Debt consolidation loan: what you need to know

Debt consolidation loan application form with pen, calculator
Debt consolidation loans combine multiple debts into one loan, which can potentially save you money.

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If you’re struggling to manage your debts on multiple credit cards, a debt consolidation loan could simplify your monthly finances and help you regain control. When you take out a debt consolidation loan, you pay off multiple debts and replace them with a single loan with a fixed monthly payment. You might even be able to lower your interest charges and monthly payments.

If this sounds like something you could benefit from, consider talking to a lender. You can get a debt consolidation loan offer today.

What is a debt consolidation loan?

A debt consolidation loan can be used to pay off multiple debts, including credit cards, medical bills, and personal loans. Debt consolidation loans are a type of personal loan that you can use to combine multiple high-interest credit cards with one low-interest loan.

You may qualify for a debt consolidation loan of up to $100,000 with flexible repayment terms typically ranging from two to five years.

Why would anyone want a debt consolidation loan?

Taking out a debt consolidation loan may make sense if any of the following circumstances apply to you:

  • You want to pay less interest. If you have multiple high interest credit cards, you might consider debt consolidation into a personal loan with a lower interest rate. According to recent data from the Federal Reservethe average interest rate on a 24 month personal loan is 8.73%, which is well below the average credit card interest rate of 16.65%.
  • You want a specific repayment date. Credit cards offer a convenient way to borrow and pay off debt as you go, but if you only make minimal payments, you could stay in debt indefinitely. For this reason, you may want a debt consolidation loan to follow a repayment plan for a specific duration, with a specific end date when your final payment will bring your balance down to zero.
  • Your credit score is sufficient to qualify. Whereas personal loans are available to borrowers with below average credit, a higher credit score may qualify you for lower rates. Generally, the higher your credit score, the lower the interest rate you can receive. As a rule, you can benefit from advantageous conditions with a good credit scorethat begins with a FICO score of at least 670 or a VantageScore of 661 or higher.
  • You can pay off your consolidation loan in five years or less. Debt consolidation loans are installment loans that usually have a repayment term of two to five years. Of course, the longer you pay off the loan, the more interest you will pay. A debt consolidation loan may be a suitable option if you can minimize interest costs by paying off your loan in less than five years.

The advantages of a debt consolidation loan are manifold. Start saving money and getting out of debt by exploring your loan options now.

How to qualify for a debt consolidation loan?

Qualifications for debt consolidation loans vary by lender, but most lenders strongly consider the following eligibility factors.

  • Proof of income: Almost all lenders require you to meet a minimum income requirement to prove that you have the financial stability to repay your loan. Minimum income amounts vary by lender, and you’ll likely need to prove your income with pay stubs, bank statements, or tax returns.
  • Credit report and credit score: When a lender reviews your debt consolidation loan application, they typically extract your credit report and credit score to assess your credit management history. If your credit is below average, you might be better off taking steps to improve your credit before applying for a new loan.
  • Low debt-to-income ratio (DTI): Your debt-to-income ratio (DTI) is another important criterion used by lenders to assess your ability to repay your loan. The ratio compares the total amount of your monthly debt repayments with your gross monthly income. For example, if your gross monthly debt payments total $1,000 and your gross monthly income is $5,000, your DTI ratio is 20% (1,000/5,000 = 0.200). Aim for a DTI of 36% or less for your best chance of loan approval.
  • Collateral: Some lenders require collateral for larger debt consolidation loans, often in the form of home equity.

Be aware that some lenders charge processing fees (also known as origination fees) ranging from 1% to 8% of the amount borrowed.

How to apply for a debt consolidation loan?

Taking out debt consolidation is quick and easy, and you can apply by following these five steps.

  • Shop around and compare lenders. Comparing several loan offers can help you find the best debt consolidation loan to meet your needs. Many online lenders allow you to prequalify for a loan to assess your chances of approval and the interest rate you may receive. When you prequalify, the lender usually does a soft credit check that doesn’t affect your credit score.
  • Choose your loan offer and your lender. Consider loans that offer the best balance of low interest rates and fees, flexible repayment terms, and achievable eligibility requirements. After reviewing several personal loan offers, select the one that best suits your needs.
  • Complete a loan application. Once you have chosen a lender, submit a formal application. You will need to provide information about your job, your income and the amount you want to borrow. Your lender may ask you to provide supporting documentation, including government-issued ID, pay stubs, account statements, and proof of residency.
  • Pay your debt. Once your lender has approved your loan application, you must sign the loan to release the funds. Your lender can disburse your loan funds directly to your competitors to pay off debts on your behalf. Alternatively, your lender deposits the money into your account and uses the funds to pay off each of your debts.
  • Keep making payments. Upon loan approval, you are responsible for making payments on your new loan. However, it may take some time for your old creditors to close your accounts. To avoid damaging your credit, continue to make payments on your old accounts until they are officially closed.

Debt Consolidation Loan Alternatives

If you don’t want to take out a debt consolidation loan, there are other options to consider, such as:

  • 0% APR Balance Transfer Credit Card: These credit cards offer an interest-free period of up to 21 months. You can pay off as much debt as you can during the promotional period at 0% interest, but understand that these cards generally require good credit to qualify.
  • Home Equity Loan: You may be able to tap into the equity in your home to pay off your outstanding debts. Typically, lenders allow you to borrow up to 80% of the value of your home, minus your mortgage balance. Home equity loans involve considerable risk since you have to offer your house as collateral.
  • Credit advice: Instead of borrowing money to pay off your debt, you might consider getting credit counseling from a nonprofit agency. An advisor can help you budget and design a repayment plan. Some agencies will even contact your creditors to lower your interest rates. Online financial advisors can also help point you in the right direction.

Whether you take out a debt consolidation loan or use another method, eliminate credit card debt can dramatically improve your financial health, but only if you can avoid accumulating new debt and repeating the cycle. As a general rule, never charge more than you can afford.