Does Debt Consolidation Make Sense?

Thursday, August 29 at 10:15 AM
Category: Personal Finance

If you are like most Americans, then your mail box is filled with offers for credit cards, mortgage refinancing and home equity loans. Many of those offers stress the benefits of moving existing balances to the new lenders. While that may sound appealing, especially if the new loan offers an attractive initial interest rate, it is important to consider all the factors associated with debt consolidation.

Debt consolidation is debt management, not debt elimination

Moving all your outstanding loan balances to one lender will not reduce the amount you owe. You must ultimately pay off the loan and pay interest until the loan is repaid. Your goal should be using debt wisely.  Consider the following steps:

Paying down your credit card debt

Even if you have not borrowed the maximum allowed for your credit card, paying down your balance should be one of your top priorities.

  • Pay more than the minimum on your credit card balance. Interest rates charged on most credit cards are usually much higher than those found on other loans.
  • Making your credit card payment as soon as you get the statement will help reduce the interest you are charged.
  • Minimize your credit card usage for a period. Along with not subjecting higher balances to interest, using cash may help you identify ways to spend less.

Evaluating the real estate based alternatives

Start by reviewing the interest rates on your existing debts. Credit cards and unsecured personal loans usually have higher interest rates than other forms of secured debt like a mortgage, home equity loan or an auto loan. If you find your rate on a home equity line of credit is less than the rates on credit cards, other personal loans or auto loans, then utilizing borrowing through that line of credit may save you money.

Evaluate your borrowing capacity available through a mortgage or a home equity loan. Borrowing through a shorter-term home equity loan will probably lower your interest rate, but most home equity loans have variable interest rates. If you have a great deal of high interest rate debt, then increasing the size of your fixed rate mortgage with a refinancing (even if you end up with a slightly higher mortgage rate than what you currently have) may result in lower overall interest costs. The interest you pay on your mortgage or home equity loan may be tax deductible if you itemize your deductions. Consult your tax advisor about deductibility.  

Final words

  • Discuss your options with your Arvest banker. We will be able to help explain the alternatives.
  • Use common sense. Remember borrowing money means you have to repay it. If your borrowing is too high, then take immediate steps to reduce it. Every dollar of debt reduction will translate into less interest you have to pay.
  • The Consumer Credit Counseling Service is a government agency you may want to consider; their service is free and they have helped thousands. The CCOA* is another nonprofit helping people with their finances. Additionally, you can also look online for programs operating under the Consumer Credit Counseling Service. Be very wary of any organization that wants you to pay beyond a nominal fee for their services or promises an easy solution to your situation. If their message sounds too good to be true, then it probably is too good to be true. Read here* for tips on choosing a credit counseling agency.

Links marked with * go to a third-party site not operated or endorsed by Arvest Bank, an FDIC-insured institution.

Tags: Budgeting, Debt, Financial Education
Rhonda Tripp on 6/11/2015 at 4:09 PM
Need debt consolidation payment will come directly out of my out of my account
Arvest Blog Admin on 6/12/2015 at 4:11 PM
Rhonda - Please call us at (866) 952-9523 or visit your local branch for information about scheduling payments from your Arvest Bank account.

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