September 15, 2021

Debt Consolidation for Every Type of Debt

Debt consolidation can help solve problems with credit cards, student loans, and even back taxes. Can it work for you?

20 min read

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What is debt consolidation?

Debt consolidation refers to any debt relief option that rolls debts of the same type into a single monthly payment. The goal of consolidation is to pay back everything you owe more efficiently. This helps minimize damage to your credit score, which often makes this a more desirable solution versus debt settlement.

Know This:

  • The goal is to pay back everything you owe more efficiently.
  • Consolidating debt focuses your money on paying off the principal. You can reduce your interest charges and get out of debt faster.
  • Consolidation can help you preserve a good credit score if you do it right.

In most cases, consolidating debt allows you to reduce or eliminate interest charges. As a result, you can get out of debt faster because you focus your money on paying principal, or on the actual debt you owe.

Benefits of debt consolidation

  • You pay back everything you owe more efficiently.
  • You minimize or completely avoid credit damage that can be caused during debt repayment.
  • It simplifies your bill payment schedule with just one bill.
  • With most consolidation solutions, you also reduce or eliminate interest charges.
  • This can make debt repayment faster, even though you may pay less each month.

Types of debt you can consolidate

In general, you can only consolidate similar types of debt. While you can consolidate credit cards and student loans, you usually have to keep them separate. If you owe multiple types of debt, you may need more than one debt consolidation plan.

Types of debts you can consolidate: credit cards, payday loans, collection accounts, federal student loans, private student loans, IRS tax debt, auto loans, charge cards, store cards.

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How does consolidating your debt work?

There Are 2 Ways To Consolidate…

There are two different ways to consolidate debt. The best way to consolidate debt depends on your unique financial situation.

  1. New financing: Apply for new financing and use the new credit line to pay off your existing debts.
  2. Debt consolidation program: Arrange a repayment plan that pays off your existing debts, but you still owe the original creditors.

How it works with new financing

The most common form of consolidation that uses new financing is a debt consolidation loan. However, there are also other versions, such as a Home Equity Line of Credit (HELOC) or balance transfer credit card. Here are the steps involved.

  1. You apply for a loan or credit line that’s large enough to pay off all the debts you wish to repay.
  2. You get approved based on your credit score; approval requirements vary by lender and the type of consolidation loan that you want.
  3. You choose a term for the loan that offers monthly payments you can afford.
  4. A shorter-term means higher monthly payments, but lower total costs
  5. A longer-term decreases the monthly payments but increases total costs
  6. Once approved, you use the funds you receive to pay off your existing debts.
  7. This leaves only the consolidation loan to repay.

How does using a consolidation program work?

This type of debt consolidation does not replace old debt with new financing. Instead, you still owe the original creditor. It’s a structured debt repayment plan.

  1. First, determine what monthly payment you can afford on your budget.
  2. Then, structure a repayment plan that uses that monthly payment amount to repay all debts included in the plan.
  3. Interest charges still apply during repayment, but they may be reduced or eliminated; setting up a repayment plan generally stops penalties from being applied.
  4. You make fixed payments according to the agreed schedule until your debt is paid off.

Again, the specifics tend to vary based on what type of debt you owe. Consolidation programs are most commonly seen with tax debt and credit cards.

Consolidating credit card debt

There are four ways to consolidate credit card debt, and only three of them are generally advisable.

  1. Credit card balance transfer
  2. A personal debt consolidation loan
  3. Home equity loan / HELOC / cash-out refinance
  4. Debt consolidation program

Consolidating student loan debt

There are only two ways to consolidate student loan debt:

  1. A federal debt consolidation loan can only be used to consolidate federal student loan debt.
  2. On the other hand, private debt consolidation loans can be used to consolidate both private student loan debt and federal student loan debt.

Consolidating tax debt

There are two basic ways to consolidate tax debt:

  1. Set up an Installment Agreement (IA) with the IRS
  2. Include it in a personal debt consolidation loan

Specialized types of debt consolidation

Consolidating payday loans

It is possible to consolidate payday loans, but it’s usually limited to using a debt consolidation program.

Consolidating military debt

Military Service Members and Veterans have a special option for debt consolidation called a Military Debt Consolidation Loan (MDCL). They also usually qualify for discounted fees when they enroll in a debt consolidation program.

Using a military debt consolidation loan (MDCL)

If you purchased your home using a VA home loan, you are eligible to get an MDCL. It’s a loan that borrows against the equity in your home. The MDCL is a cash-out refinance mortgage that pays off your original loan and then gives you the cash difference in equity. So, if your home is worth $120,000 and you owe $80,000 on your original VA home loan, the MDCL gives you a loan for $120,000. You get the $40,000 difference back and can use the funds to pay off debt.

The issue here is still that you borrow against your home’s equity, so you take on an increased risk of foreclosure with an MDCL. In many cases, you are better off using a debt consolidation program, particularly given that military Service Members and Veterans qualify discounted fees on debt management programs.

Consolidating medical debt

It’s also possible to consolidate unpaid medical bills using a debt consolidation loan or debt consolidation program. If you had out-of-pocket medical expenses that were not paid by insurance, these bills can quickly turn into collections. Medical debt collections are the number one cause of bankruptcy in the U.S.

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