If you’re looking to improve your credit score, and overall financial health, it can be hard to parse through all the options available. Which debt or credit management service will help you improve your credit fastest? What will help you maintain a better credit score going forward?
Credit repair and debt consolidation services both offer a better financial future, but deciding between the two can depend on your circumstances and personal priorities.
It’s important to note that neither debt consolidation nor credit repair are overnight fixes, and can involve very different processes. However, if applied correctly, both can set you up for financial success in the long term.
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The Difference Between Credit Repair and Debt Consolidation
While some debt is necessary to a certain extent, there’s a fine line between helpful debt and problematic debt. Both credit repair and debt consolidation are ways of mitigating your debt, but which is the better choice for you will ultimately depend on your circumstances.
Credit repair is a service that will negotiate with creditors and the credit reporting companies on your behalf to help you earn a better credit score. Credit repair agencies request verification for any negative items that may be affecting your credit, make sure that your credit isn’t being continually damaged by the same debt, and basically reveal errors in your credit report.
This can hugely impact your credit, enabling you to be approved for new lines of credit or home, business, or car loans. You can likely repair your credit yourself if you have the time to invest in doing so, but sometimes it’s better to get an expert’s advice.
Debt consolidation allows you to combine the various debts you owe into one convenient bill. In some cases, debt consolidation can even lower your monthly payments.
Your account type, whether it be a credit card or federal loan, will shape your consolidation process, and what you’ll need in order to apply for consolidation. If available, debt consolidation can help you manage your account balances better. It’s always easier to keep track of one debt rather than several.
Another perk of debt consolidation is that the repayment options, such as interest rate and minimum payments on a consolidated debt, will likely improve as well. This will make your debt more manageable, and once you establish a pattern of making your payments, your credit score will rise.
Pros and Cons of Credit Repair
Both debt consolidation and credit repair can help you — but how do you know which to choose? Credit repair is the best option if you legitimately believe that the items on your credit report are not your fault. This could be the case if:
- One debt account is being counted against your credit multiple times;
- The debt of an ex-spouse or a person with a similar name and birthdate has been listed falsely under your credit report;
- You are the victim of identity theft.
If there are no mistakes on your credit report, there is little that a credit repair agency can do. Many will claim to repair your credit no matter what, but this sort of guarantee is a red flag. So while this might be more “pain-free” than debt consolidation, in that you are absolved from some fiscal responsibility at the end of the day, it’s not a real solution if the debt is truly yours.
Pros and Cons of Debt Consolidation
On the flip side, debt consolidation can be a great choice for multiple legitimate debts in your name. Short term, consolidating your debts can give you lower monthly payments and a more manageable bill load. Long term, it can raise your credit. However, there is a potential negative side effect of debt consolidation.
Because of how credit scores are calculated, your credit might temporarily drop after you consolidate your debts. This is a common occurrence when you open a new account that requires a hard inquiry, which is the first part of debt consolidation. Keeping your priorities long-term is a good mindset to have when using debt consolidation.
Building a payment history on a new account, as well as the temporary dip from the hard inquiry, can be discouraging to some, but this method will ultimately lower your financial burden and improve your credit health.
Alternatives to Debt Consolidation
Depending on your situation, you may actually qualify for debt relief or debt forgiveness programs. Public service debt forgiveness is available for people in qualifying careers, and the military may also offer debt forgiveness for service members. Debt relief can help eliminate some or all of your debt, but it can seriously affect your credit.
Additionally, debt relief may only be offered in extreme circumstances, such as bankruptcy or debt settlement, which comes with its own consequences. You can pursue debt relief or forgiveness on your own, or talk to a financial advisor about getting this process started.
Picking between credit repair and debt consolidation might at first seem like picking between two sides of a coin. However, the process differs in both cases, as does the financial situations of their ideal candidates. Deciding which one is best for you will come down to your financial situation and resources.
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