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Economic Justice Fund

Understanding Debt Consolidation: A Comprehensive Guide for Consumers

Navigating the complexities of managing debt can be overwhelming for many consumers. Debt consolidation can offer a strategic approach to managing and paying off multiple debts in ways that work to build financial health, not detract from it. If you’re struggling with multiple credit cards or loan debts, here’s what you need to know about taking out a debt consolidation loan.

What Is Debt Consolidation?

Debt consolidation is a financial strategy that combines multiple debts into a single loan with a lower interest rate and a simplified payment process. This approach makes managing payments easier and reduces the amount of interest paid over time. You can consolidate debt of various kinds, including credit card debt, student loans, and various types of personal loans​.

When to Consider Consolidating Your Debt

Debt consolidation can be a strategic tool for managing and reducing debt, but it’s not a one-size-fits-all solution. It’s essential to evaluate your personal financial situation thoroughly and consider whether consolidation aligns with your long-term financial goals. This may be a sound solution for you if:

  • You have multiple debts with relatively large balances that are difficult or overwhelming to manage.
  • Your total debt does not exceed 50% of your income.
  • You can get a consolidation loan offer with an interest rate that is lower than the average interest rate you are currently paying on your debts as a whole, which can save you hundreds or thousands of dollars in interest over time.
  • You can get a loan consolidation offer that also lowers your monthly payments and allows you to pay off your debt in a timeframe that is realistic and reasonable for you.

If you’re unsure whether debt consolidation is a wise move for you, consider speaking with a credit counselor or other financial education specialist to explore all of your debt relief options. It’s always best to get professional guidance before making any major financial move to ensure you’re making a sound decision. Doing so can significantly reduce your stress levels, too!

How to Consolidate Debt (How Loan Consolidation Works)

Debt consolidation typically involves obtaining a new loan to pay off multiple debts. This new loan ideally comes with a lower interest rate, making it more economical over the loan’s life span. You can consolidate your debt using a number of methods:

  • Transfer credit cards
  • Personal loans
  • Home equity loans (if you own your home)

Each method has different pros and cons, another reason why choosing the right debt relief method for you depends on your individual financial situation and the nature of the debt​.

Considerations for Choosing a Debt Consolidation Lender

There are plenty of debt consolidation lenders to choose from. Selecting the right one requires careful consideration of several factors. Do your homework on the following:

  • Reputation and reliability. As you start making your list of lenders to consider, strive to include and prioritize those with a strong track record for customer service and reliability. This can be gauged through reviews and ratings on reputable financial websites.
  • Eligibility requirements. Lenders have varying criteria for loan approval, including credit score requirements and income thresholds. Ensure that you meet these criteria before applying.
  • Compare offers from multiple lenders. You’ll need to gather loan information from your list of lenders to determine which offers the best terms. Be sure to collect the same complete set of data from each so you can compare them accurately.
  • Interest rates and fees. Look for competitive interest rates and be wary of any additional fees associated with the consolidation loan. It’s crucial to read the fine print to avoid any unexpected charges.
  • Loan terms. Consider the repayment terms offered by each potential lender. It’s crucial to ensure that the monthly payments are manageable and the loan term is not excessively prolonged, as longer terms can result in higher total interest costs.
  • Lender type. It can be immensely beneficial to explore debt consolidation options with a nonprofit lender, such as a credit union or a community development financial institution (CDFI). Nonprofit organizations are driven by empowering consumers and fostering socioeconomic success for vulnerable communities—not by making money from them. Besides being ethical and consumer-friendly, nonprofit lenders also strive to educate borrowers so that they can make informed decisions.

Get a Debt Consolidation Loan Today With the Economic Justice Fund

The Economic Justice Fund (EJF) is a mission-driven, nonprofit lender dedicated to helping Americans pursue the American Dream. We believe that all Americans, regardless of income, race, gender, or zip code, should have access to fair, affordable financing.

EJF offers low-cost loans that help you reach your goals safely and responsibly. You can complete our application in less than five minutes, and one of our Loan Specialists will review it quickly. Loans are funded in as little as one business day. Apply today!

EJF is certified as a Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI) by the U.S. Department of the Treasury. In addition to ethical, equitable loans, we provide financial training and credit building services to empower individuals in underserved communities. Read our success stories and choose the financing plan that fits your needs!