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In addition to the financial burden that comes from multiple bills, there’s also the mental load that comes with managing different due dates and keeping track of payments.
If you’re having trouble staying on top of all your monthly payments, there are solutions. A tool like a debt consolidation loan can help you combine several monthly payments into one, which can help provide both financial and stress relief.
- Types of debt consolidation
- How to consolidate bills with a consolidation loan
- Debt consolidation loan vs. credit card
- 17 lenders for debt consolidation
- Benefits of using a debt consolidation loan
- Is a debt consolidation loan the right option for me?
Types of debt you can consolidate
A debt consolidation loan is a sum of money you borrow and then use to pay off other debts. By doing this, you combine all of your debts — and just as importantly, their monthly payments — into one. What’s more, you’re often able to score a lower interest rate, making your debt more affordable.
There are several debt consolidation methods available for various types of debt. For example, credit card debt can be consolidated in several ways, including a debt consolidation loan or using a balance transfer card. But other types of debt, such as federal student loans, use a special debt consolidation resource (in this case, the federal Direct Consolidation Loan).
Types of debt consolidation
As mentioned, the type of debt you’re consolidating will help you determine the best way to proceed. Let’s talk about some of the most common debt consolidation options.
- Debt consolidation loan: A debt consolidation loan is a personal loan used to consolidate existing debt. These loans are typically unsecured term loans in amounts ranging from less than $1,000 to as high as $100,000.
- Debt management plan : Credit counseling organizations offer these plans to help consumers better manage their debt. When you sign up, the organization will negotiate your debts directly with your creditors to try to get lower interest rates and monthly payments. After that, you’ll make your monthly payments — usually spanning three to five years — directly to the credit counseling organization, and it will distribute that money to your creditors.
- Debt settlement: The goal of debt settlement is to settle your debt for less than you owe. You would typically work with a debt settlement company or attorney who negotiates with your creditors and attempts to lower your balance. Debt settlement often requires you to stop paying your debts for a while, which can negatively affect your credit.
- Balance transfer credit card: These credit cards offer an introductory annual percentage rate (APR) — usually 0% for anywhere from six months to 24 months — when you transfer the balance from another credit card (or cards). This can be a great option for paying off high-interest credit card debt, since your full payments will go toward your principal balance and none toward interest during the introductory period. But beware of higher interest rates after the promotional period has ended.
- Student loan refinancing: If you have multiple student loans, you can use student loan refinancing to consolidate them. Private student loan refinancing can help you manage private loans. For federal loans, it’s best to consolidate with the Direct Consolidation Loan so you don’t lose the government protections that federal loans offer, for example loan deferment, forbearance, and forgiveness.
Other options for bill consolidation
The options listed above are some of the most popular methods to consolidate debt. These types of loans are unsecured, meaning there’s no collateral on the loan. While failing to pay can affect your credit score, you don’t risk losing important assets.
Leveraging home equity
Meanwhile, some forms of debt consolidation are secured, often by your home or vehicle. For example, a home equity loan and home equity line of credit, or HELOC, are two types of loans that allow you to borrow against the equity you’ve built in your home. Like a personal loan, you can use this money for most purposes, including debt consolidation.
Using your home equity to pay off other debt has some benefits, including a lower interest rate since the loan is secured. However, it also puts your home at risk. If you can’t make your payments, you risk foreclosure.
Tapping into retirement savings
Another option some people use to consolidate debt is borrowing from their 401(k). While many companies do allow 401(k) loans, they come with major downsides.
First, a 401(k) loan comes with interest just like any other type of loan. Moreover, when the money isn’t in your 401(k), it isn’t invested and growing. Another major downside is that if you lose your job, you may have to repay the full loan amount immediately. And if you can’t repay it on time, the loan counts as a distribution from your retirement plan, meaning it’s subject to both income taxes and (depending on your age) an early withdrawal penalty of 10%.
How to consolidate bills
If you’re considering a direct consolidation loan to help you pay off debt, here’s how to get started:
- Check your credit score: Before you apply for a loan, make sure your credit score is high enough to qualify — most lenders look for 670-739.
- Research and compare lenders: There are many personal loan options to choose from, each with different loan amounts, terms, interest rates, and perks. During this time, you can prequalify with several lenders to get an idea of the terms you’ll be offered.
- Pick a loan option: Once you’ve shopped around and gotten interest rates from several personal loan lenders, you can pick the best loan for you. The best loan is often the one with the lowest interest rate, but it’s also important to consider how much you can borrow, how much time you’ll have to repay it, and what fees you might have to pay.
- Complete your application: Once you’ve chosen a loan, you can submit your application. During the approval process, you’ll likely have to provide proof of employment, income, and other personal details.
- Get your loan funds: Depending on your lender, you could have your loan funds as quickly as one day after your loan is approved. But that will depend on the lender — it could take longer. You can then use the money to pay off the debts you’re consolidating, though some lenders will pay off your creditors directly.
Debt consolidation loan vs. credit card
Debt consolidation loans are often used to pay off high-interest credit card debt. So you may be wondering — why not just continue making your credit card payments? Here are a few differences between debt consolidation loans and credit cards:
- Interest rates: Credit cards have notoriously high interest rates. According to the Federal Reserve, the average credit card rate as of April 2023 was more than 20%. Meanwhile, the average rate on a personal loan with a 24-month term was just over 11% for the same month.
- Compounding: Personal loans have simple interest, meaning it only ever applies to your principal balance. But credit card interest compounds daily. Each day, your interest charges are added to your balance and also accrue interest. As a result, your balance can grow quickly and be more difficult to pay off.
Example of debt consolidation
Let’s say you have $5,000 in credit card debt. You have two options: you can either leave the balance on your credit card and pay it off over time or you can use a debt consolidation loan to pay it off faster.
Let’s say your credit card interest rate is 20%. Credit card minimum payments are often calculated as a percentage of your balance. For example, your minimum payment might be your interest from the past month plus 1% of your card balance.
If you made the minimum payment on your $5,000 loan, it would take you 277 months — that’s more than 23 years — to pay off the full balance, and you would pay more than $7,700 in loan interest.
Now let’s say you consolidated that credit card debt to a personal loan with an interest rate of 11%, the average according to the Federal Reserve. If you had a five-year loan, you would have a lower minimum payment than on the credit card, pay the loan off 18 years faster, and pay more than $6,000 less in interest.
15 debt consolidation lenders
There are plenty of personal loan options, so no matter what your needs are, you’re sure to find a lender that works for you. Check out the following partner lenders of Credible that offer debt consolidation loans:
1. Avant: Best for borrowers with poor credit
Avant makes it easy to turn your credit card debt into a fixed-rate loan with a single monthly payment. While loan amounts come in a more limited range — anywhere from $2,000 to $35,000 — they are available to borrowers with poor credit. You can qualify for a personal loan with a credit score as low as 550.
2. Axos Bank: Best for borrowers with excellent credit
Axos Bank offers personal loans with amounts ranging from $7,000 to $50,000 and terms ranging from three to six years. Axos Bank requires a higher credit score than many lenders — you’ll need a score of at least 740 to qualify. But it also comes with some major perks, including a low starting interest rate and next-day funding on your loan.
3. Best Egg: Best for borrowers with good credit
Best Egg offers debt consolidation loans of up to $50,000. The company lets you prequalify without a hard inquiry on your credit report. And once you apply, your loan can be funded in as few as 24 hours. You can also save money on your loan with Best Egg’s direct pay feature.
4. Discover: Best for long repayment terms
Discover offers personal loans with amounts up to $40,000. Discover has one of the longest repayment terms of any lender, allowing you to repay your loan over anywhere from three to seven years. It also offers relatively low starting interest rates.
5. Happy Money: Best for consolidating credit card debt
Happy Money offers a personal loan, known as The Payoff Loan, specifically designed to help you pay off credit card debt. You can consolidate debt with amounts ranging from $5,000 to $40,000 and repayment terms ranging from two to five years.
6. LendingClub: Best for direct payments to creditors
With LendingClub, you can get a debt consolidation loan in amounts ranging from $1,000 to $40,000 and terms ranging from three to five years. LendingClub makes it particularly easy to consolidate multiple credit card debts. Rather than sending the money to you and having you pay them each off separately, LendingClub can send the money directly to your creditors.
7. LendingPoint: Best for borrowers with near-prime credit
LendingPoint offers personal loans with amounts ranging from $2,000 to $36,500. You can qualify for a loan even if you have less-than-stellar credit. And despite the flexible credit score, LendingPoint still has a competitive starting interest rate.
8. LightStream: Best for large loan amounts
Lightstream offers some of the largest debt consolidation loans, with amounts ranging from $5,000 to $100,000. You’ll need good or excellent credit to qualify, but once your loan is approved, you can expect to get your money as soon as the next business day or even the same day.
9. OneMain Financial: Best for borrowers with below-average credit
If your credit is on the lower end, you may be able to qualify for a debt consolidation loan through OneMain Financial. Loan amounts range from $1,500 to $20,000, and terms range from two years to five years. OneMain does have some of the highest interest rates of any lender, but also serves borrowers across the most credit profiles.
10. PenFed: Best for small loan amounts
PenFed is a great choice for a smaller debt consolidation loan. Unlike most lenders on our list, PenFed offers personal loans for less than $1,000. You can also borrow up to $50,000, and can pay off your loan across as many as five years. PenFed charges no origination fees, making this lender more affordable than some.
11. Reach Financial: Best for customizable monthly payments
Reach Financial offers personal loans in amounts ranging from $3,500 to $40,000, with some of the best interest rates of any lenders on our list. Reach Financial has some of the most customizable personal loans, which allow you to choose your monthly payment amount and pause your monthly payment for up to 90 days.
12. SoFi: Best for borrower perks
SoFi offers personal loans with amounts ranging from $5,000 to $100,000. SoFi offers more borrower perks than any other lender on our list. For example, loans come with unemployment protection to help you modify your payments if you lose your job. There are also no fees. Finally, SoFi offers same-day funding, meaning you can get your money quickly.
13. Universal Credit: Best for borrowers who want to build their credit
Universal Credit is an excellent option for borrowers who want to build their credit. Loan amounts start at $1,000 and go all the way up to $50,000. Universal Credit also offers prequalification, so you can see if you qualify without affecting your credit score. Finally, borrowers of most credit profiles can apply, including those with credit scores as low as 560.
14. Upgrade: Best for fast loan funding
Upgrade offers personal loans for debt consolidation in amounts from $1,000 to $50,000. Upgrade allows you to prequalify for a loan, meaning it doesn’t affect your credit score to check your eligibility. And once you apply and your loan is approved, you should get your money within one day.
15. Upstart: Best for borrowers with little to no credit history
Upstart offers debt consolidation loans with amounts ranging from $1,000 to $50,000. Upstart has flexible credit score requirements, meaning borrowers with little to no credit history can qualify. As an added bonus, Upstart offers some of the lowest starting interest rates of any lender on our list.
Debt consolidation loan benefits
Debt consolidation loans come with some major benefits, including:
- Fewer monthly payments: If you’re currently making payments on multiple credit cards, a debt consolidation loan can cut down on your number of monthly payments. Not only is it more convenient, but it can help ensure nothing falls through the cracks.
- Lower interest rate: One of the biggest benefits of debt consolidation loans is that interest rates are often much lower than those on credit cards. As we discussed previously, the average interest rate is cut practically in half.
- Lower monthly payments: Thanks to the lower interest rate, a debt consolidation loan often comes with a lower monthly payment. This could give you the opportunity to either pay off your debt more aggressively or make room for other things in your budget.
- Shorter repayment time: Debt consolidation loans often have shorter repayment times than credit cards. You could save yourself years of payments by switching to a debt consolidation loan.
- Improved credit score: A debt consolidation loan can improve your credit score for several reasons. First, you’ll lower your credit utilization rate. Second, the monthly payments on your loan can help boost your score over time.
Is debt consolidation right for me?
A debt consolidation loan can be an excellent tool to help make your debt more manageable and save you money on interest.
On the other hand, this type of loan isn’t right for everyone. For some people, the best way to handle multiple debts might simply be to pay them off one at a time.
One popular strategy, the debt snowball method, has you pay off your debts in order of balance, smallest to largest. This strategy allows for quick wins and for you to get rid of your smallest debts to focus on your largest.
The debt avalanche method, on the other hand, has you prioritize the interest rates on your debt rather than the balance. By prioritizing the debts with the highest interest rates, you save yourself money in interest over the long term.
Ultimately, it’s up to you to decide which debt payoff method is right for you, whether it’s a debt consolidation loan, debt snowball or avalanche, or another strategy. You can use an online calculator to determine which is the best move for your situation.
Erin Gobler has contributed to the reporting of this article.
Prequalified rates disclosure: Prequalified rates are based on the information you provide and a soft credit inquiry. Receiving prequalified rates does not guarantee that the Lender will extend you an offer of credit. You are not yet approved for a loan or a specific rate. All credit decisions, including loan approval, if any, are determined by Lenders, in their sole discretion. Rates and terms are subject to change without notice. Rates from Lenders may differ from prequalified rates due to factors which may include, but are not limited to: (i) changes in your personal credit circumstances; (ii) additional information in your hard credit pull and/or additional information you provide (or are unable to provide) to the Lender during the underwriting process; and/or (iii) changes in APRs (e.g., an increase in the rate index between the time of prequalification and the time of application or loan closing. (Or, if the loan option is a variable rate loan, then the interest rate index used to set the APR is subject to increases or decreases at any time). Lenders reserve the right to change or withdraw the prequalified rates at any time.