People looking to learn how to consolidate credit cards immediately go to Google and search “how to consolidate my credit cards?”
It’s a reasonable thing to do, but there are some important things to consider when doing this.
Avoid consolidation ads and sales content.
The first thing you will find in Google is advertisements by those who sell the service of debt consolidation. It’s like a net being thrown. Whether you get caught in the net is based on whether you click through those ads.
Ads aren’t necessarily bad, though. Google does a good job of linking people selling things with people buying things. But for sure… you’re going to hire a particular product that may not solve your particular problem.
Avoid general advice on consolidation.
In that same Google search, you will see content below the ads. These authoritative websites write content about consolidating credit card debt. They likely are not offering a service to help you. They are simply writing about it.
This article falls between those two:
- We are not selling anything and we’re not writing about debt consolidation.
- Instead, we’re going to try to provide the best tips, tricks, and options possible for your consolidation efforts.
- We go beyond the question of “how to consolidate credit cards” to “how to pay off credit cards.”
Why is debt consolidation required?
It always starts with a need or desire for a credit card or some other form of debt. If someone falls behind on the credit card payments, that debt can quickly spiral out of control.
Whether an individual was irresponsible, fell on hard times, or was taken advantage of by predatory lending practices, the need to consolidate debt remains.
So, let’s focus on solving the problem.
How to consolidate credit cards:
1. Fix the problem:
Every article I’ve seen on the topic jumps right and offers “solutions.”
There may be a larger issue, here. If you need to consolidate your credit card debt, this means something went wrong.
Everyone is different. Every situation is different. However, everyone should sincerely evaluate how the credit card debt grew to such an extent that consolidation became necessary.
- Lost a job? Focus on getting a new one.
- Unexpected emergency expense? Consider prioritizing repayment.
- Introductory credit card rate expired? Move that debt as soon as possible.
- Missed a payment causing your rate to spike? Same as above.
In other words, don’t just consider how to consolidate credit card debt. You should also consider the root cause. Consider what you can do to either solve it or prevent it from happening in the future.
That’s more important than the consolidation, itself.
2. Leverage credit cards:
The first and most obvious way to consolidate debt is, ironically, to get more debt.
You can apply for a new credit card and transfer your balance from one card to the other. Why is this beneficial? You can:
- Apply for cards with a 0% introductory rate (especially with long terms like 12 or 18 months 0%).
- Apply for cards with 0% balance transfer fees.
3. Consolidation loan:
Just like transferring your balance to a new credit card, you can transfer your balance to a fixed loan.
Fixed means it’s amortized over a finite period of time. Usually credit cards provide a shorter period of time, resulting in higher monthly payments. This means more of that payment goes to the balance rather than interest and fees.
NOTE: For numbers 2 and 3 above:
- Each requires good credit. Consider credit repair or tradelines prior to applying for consolidation credit cards or loans.
- Apply for a lot of options at one time, preferably on the same day to avoid “excessive search for credit” impacts on your credit score.
4. Home Equity
Home equity lines of credit (HELOC) are very powerful tools. In this market, rates are extremely low. If you’re trying to find out how to consolidate credit cards, consider a HELOC.
You can pay off the credit card with the HELOC with much more favorable terms.
5. P2P lending.
Person to person (or “P2P”) lending sites have popped up. This is a new option that has not had time to mature. It is not necessarily recommended, but it is an option.
You could pay of your credit card debt with a loan from a P2P broker.
Better in some ways, worse in others: GoFundMe is a site that allows you to raise money by asking others to support a goal.
In terms of how to consolidate credit cards:
- The benefit of GoFundMe is that the money is a donation and you do not have to repay it.
- The drawback of GoFundMe is that you’re basically telling the world (your family and friends) about your financial situation. This can be embarrassing for some.
7. Benevolence Request from a church.
Church attendance in the United States is on the decline. There is a chance you’ve never heard of a benevolence request.
Some churches allow their members (or others) to ask the church for relief. This is usually for food or shelter or other lack of money.
You may present your benevolence request to your church and see if they would be willing to help you pay down your or pay off your credit card debt.
8. Hire a debt settlement company.
We tend to get stubborn and determined which might distract us from better options in certain circumstances. We focus so hard on “how to consolidate credit card debt” that we overlooking other options.
If worse comes to worst, you may want to consider options other than debt consolidation and paying down the debt. You may want to consider debt settlement.
Hiring a sufficiently skilled debt settlement company can help you negotiation and ultimately settle your credit card debt for less than you owe.
If all else fails and you have a tremendous amount of debt, bankruptcy may be an option.
- The benefit of bankruptcy is that your debt is discharged and forever forgiving. Meaning, you no longer owe the debt.
- The drawback of bankruptcy is that your credit will be damaged for a few years.
People believe bankruptcy is the end of the world. That isn’t so. It could be appropriate. In fact, if you consider everything, you may find that the “down side” of bankruptcy outweighs the down side of your current debt situation.
Seek legal counsel to determine whether it’s right for you.
10. Seek resources.
Covid-19 has changed how to consolidate credit card debt. Companies have created products. Banks have create programs. Governments have provided relief. For example:
- Citi Bank has written tips and tricks on consolidating debt.
- The small business administration has provided options and resources for business-related debt. NOTE: Some home-based businesses may benefit from SBA products.
- Smaller banks (randomly found this and this on Google) have jumped in to help.
- The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has come up and a lot of relief options.
There is many more. You just need to search for them.
A conclusion on “how to consolidate credit cards.”
First, debt is not insurmountable. It is fixable and solvable. Please remember:
- You should carefully consider the source of the problem so as to solve it and prevent it from happening again.
- You should consider solutions (like the ones listed above). And, you should consider the appropriate solution for your specific debt issue.
- You should search for and take advantage of the many resources available to debtors. Covid-19 paved the way for relief. Use it.
We’re hopeful this article was timely and helpful.