Although each lender will probably require different documentation depending on your credit history, the most commonly required pieces of information include a letter of employment, two months' worth of statements for each credit card or loan you wish to pay off, and letters from creditors or repayment agencies.
Finding a Debt Consolidation Loan If you have a good payment history with a bank, credit union or credit card company, asking that institution about a debt consolidation loan should be your first step.
This may be decided by your lender, who may choose the order in which creditors are repaid. If not, you should start by paying off your highest-interest debt first.
Once you pay off one debt, move the payments to the next set in a waterfall payment process until all your bills are paid off. Potential Pitfalls There are several pitfalls consumers should consider when consolidating debt.
Extending the loan term: Your monthly payment and interest rate might be lower, thanks to the new loan. But pay attention to the payment schedule: If it is substantially longer that that of your previous debts, you might be paying more in the long run. This allows the lender to make a tidy profit even if it charges a lower interest rate. Then compare that to the length and cost of the consolidation loan you're considering.
Hurting the credit score: By rolling over your existing loans into a brand new loan, you are likely to see a modest negative impact on your credit score at first.
Credit scores favor longer-standing debts with longer, more-consistent payment histories. Replacing debts before the original contract would have called for is viewed negatively. You also are listed as having assumed a larger, newer debt, which increases your risk factor. And, of course, just as with any other type of credit account, a missed payment on a debt consolidation loan goes on your credit report.
In addition, closing out the old credit accounts once they're paid off and opening a single new one may reduce the total amount of credit available to you, raising your debt-to-credit utilization ratio. This can also ding your credit score, as lenders may see you with an increased ratio as less financially stable. However, if you consolidate credit card debt and end up improving your credit utilization rate — that is, the amount of potential credit you have that you're actually using — your score could rise later on as a result.
She cuts up her credit cards, but leaves the accounts open. You may be pledging your property as collateral against much larger amounts than you had previously. For example, using a home equity loan or line of credit puts your home at risk if you fail to make the required payments. Losing special terms or benefits: Paying a lot of money to a debt-consolidation service: These groups often charge hefty initial and monthly fees.
And you may not need them. Don't consolidate just for convenience, however. Consolidating debt alone does not get you out of debt; improving spending and saving habits does. If you do combine your debts, resist the temptation to run up balances on your credit cards again; otherwise you'll be saddled with repaying them and the new, consolidated loan.
Consolidation is a tool to help you get out of the debt-laden doghouse, and not to get you a nicer, more expensive doghouse.