportunity to boost your credit score by making your payments on time.

A secured card may reward consistent on-time payment by eventually refunding your deposit, making the card unsecured. Unsecured cards may reward good financial behavior by offering higher credit limits, although some may charge a fee for doing so.

What Will My Credit Limit Be?

Typically, the credit line on these cards is well below $1,000 and often start at $300 (minus the annual fee). Some of the cards automatically offer you a higher limit after you’ve exhibited creditworthy behavior.

For example, you may have to make your first six payments on time to qualify for a higher limit. Some cards charge a fee for a limit boost, usually equal to a percentage of the increase.

Average Credit Card Limits by Score

Often, the annual fee is subtracted from the initial credit limit. For example, if your annual fee is $75 and your limit is $300, then your initial limit will be $225. Once you pay the fee, your available credit will resume at $300.

If it’s important to you to have a higher credit limit, consider getting a secured card instead. Many secured cards let you choose a higher limit, maybe as high as $2,500, by depositing a larger amount. Whatever your current limit, you will probably be able to raise it as you build credit through creditworthy behavior.

Can I Get an Unsecured Card for After Bankruptcy with No Annual Fee?

Some of the cards in this review offer a range of annual fees that start at $0. However, a past bankruptcy may put a no-annual-fee card out of reach. While it’s not impossible to get a no-annual-fee card despite a prior bankruptcy, unusual conditions would have to prevail.

Naturally, bankruptcies that are old enough to have been removed from your credit reports can no longer hurt your ability as a debtor to get a credit card without an annual fee. It takes seven years for a Chapter 13 bankruptcy to roll off your credit report, but it takes a full 10 years before a Chapter 7 bankruptcy disappears.

Chart Showing Negative Account Credit Report Lifespan

This is due to the differences between the two bankruptcy chapters. Chapter 13 involves a structured repayment plan to pay back some debt to unsecured creditors, and therefore is considered less damaging than Chapter 7 bankruptcy discharge, where your debts are completely forgiven by each creditor.

If your bankruptcy is still on your credit report but is due to come down soon, you may be able to find an unsecured card that will give you a $0 annual fee. For this to happen, you would have had to work hard during the intervening period to improve your credit. In other words, by compiling a history of creditworthy behavior over the last five or more years, you may be deemed eligible for a no-annual-fee card, or at least a low-fee card, despite an old bankruptcy.

Will I Need a Checking or Savings Account to Open a Card?

In most cases, you will need a bank or credit union account to get a credit card. While some cards are marketed to unbanked individuals, you’ll get the most convenience from your credit card if you also have a checking or savings account. The chief benefit of a bank account is the ability to make credit card payments directly through transfers or checks, rather than paying in person at bank branches or other locations.

Bank accounts also come in handy when you need a cash advance from your credit card because you can have the advance deposited directly into your bank account. This avoids having to handle cash or using an ATM.

Fortunately, many banks offer low-cost checking accounts and free savings accounts. Some accounts waive monthly fees if you maintain a minimum balance.

Digital banks and credit unions are especially good venues for low-cost checking accounts. Moreover, a low credit score or a prior bankruptcy won’t interfere with your ability to open a checking or savings account.

Banks vs Credit Unions

It’s often convenient to open a checking or savings account at the bank issuing the credit card you own (or want to own). Banks may offer special deals when they bundle a credit card with a checking or savings account. Using the same bank or credit union for your card and your checking account may make it easier to set up automatic monthly credit card payments from your checking account to handle minimum amounts due.

If you choose to open just a savings account, be aware of certain limitations that may apply to the account, such as a maximum number of withdrawals per month. However, the Federal Reserve recently lifted the cap on withdrawals from savings accounts.

Before choosing a savings account, be sure to compare APRs that can vary widely. Some of the best savings rates are offered by virtual banks, such as Radius Bank, that have no brick-and-mortar branches. Look for a bank advertiser offering the highest national rates.

A good reason to own both a savings and checking account is that you can use the savings account as a backstop against overdrafts in the checking account. Just ask your bank to automatically transfer from savings to checking the funds necessary to cover an overdraft.

This timely payment will save you fees and embarrassment. You may also get an automatic sweep feature on your checking account that moves excess funds to the companion savings account.

Similarly, you can have the bank that issued your credit card and checking account use the account to cover overdrafts on your credit card. These occur when you attempt to spend beyond your card’s credit limit. In an overdraft agreement, money from your bank account will automatically pay down your card balance to avoid the overdraft.

The 10 unsecured credit cards after bankruptcy we reviewed here offer consumers with a sketchy credit history a chance to get a credit card without putting down a security deposit. These cards often have high fees and APRs, but they do give you the opportunity to raise your credit score when you pay your bills on time, helping you on your path to good credit.

Consider these cards as a step in your campaign to recover your credit score after the damage inflicted by a bankruptcy filing.

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CardRates.com is a free online resource that offers valuable content and comparison services to users. To keep this resource 100% free, we receive compensation from many of the offers listed on the site. Along with key review factors, this compensation may impact how and where products appear across the site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). CardRates.com does not include the entire universe of available offers. Editorial opinions expressed on the site are strictly our own and are not provided, endorsed, or approved by advertisers.



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Bad Credit

Call a Reconsideration Line for a Second Chance at a Credit Card

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Illustration for article titled Call a Reconsideration Line for a Second Chance at a Credit Card

Photo: F8 studio (Shutterstock)

Getting rejected for a credit card can feel like a low blow, especially if you’ve fallen on hard times. But you still have a lesser-known, last-ditch option available—the reconsideration line, which allows borrowers to appeal their rejection directly with their lender. Here’s how to use it.

First, understand why you were rejected

Your credit card application can be rejected for a number of reasons, like a bad credit history, low income, outstanding debt payments, having too many credit cards, and employment history. By law, card issuers must give you a reason why your application was rejected, so read your rejection notice carefully and know why you were turned down.

Some of these reasons can be obvious: As an example, you wouldn’t expect to qualify for a premium credit card with a high limit if you have a terrible credit score. However, since the initial application is automated, a lot of borderline cases simply don’t qualify for credit. Fortunately, that’s where reconsideration lines kick in: You can call an actual human on the phone and make your case for approval—if you’re lucky, they’ll overturn the rejection.

Prepare for the call

There are no guarantees, but if you plead your case as a responsible potential customer, the lender might be convinced. Prepare for the call by knowing your outstanding debts, income, and credit score. If you’re rejected because of your credit score, you have the right to request a free copy of the credit report used by the lender within 60 days. Review the report and look for errors (they do happen). If you find any, dispute them and mention this in your call. Otherwise, be polite, as the person on the other end of the line is under no obligation to reverse the lender’s initial decision. Hopefully, after pleading your case, your application might be accepted, after all.

Reconsideration lines for major banks

Below are the phone numbers for dedicated reconsideration lines (if available), although note that they tend to change frequently. If your bank isn’t on the list, call their customer service number and ask if there’s someone you can talk to. Also, make sure you call within 30 days of your rejection, as applications typically expire after 30 days, forcing you to apply again (and incur a hard pull on your credit history, which can lower your credit score).

  • American Express has a reconsideration line that can be reached by calling 1-800-567-1083, Monday to Friday from 8:00 a.m. – midnight ET, and 10:00 a.m. – 6:30 p.m. ET, on Saturday.
  • Bank Of America used to have a dedicated reconsideration line but it looks like calling 1-877-721-9405 during business hours is your best option.
  • Barclay’s reconsideration line is 1-866-408-4064 and can be reached Monday through Friday, 8:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. ET.
  • Capital One doesn’t have a dedicated reconsideration line, but you can try general customer service line, 1-800-951-6951, or application services, at 1-800-625-7866, during normal business hours.
  • Chase has a reconsideration team can be reached by calling 1-888-270-2127 between 7:00 a.m. – 10:00 p.m. ET, Monday through Friday, and 8:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m., ET, on Saturdays.
  • Citibank can be reached by calling 1-800-695-5171, between 8:00 a.m. – midnight ET, every day.
  • Discover doesn’t have a reconsideration line, and they don’t have a reputation for overturning rejecting credit card applications, but you could try their 24-hour customer service line, 1-800-347-2683.
  • US BANK doesn’t seem to have a dedicated reconsideration line anymore, but you can call 1-800-947-1444 (Monday through Friday from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. ET, and Saturday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. ET).
  • Wells Fargo has a reconsideration department that can be reached by calling 1-866-412-5956, between 9:00 a.m. – 9:00 p.m. ET, Monday through Friday, or by calling 1-800-967-9521, between 8:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m. ET, on Saturdays.

This post was originally published in 2013 and has been updated Jan. 20, 2021 to include updated information.

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Debt consolidation programs: How they work

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If you’re trying to pay off debt, you’ve probably looked into the variety of options that could help. If so, you’ve likely come across debt consolidation programs — and may be wondering what they are.

Debt consolidation programs can help borrowers who may be overwhelmed by debt payments by combining multiple loans into a single payment. Typically, these programs are offered by credit counseling organizations. These organizations may offer guidance and financial planning in addition to helping consolidate debt.

A reputable credit counseling organization will likely incorporate guidance to help with managing debts, along with providing educational material, workshops and other ways to help borrowers work to develop a realistic budget.

A legitimate debt consolidation program should feature counselors who are certified and trained in offering advice on consumer finance issues in order to create a personalized plan, whether it’s to address credit card debt, bad credit or other needs.

Consolidating debt typically results in a refinanced loan, with a lower or more manageable interest rate and modified repayment terms. According to the Federal Trade Commission, it is recommended to find a local debt consolidation program offering credit counseling in person.

You may find these accredited, nonprofit programs are offered through channels like credit unions, universities, religious organizations, military bases and U.S. Cooperative Extension Service branches.

(It’s important to note that everyone’s debt payoff needs differ, so your mileage may vary.)

Related: Paying off debt—9 strategies to try

What Is a Debt Consolidation Program?

Debt consolidation programs can play two roles. For one, they help borrowers combine multiple loans into a single payment, which can make repayment less overwhelming. For another, they act as credit counselors.

With tools for loan repayment strategies and debt management, they can help lower or simplify monthly debt payments. These types of programs are usually managed by credit counseling companies.

It’s good to note the difference between debt consolidation programs and an actual loan opened to consolidate debt.

Qualifying consumers can use a debt consolidation loan (typically an unsecured personal loan) to combine multiple debts into a new single loan as well, possibly with a lower interest rate. But there is no counseling offered during the loan application process, and paying down the debt remains entirely the burden of the borrower.

The services outlined above can make a debt consolidation program different from other methods of consolidation or interest reduction, such as a balance transfer for a credit card, or a personal installment loan from a banking institution or lender.

Keep in mind that debt consolidation is also different from debt settlement, which is a process used to settle debts for less than what is owed.

When enrolled in a debt management program, which is one part of a debt consolidation program, a single monthly payment is sent to the credit counseling agency, which then distributes an agreed-upon amount to each credit card or loan company. The goal of the program is to act as an interlocutor for the debt between the borrower and creditor.

While most debt consolidation program companies are nonprofit organizations, nonprofit status does not guarantee services are free, or even affordable.

These organizations can, however, reach out to the lenders on behalf of the borrower to find an affordable repayment plan, which could take shape in the form of waived fees or penalties, lowering interest rates, in exchange for a specific timeline of usually three to five years for the debt to be repaid.

These programs are not loans, which would come from financial institutions. Perhaps most importantly, debt consolidation programs do not make any promises to reduce the amount of debt owed. Those are debt settlement programs, run by outside companies who negotiate payments with creditors, and can be for-profit, predatory or may not act in the best interest of the borrower.

A debt management program, on the other hand, could help set borrowers up for future success, when it comes to how to budget and manage money, educating consumers about cutting expenses or ways to increase income in order to gradually eliminate debt.

Pros and Cons of Debt Consolidation Programs

Debt consolidation is typically most beneficial to those struggling with high monthly debt payments. Paying just the minimum balance on debts every month means it could take a long time to pay off the debt, and interest costs could continue to add to the balance. Getting rid of high-interest debts can help make it easier to pay off the principal amount of the loan.

While having a lot of debt is certainly stressful, it’s worth weighing the pros and cons of any debt consolidation program before signing up. Here are some pros and cons to ponder:

Pros

  • Multiple payments are combined into one payment, likely making it easier to pay on time.
  • Credit counseling could help a borrower get back on track with tools like budgeting and other financial advice.
  •  Some programs can help negotiate lower interest rates, fees, possibly creating a more affordable payback plan.

Note: Because lowering interest rates may extend the number of time borrowers would pay their debt off, they may end up spending more on interest in the long run.

Cons

  • Debt consolidation programs do not reduce the principal amount of debt owed.
  • They can easily be confused for more predatory programs offered by some debt consolidation settlement companies.
  • Some programs might charge fees.

Many of the legitimate counseling companies tend to follow a similar setup process, which typically includes an interview with a counselor to go over things like income, expenses, and current bills and loans. The counselor might suggest areas where spending could be reduced and offer educational materials.

The program may also help set up a budget and will send the proposal out to creditors to agree to any new monthly payments, fees, payment schedules, interest rates or other factors, Reputable programs should only charge for set-up and a monthly fee.

It is generally recommended to take extra care with any for-profit organizations requiring a lot of upfront fees, memberships, or fees for each creditor they work with on negotiation. There is no magic pill to reduce debt, so spending less and budgeting more have been key pillars of a healthy financial foundation.

No company should promise a quick turnaround for becoming debt-free overnight. Historically, credit repair has been a market tainted by fraud, so it’s recommended to tread carefully and do the research before signing on to any program.

Selecting a Debt Consolidation Program

One common and simple way to sign up for this type of debt management program is to contact a reputable nonprofit credit counseling agency. The U.S. Department of Justice offers a list of approved credit counseling agencies by state.

Along with ensuring the agency you’re considering is on this list, you may want to consider doing further research by asking your state attorney general and checking local consumer protection agency websites.

Debt settlement companies often try to sell themselves as the same service, so be wary and check to be sure the organization is offering financial counseling and not making promises to reduce the amount of debt owed.

Based on the interview and assessment of current income and debt, the counselor could either recommend a debt management program, or another solution which could be a personal loan, bankruptcy, or some other form of settlement.

The company should not promise any sort of quick fix or short-term solutions.

The National Foundation for Credit Counseling is responsible for certifying many of these counselors, who must complete a comprehensive training program certifying them to help and educate consumers regarding their finances.

Because most nonprofits are certified, it helps to read consumer reviews of these programs as well, to see how the company operates.

The next step is to check what services are offered and what fees will be charged, such as an initial sign-up fee and recurring monthly fee. Understanding the costs upfront is important, and can help someone avoid a possibly predatory, for-profit business.

Something else you may think to look out for: A settlement company may charge more fees initially on the promise to arrange a reduced lump sum payment of debts.

These companies often instruct  consumers to stop making payments entirely on their debt, which could affect credit rating and even may cause the creditor to send the debt to a collection agency. A legitimate program should offer financial advice and counseling on ways to help reduce debt.

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This article originally appeared on SoFi.com and was syndicated by MediaFeed.org.

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Village of New Paltz might expand eligibility for revolving loan fund | Local News

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NEW PALTZ, N.Y. — The village is considering expanding eligibility for a little-used revolving loan fund to include the needs of businesses being hit hard by the COVID-related economic slowdown.



Village of New Paltz trying to help residents get refunds from waste haulers

Village of New Paltz Mayor Tim Rogers




Mayor Tim Rogers said Tuesday that the $500,000 loan fund could be used to help businesses with more than just the purchase of personal protective equipment allowed under state and federal programs.

“We’re trying to piggyback off of the existing language for the revolving loan fund,” he said. “We just wanted to make it somewhat broad in terms of recognizing COVID impacts.”

One thing the village is considering is eliminating the rule that prohibits the use of the fund for emergency situations or business operations.

“Here we are flipping it and saying that you can,” Rogers said.

Guidelines for the loan program, which was established with funding from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, were last updated in 2013. The loan fund’s current interest rate is 3%.

Rogers said the fund has received only two loan applications over the past six years, and one of those was rejected.

“There’s only been one that we awarded and one that we straight up denied,” he said, noting that the rejection was because of the applicant’s bad credit history.

Rogers said the COVID-19 pandemic has created something of an economic irony in the village: decreased foot traffic in the business district but a significant increase in applications for building permits.

“[Village Safety Inspector] Cory Wirthmann believes our busy Building Department is partially a function of people traveling or vacationing less,” the mayor said. “ Money they would have spent is now going to home improvement wish list projects or just deferred maintenance, like finally choosing to replace the old roof.”

Comments about expanding the revolving loan fund should be emailed to  assistant@villageofnewpaltz.org. A loan application and information about the process can be found online at bit.ly/npaltz-loans.

For local coverage related to the coronavirus, go to bit.ly/DFCOVID19.

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