Knowing the impacts that debt consolidation can have on your credit is as important as the consolidation itself. Do it right and your scores can climb accordingly. Do it wrong and your efforts can backfire.
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Creditors do a hard pull on your credit when you take out a new loan or credit card, which temporarily lowers your credit score. Getting a balance transfer credit card can cause your score to dip even more, as having a high balance on a single credit card could hurt your score. Your credit score isn’t entirely safe if you use a debt relief company either. Even if it successfully negotiates a lower balance and better rates, your creditor might report bad debt, which hurts your credit score.
How it can help my credit?
Using a debt consolidation loan might be a better choice for someone concerned about their credit score, especially if it helps you pay off your debt on time and quickly. That’s because on-time repayments are the most important factor in your credit rating, accounting for around 35% of the factors that contribute to your score.
No matter which method you choose, remember: Less debt means better credit. If debt consolidation can help you reduce your debt, it will ultimately help your credit score.
Pros & cons of debt consolidation
Simplifies your debts. When you consolidate your debts, you end up paying one payment to a single lender instead of multiple payments to different lenders. This is both simpler and less time consuming.
Potentially lowers your interest rate. Often, debt consolidation loans result in a lower interest rate than what you were previously paying. This means that more of your money can pay down debt instead of merely keeping up with interest.
Gets you debt free sooner. With a lower interest rate, you can pay off your debts faster and have more money to spend on the things that matter to you.
Another hit to your credit score. Applying for a debt consolidation loan requires a hard pull on your credit, which will temporarily drop your score.
May not lower your payments if you’re already paying low interest. Debt consolidation loans are useful for lowering and streamlining your repayments, but this won’t be very effective if you try to consolidate debts that are already low interest like student loans and government loans.
You could end up paying more. Some lenders offer loans for debt consolidation that don’t actually lower your interest rate or improve your repayment period. This is why it’s important not to act hastily when choosing the right lender for you. Take time to compare your options.
Tips for consolidating debt without hurting your credit
While everyone’s situation is different, there are a few ways to lesson the impact to your credit while consolidating debt:
Consolidate and pay off your revolving debt first. Revolving debts like credit cards tend to have a higher impact on your scores than installment debts. Prioritizing a zero balance on your revolving debts could reduce the impact on your credit.
Make more than the minimum payment. If your situation allows for it, pay more than the required minimum on your consolidated loans.
Make on-time payments. Showing creditors that you can make payments in a timely manner goes a long way toward keeping your scores intact.
Only apply for loans or credit cards that you know you’re qualified for. Doing this will help you avoid multiple hard credit pulls, which can negatively affect your credit.
Having a solid credit score can open the doors to more favorable rates and terms when you’re comparing consolidation options. If your goal is to have one monthly payment, shop around for a balance transfer credit card with a low introductory rate or a low-interest debt consolidation loan.
Applying with a cosigner. Having a friend or relative with good credit back your loan makes you less of a risk to lenders and could get you a better deal. Learn about which lenders accept cosigners on personal loans by reading our guide.
Credit counseling. Some nonprofits designed to help people get out of debt offer counseling. They can even negotiate with lenders — though you might have to pay them a fee.
I’ve paid off my debts. When will my credit score update?
Once you’ve paid off your debts, it can take anywhere from one to two months for the credit bureaus to update your scores. Though paying off debt will likely result in a score improvement, keep in mind that your credit history and past debts will not be erased and may still show up on your report for up to seven years.
Consolidating your debts into 1 monthly payment can be an attractive option, but it’s important to understand the resulting positive and negative impacts to your credit score.
Kelly Larson is a writer and editor at finder, where he currently spearheads the effort to make office sloths a thing. Prior to that all-important role, he led editorial newsrooms in the creation of award-winning content as a managing editor in the digital space.
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