Debt Consolidation Loans

 

Interest rates haven't been this low for decades, tempting some consumers to take on additional debt to ease existing credit woes. The goal is to consolidate various higher-interest balances into one, easier-to-handle and less-costly package. But be careful of what looks to be a quick fix. This fighting-fire-with-fire approach can take several forms. There are debt-consolidation loans, and home equity loans or lines of credit.

Did the credit card computations scare you into looking for another option? There's always a debt-consolidation loan. Offers for these financial products are an e-mail box staple. Chances are you get a dozen or more everyday suggesting this as the solution to your growing debt problem.

A major appeal of consolidation loans is convenience. Instead of paying 20 different creditors who are charging different rates at different times of the month, you take out one big loan and pay off all those accounts. Then you make a single payment on that loan once a month. But ease doesn't automatically translate to savings.

Before you sign on the dotted line, be sure that the costs of the new, bundled loan will truly be less than what you're already paying various creditors. For many consolidation-loan candidates, their current credit woes mean they won't get the lowest-available interest rate. Plus, when there is nothing to secure the loan (such as your home), expect the lender to bump up the rate.

Calculate interest and fees on all your existing accounts to determine the total of the payments you now make. Then compare those amounts with the consolidation loan numbers to make sure it truly is a better choice.

Seventy percent of Americans who take out a home equity loan or other type of loan to pay off credit cards end up with the same (if not higher) debt load within two years.

By taking on yet another creditor, you're adding the proverbial fuel to the fire. In this case, it's your money that's burning. Plus, if you've taken on so much debt that you're looking for more as a solution, chances are you won't qualify for the very low interest rates you see advertised. Those generally go to people with stellar credit ratings.

However, if you're at the end of your credit rope or swear that this time you'll be more disciplined, debt consolidation may be something to consider despite its risks. Here are some popular forms of debt consolidation, how they work and a look at their pros and cons.

Home equity lines or loans often are touted as a quick and easy way to get out of debt. By leveraging your residence's value, the pitch goes, you can get money to pay off other bills and a tax break, too. But borrowing against your house can backfire. The biggest risk: You could lose your home if you default on the loan.

And while equity loan interest generally is tax deductible, it could be limited in some situations. Even when it does provide a tax break, that doesn't mean it makes fiscal sense. Banks will tell you how much you can borrow," she says. "That doesn't mean you should borrow the total amount, but that's what people do.

Still, a home equity line of credit or loan to pay off creditors can work for some debt-burdened homeowners. Just be sure to do your homework to guarantee that the home equity dollars and cents make sense. This Bankrate calculator can help you determine whether borrowing against your home's equity is a wise move.

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