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Consolidate Credit Card Payments

Consolidate Credit Card Payments

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Mark Cappel
UpdatedMay 14, 2024
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    4 min read
Key Takeaways:
  • Balance transfer is one way to consolidate credit card payments.
  • A personal loan is another option, but the interest rate may be high.
  • Consider alternatives to a new loan.

3 Ways to Consolidate Credit Card Payments & 2 Alternatives to a Loan

There are three ways to consolidate your credit cards into one monthly payment, which we talk about below. However, before we explain how to consolidate credit card payments, a strong word of caution: You may not want to.

You may not want to consolidate your credit card payments for two reasons. First, with one or more credit cards at a zero balance, you may be tempted to charge! charge! charge! your way back to a high credit balance. A credit card balance consolidation should accompany a change in your behavior. Second, you may pay higher fees and interest if you miss or have a late payment on your big-balance account. At Bills.com, we encourage people to take positive steps with their money, and a credit card consolidation may not be the right choice for everyone.

Let us look at your three debt consolidation options.

Quick Tip

Get a no-cost, no obligation analysis of your debt options from a pre-screened debt consolidation partner.

Balance Transfer

The balance transfer credit card offers are available only on certain credit cards, and only well-qualified, high credit score applicants receive these offers.

On cards offering a 0% rate for balance transfers, the 0% rate is for a limited time. If you do not pay off the debt you transferred onto the new card within the promotional period, the credit card issuer begins charging interest on the remaining balance. Balance transfers are not a feature of all credit cards, and most credit cards do not offer a balance transfer option. If you are trying to consolidate debt by transferring your current credit card balances to one account, you must shop for cards offering that feature and carefully review the terms of each card to determine which offer will save you the most.

Cash-Out Refinance

A cash-out refinance exchanges your existing mortgage loan for another with a larger balance. This is known as a "cash-out" refinance. The advantages of a cash-out refinance are the mortgage loan will almost certainly carry a lower interest rate than credit card debt, and is tax deductible. Paying off the credit card debt will result in a slight boost to your credit score.

There are significant disadvantages to consolidating debt with a cash-out refinance. Shifting unsecured debt to secured debt can create a difficult situation if you cannot afford the new mortgage payment. You could put yourself at risk of foreclosure. Refinancing to a 30-year loan means the total consolidation cost could be very high, too. Of course, you could refinance to a 15-year loan that would have a low interest rate. If you can afford the payment, a 15-year loan would be a less costly choice for a debt consolidation refinance.

Personal Loan

Alternatives to Consolidate Credit Card Payments

Personal loans, also called a signature loan, are a loan based only on your promise to repay the loan. They are risky for lenders due to their lack of security (such as a house or car as collateral) and high default rate. As a result, most lenders charge high interest rates on personal loans, especially those for people with a low credit score.

Using an unsecured personal loan to consolidate debt may cost more than continuing regular payments on your existing credit cards.

Alternatives to Consolidation Loans

Debt settlement is a debt consolidation strategy where you enroll your accounts with a debt settlement company. You stop making payments on the enrolled accounts and instead, make payments into a special bank account. Over time, the debt settlement company negotiates with creditors to reach lump-sum settlements for debts.

The advantages of debt settlement are a relatively short time to debt freedom. Also, the monthly payments can be lower than monthly minimum payments for enrolled credit cards, and are always lower than credit counseling. The disadvantages are calls from creditors to encourage the consumer to resume payments and leave the debt settlement program. Also,typ your credit score is damaged during the program.

Credit counseling is a process where you meet with a counselor to create a household budget. The counselor creates a debt management plan that divides your monthly payment among your creditors. A typical debt management plan last 5 years, and has a high monthly cost. The advantage to credit counseling is creditors do not call you asking for payment. Also, credit counseling has the potential to cause less harm to your credit score. However, this varies.

Summary

A loan may not meet your needs. Consider credit counseling or debt settlement as alternatives to consolidating your credit cards into one monthly payment.

Dealing with debt

Mortgages, credit cards, student loans, personal loans, and auto loans are common types of debts. According to the NY Federal Reserve total household debt as of Q4 2023 was $17.503 trillion. Housing debt totaled $12.612 trillion and non-housing debt was $4.891 trillion.

A significant percentage of people in the US are struggling with monthly payments and about 26% of households in the United States have debt in collections. According to data gathered by Urban.org from a sample of credit reports, the median debt in collections is $1,739. Credit card debt is prevalent and 3% have delinquent or derogatory card debt. The median debt in collections is $422.

The amount of debt and debt in collections vary by state. For example, in District of Columbia, 22% have any kind of debt in collections and the median debt in collections is $1672. Medical debt is common and 6% have that in collections. The median medical debt in collections is $599.

To maintain an excellent credit score it is vital to make timely payments. However, there are many circumstances that lead to late payments or debt in collections. The good news is that there are a lot of ways to deal with debt including debt consolidation and debt relief solutions.

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2 Comments

DDonna, Jan, 2020

Went thru a divorce last year and moved in with my mom trying to get back on my feet. I have approx. $5000 in credit card and medical bill debt. My credit score is low and I'id like to find someone that will pay off my debt  so I can make monthly payments.I'd like to get my credit back in good standing. Is there anyone that can help me?

DDaniel Cohen, Jan, 2020

Donna, if your credit score is poor then a loan that consolidates your debt is not a realistic option. I think that speaking with a Credit Counseling Service is a good first step. Take advantage of their free budgeting review. You may not have enough debt to qualify for a Debt Management Plan, but if you do they will explain how that works. 

For medical debt, which is not accepted by most credit counselors, here are a few quick tips:

1. Review your bills to make sure they are correct. 2. Make sure that your medical insurance provider covered what it should (if you have insurance). 3. Reach out to the provider to see if they have any kind of hardship program. Many will allow payments and not charge interest.