Debt consolidation isn’t something that many people know about, but it can be a great way to improve your credit score and help you improve your overall credit profile. Why should you consider debt consolidation? The best reason is to better manage your credit, which can improve your credit score. For example, you may have a number of credit cards that are nearly maxed out. Having to manage multiple credit cards can cause stress and negatively impact your credit score.
How Debt Impacts Your Credit Score
According to FICO, a key element of your credit score is the amount that you owe to creditors. FICO says that 30 percent of your credit score is made up of amounts owed. Credit reporting agencies look at credit utilization as a factor in the amount that you owe. For example, using most of the credit line that you have available can reflect negatively on your credit score. If you have multiple cards that are near their limit, your credit utilization is high, and this can further deflate your credit score.
Ways to Consolidate Debt
You can consolidate debt in a few ways.
- Balance Transfers – One option is to move balances from one or more credit cards to one that offers a zero percent interest rate or a low interest rate on transfers. You can quickly go from having multiple credit cards with high interest rates to a single card with a low interest rate.
- Home Equity Loans – Over time, as you pay your mortgage and as the value of your home increases, you build equity. A home equity loan allows you to borrow against this equity and take out a lump sum that you can use to pay off high-interest credit cards.
- Debt Consolidation Loans – These are loans from banks and specialty lenders and are designed specifically for the purpose of debt consolidation. Interest rates are generally lower than what you pay on credit cards, so your monthly payment may decrease.
The most important thing to remember when using any of these options is that you still owe this money, but you’re consolidating it with a single loan. The idea is to lower your interest rate, reduce your credit utilization, and get out from under the weight of managing multiple lines of credit.
Debt Consolidation, Not Settlement
Be wary of companies that offer “debt settlement” services, which differ from credit repair services. The Consumer Financial Protection warns against paying upfront fees to companies that offer to settle your debts. Debt settlement firms may request that you stop paying your creditors as a way to negotiate with lenders. This can have an immediate and detrimental impact on your credit score. A better option is to use a firm that specializes in credit score repair and works with you to fix your credit score. Ovation Credit Services provides tools to dispute inaccuracies on your credit report as well as education and advice on how to improve your score.
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Maintain Good Credit Habits
A debt consolidation loan means some of those previously maxed out credit cards now have credit available. After working so hard to repair your credit score, the worst thing that you can do is to start relying on these credit cards too heavily. You’ll find yourself back where you started – or perhaps worse off – if you aren’t careful about managing your money. Once again, a good credit repair service will provide education and advice on how to maintain a healthy credit score.
Ultimately, debt consolidation is a good way to remove some of the challenges and stresses of managing multiple lines of credit. It can also lower your monthly payments. Consider debt consolidation as a way to improve your credit score and your overall credit health.