Are you drowning in debt? You’re not alone. Revolving debt in the United States, including credit card debt, totaled $1.042 trillion as of November 2018. In November 2016, revolving debt was only at $967,551.71. In November 2010, it equaled $850,130.49. Revolving debt in America is just continuing to rise year after year.

Not only that but so are credit card interest rates. The New York Times reported: “Back in 2015, the average credit card interest rate was 15.7%. Today, the average credit card interest rate is 17.6%.”

The Federal Reserve increased its Federal Funds Rate (fed rate) four times in 2018. When the fed rate goes up, credit card interest rates also rise within around 2-3 months later.

As of 2019, two more rate-hikes are expected, so minimum payments and interest rates are only going to continue rising. How many times did your credit card interest rates or monthly payments go up last year?

6 Points to Consider Before Signing Up With a Debt Consolidation Company

  1. INDUSTRY STANDARDS: Debt relief companies can help you escape this high debt nightmare, but only if you choose a reputable debt relief company. Choose an accredited and highly rated debt relief company on TrustedCompanyReviews.com, where we’ve already done the research. Here’s the list of the “Top Ten Debt Relief Companies For 2019”, (see each company’s accreditations, certifications, license information, complaints, time in business and rankings).
  2. CAUTION: Be careful where you apply for debt relief online. Carefully look at the website address before you start entering personal information. Make sure it’s not some copycat website that you landed on. Scammers will buy websites that look like the real company’s site, but if you look close, you’ll see the web address is different. For example, it’s hard to tell the difference in www.bankofamerica.com, and www.bankoamerica.com, right? Notice on the second option the “f” is missing on “of.”
  3. REPUTATION: Before signing up with a debt relief company check its Better Business Bureau (BBB) rating and overall online reviews, minus the reviews on the company’s website of course. At BBB.org you can see how long a company’s been in business, the company’s rating, details of the complaints against the company and whether it’s a BBB accredited debt consolidation company or not accredited. And beware of certain websites that post biased company reviews. What I mean by “biased” is that third-party review sites started charging companies to publish positive reviews. One of these third-party review sites is TrustPilot.com. Any company can go to TrustPilot.com and pay them a fee to post positive reviews for “reputation management”. That fee can be above $500 per month (quite pricey) for certain companies. Even in the review industry, some bad apples exist.
  4. LONGEVITY: Check how long a company’s been in business. The average debt relief program is three years. So, if a company’s only been in business 2-3 years, they don’t have any type of proven track-record. This is your financial future your putting in the hands of this brand new company, do you want to take that risk?
  5. TRANSPARENCY: Understand how debt relief programs work. If someone says “they are consolidating your debt”, make sure that you get a loan. Debt relief and consolidation companies have a code of ethics and morals that they need to abide by. A debt counselor cannot tell you that “you are signing up for debt consolidation” if it’s debt settlement, it’s their duty to be clear, accurate and transparent. If someone is settling your debt, it’s their legal obligation to explain the negative impact that this type of program can have on your credit report. Know what you’re getting into; Know what questions to ask before signing up; Know what the debt specialist should disclose to you. The following blog post will explain certain factors so that you know what to ask.
  6. RECOVERY: It’s no secret that a debt settlement program has an adverse effect on credit scores. Having said that, reputable debt relief companies will help you recover from your bad credit. Once you become debt free, what’s the gameplan to rebuild your credit score? Has this even been addressed during the call? Find another company if the company you’re currently speaking to doesn’t include any type of credit restoration plan.

Understand How Debt Relief Programs Work

Some pros and cons come with every debt relief program. The main downside to a debt relief program is that it can lower your credit score and leave your credit report tattoed with late and collection marks, but that’s not the only downside!

Potential downsides of debt relief programs:

  • you could get sued
  • you could get a hefty tax bill when settling a debt for less than the full balance
  • you could get harassed by creditors
  • your balances can grow before getting resolved
  • you will get charged up-front fees with balance transfer cards

These are just a few examples of the potential downsides that can result from a debt relief program.

The number one rated debt relief company for 2019 is Golden Financial Services. This company offers multiple debt relief programs and does a comprehensive job of educating consumers about the downsides that come with each plan. You can find a detailed analysis that illustrates the pros and cons of each debt relief program here on Golden Financial’s website (all inside an infographic).

Best Debt Relief Programs for 2019

Finding the best debt relief program depends on your specific financial situation, including your credit score, credit report, budget, creditors, payment history and the state you reside.

Consumer credit counseling:

Your credit card interest rates can be reduced with this type of program. Your creditors continue to get paid but at a lesser interest rate. You can become debt free in around 4.5 years with this type of plan. Consumer credit counseling has the least adverse effect on credit scores. Your late payments can even get re-aged to show current on your credit report, improving your credit score. Learn more about consumer credit counseling with a non-profit company.

WITH CONSUMER CREDIT COUNSELING BEWARE OF:

  • You will get a third-party notation on your credit report right next to each account enrolled in the plan. Future lenders often look down upon this mark, as they see it as – you not being able to manage your credit responsibly.
  • You will pay the entire debt back, plus interest, with consumer credit counseling.
  • The plan lasts for almost five years, so make sure your budget can afford it.
  • You will pay around the same amount as when paying minimum payments, not getting much relief on the monthly payment.
  • Consumer credit counseling companies say they are “non-profit,” but they get paid by the credit card companies.

Debt settlement program:

Your unsecured debts can get settled for around 40% of the balance. Once the debt settlement company’s fees get added on top of the settlement, consumers end up paying about 70-75% of their total debt. Your creditors don’t get paid every month with debt settlement, resulting in late and collection marks on credit reports.

WITH DEBT SETTLEMENT BEWARE OF:

  • This is not a loan.
  • Your credit score will go down the drain.
  • Your payment goes into a trust account each month; creditors don’t get paid.
  • Creditors can issue a lawsuit, so make sure the debt settlement company has legal protection available if this occurs.
  • If you receive a 1099 after a debt is settled, bring it to your accountant. A #982 IRS form can be filed to prove insolvency and eliminate the tax debt.

Debt validation program:

debt relief companies reviews

Debt validation is a newer program that has gained massive popularity. Due to creditors being careless with paperwork, illegally attempting to collect on debt and not always abiding by federal laws, a debt can get proven to be legally uncollectible. A legally uncollectible debt is one that does not have to get paid and can’t legally remain on a person’s credit report. Debt validation gives a person the legal right to dispute a debt, potentially not having to pay it.

WITH DEBT VALIDATION BEWARE OF:

  • Creditors won’t get paid anything. The plan relies on a debt getting proven to be invalid, due to missing paperwork, inaccurate accounting, and legal violations. As a result, when successful this can be the least expensive route to resolving a debt collection account.
  • You only pay the debt relief company fees and nothing else. So, make sure the company offers you a money-back guarantee.
  • Like with debt settlement, credit reports will get damaged, and there is a chance you could get sued. The difference with validation is that the debt is getting proven to be invalid where legally it can no longer be reported on credit reports. Ask the debt relief company what the back-up plan is if you get served with a lawsuit or if the debt is proven to be valid.

Debt consolidation: 

You get a loan and use it to pay off existing debt. The purpose of debt consolidation is to simplify the billing paying process by consolidating payments into one. The second benefit of debt consolidation is to reduce the amount that you need to pay on all of your debt, by lowering the existing interest rates. To get a low-interest debt consolidation loan your credit score needs to be above 730. See what Dave Ramsey says about debt consolidation.

WITH DEBT CONSOLIDATION BEWARE OF:

  • Loan companies will often charge high fees. If you are looking for a debt consolidation loan, your best bet is to start with a local credit union. Some financial company loans charge more than 50% interest.
  • Debt consolidation can lead to a person losing their personal property. Often debt consolidation loans are secured with collateral. Using a home equity line of credit to pay off credit card debt can lead to you losing your property (over a credit card debt!).
  • Consolidating debt with a balance transfer card requires you to pay an upfront fee of 3%-5% of the amount of debt you are transferring on to the card. Do the math; is this saving you money?

As total U.S. debt exceeds $1-trillion, and interest rates skyrocket, debt relief companies are opening up all across the nation.

We’ve simplified the research for you. The top ten debt relief companies for 2019 has just been announced.

You can see how long a company’s been in business, their overall rating based on “overall online reviews,” and the facts that you need to know – all in one place!

READ: Top Ten Debt Relief Companies for 2019