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Should you work with a debt-settlement company?

If you are in over your head with credit-card debt, one of your options may be debt settlement. A debt-settlement company isn't always the best avenue for settling your debts with your credit-card lender, though. Instead, understand that you can negotiate with your lender directly. Often, if you're willing to pay a lump sum at one time, it's possible to negotiate a debt and pay it off for less than you owe.

Debt settlement comes with risks if you choose to work with a debt-settlement company. First, know that some companies make you deposit money monthly into a special account before your debts are settled. For example, company A may ask you to deposit $300 monthly for 24 months to settle your debts. If you can't afford these payments, it's advisable to avoid the service and look for other ways out of debt. If you miss a payment, it's possible you could lose the agreement and again have to pay your debts in full.

Another thing to think about is that there is no reason for creditors to settle with you, and they have the power to seek a full payment for the amount owed. Most don't pursue this if they believe they're going to struggle to see the payments. Instead, they'll take a lump sum and discharge the remaining debt. The thing to remember is that no creditor has to negotiate with you or a debt-settlement company, so there is no reason to believe a debt-settlement company can negotiate better than you or your attorney could on your own.

Source: Federal Trade Commission, "Settling Credit Card Debt," accessed April 04, 2018

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