Debt consolidation can help you save money, pay your debt off quicker and simplify your financial life. However, like most financial decisions, it’s important to take it one step at a time.
Here’s a guide to help make it happen:
1. Check your credit report
If you don’t have a current copy of your credit report, go to annualcreditreport.com. You’re eligible to receive a free report from all three nationwide consumer credit reporting companies (Equifax, Experian and TransUnion) every 12 months if requested.1
2. Take inventory of your debt
If you know which debts you want to pay off, add them up. It can help to have an approximate loan amount in mind. If you’re not sure, make a list of the balances and interest rates on all your outstanding debt. This can give you a snapshot of which accounts require the most attention.
3. Research debt consolidation options
There are several ways to consolidate debt, including personal loans, home equity loans and credit card balance transfers.2 Here are some potential pros and cons to help you better understand the differences and see which option might be right for you:
|Debt Consolidation Type||Positives||Negatives|
|Personal loan||Fixed interest rate; fixed monthly payment; potential to earn rewards||Origination fees; potential prepayment penalties; interest rate could be high if your credit score is low|
|Home equity loan||Often has a fixed rate during repayment period; lower interest rates than other types of consumer loans; borrowers can qualify for relatively large loans if they have sufficient equity||Need to own a home; your home is collateral on the loan, so there’s a risk of foreclosure if you default; high closing costs and fees|
|Credit card balance transfer||Low to 0% introductory interest rates; potential to earn cash back, points or miles; could increase overall available credit and lower credit utilization||Introductory rates could end after 6-18 months; balance transfer fees; risk of spending more and adding to debt|
4. Research debt consolidation companies
Being selective can have its benefits. Look for lenders who not only provide the solutions you need, but also have positive customer feedback. For example, check out their online reviews. Next, look up their Better Business Bureau page. You can also ask family and friends if they have a company that they recommend.
5. Get your personal documents ready
Most lenders ask for similar information in their applications. Get the following documents ready to speed up the process: proof of identity, proof of residence, proof of income and Social Security card.
6. Apply for a debt consolidation loan
If you feel good about your preparation, it’s time to apply. Whether you apply in person or online, some companies will be able to give you an answer within minutes. If you get approved, you can move forward with getting your funds. Most lenders provide a paper check, but some offer direct deposit as well. If your application is denied, take a look at why it was turned down. You might learn how to improve your chances of getting a loan approved if you choose to apply again in the future.
7.Pay off your debts
Once your funds are available, contact your creditors and pay off the debts you selected. As you pay off each account, be sure to request an official “Paid in Full” letter from the lender. This letter will certify your zero balance and the date that the outstanding balance was satisfied.
Focus on the future
After a long happy dance, it’s important to focus on your new loan. To truly get out of debt, you’ll need to make your payments in full and on time. If you stick to the plan, you’ll be on your way to another “paid in full” letter.
ADVERTISEMENT: For information on how to consolidate debt with OneMain Financial, visit our debt consolidation loans page.
1. Central Source LLC. “All About Credit Reports. Annualcreditreport.com. https://www.annualcreditreport.com/yourRights.action (accessed January 25, 2018).
2. Debt.org. “Debt Consolidation.” Debt.org. https://www.debt.org/consolidation/ (accessed January 25, 2018).
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of OneMain. The information in this article is provided for education and informational purposes only, without any express or implied warranty of any kind, including warranties of accuracy, completeness or fitness for any particular purpose. The information in this article is not intended to be and does not constitute financial, legal or any other advice. The information in this article is general in nature and is not specific to you the user or anyone else. The author was compensated by OneMain for this post.