While they are increasingly tough to come by right now, some credit cards have introductory offers of 0% APR on balance transfers for a set time period, usually 12 to 18 months. If you can qualify for these card offers, you can save on interest. For a balance transfer card to make sense, you’ll need to be able to pay off the debt during the 0% period. Just keep in mind the balance transfer fee (3 to 5%) which can eat into your savings. If possible, apply for a card with no balance transfer fee and 0% APR.
Taking out a personal loan with a bank or credit union is another potential option for consolidating debt. A personal loan https://www.badcreditloanshelp.net/payday-loans-nm will have a fixed interest rate, which is an advantage over a credit card with a variable rate. Your credit score, income, and debt will determine what interest rate you can qualify for. So before you apply, shop around to ensure you will actually be saving money by getting a personal loan with a better interest rate – and be aware of up-front origination fees which can be as high as 8% of the loan amount. Finally, if you have federal student loans you’re interested in consolidating, you may not want to use a personal loan since you’d be losing certain protections that private loans don’t offer, such as forbearance options or income-based repayment plans.
Working with a nonprofit credit counseling agency is a great way to get free or low-cost help with your debt. Credit counselors can give you free advice on budgeting or money management and even set you up with a debt-management plan (DMP) for a small fee. A DMP is similar to debt consolidation, but instead of taking out a loan to pay off your debts you make one payment to the counseling agency, and they pay your creditors. Under a DMP, your credit counselor also negotiates with the lenders for reduced interest rates or fees. Just know that if you choose to go with a DMP, there will be fees. Typically a setup fee is around $50 to $75, and monthly administrative fees range from $25 to $50. Also, you are generally required to close your credit card accounts as part of the DMP.
If you don’t have the credit score to qualify for 0% APR balance transfer credit cards or low-interest personal loans, consider credit counseling. You may be able to save without dipping into your retirement funds or putting your house on the line.
Consolidating debt with a secured loan is an option you’ll want to consider carefully, and probably as a last resort. Securing a loan with collateral is less risky for the lender, so you might be able to get a better interest rate. But it comes with a significant downside for you if you default. So you should consider this route only if you have a secure source of income.
The most common type of secured loans are those attached to a retirement account or a home. If your home is worth more than you owe, you could take out a home equity loan, set up a HELOC (home equity line of credit), or do a cash-out mortgage refinance to turn that value into cash to consolidate your debt. When mortgage rates are low, like they are now, this can be an excellent opportunity to save. But don’t miss any payments: If you default on a loan that’s backed by your home the lender could foreclose on your property.