I recently worked with a Michigan woman who was able to rapidly settle her unaffordable credit card bills. Nichole later became the focus of a Detroit Free Press article about cutting debt. The article seemed to be as much about warning people from using debt settlement companies and debt negotiation in general, as much as it was centered on the success the CRN member had cutting her credit card debt down.
The article was correct in saying many companies have taken outrageously high upfront fees. Fees charged to most Michigan residents by debt settlement firms are often more than 20% of the debt you submit to the company to negotiate.
Nichole settled $35,000.00 of debt for $12,000.00 by utilizing the program that CRN set up for her. Had she hired a typical debt settlement company to negotiate her debt, the average fee would have been more like $5,250.00.
Michigan debt settlement fees are not capped.
The fees you pay to a debt settlement company will have a huge impact on your success with debt settlement. Each time the company negotiates a result for you, you are prolonging your success with the next account in line to be settled because the success fee is due for the work settling the first account. And because most debt settlement programs are sold to you as an affordable monthly payment you put into an escrow account (that is how you save money to pay settlement deals), you can be paying fees for months instead of saving to settle more debts.
Another concern is how debt negotiation companies will send notices to your credit card banks telling them that you are now working with them. This means the lenders will know that you are paying a settlement company instead of them. Banks will have different reactions to this. Some become more aggressive with how they go about collecting at that point, which can mean placing your account with a collection attorney licensed in Michigan along with authorization to sue you if necessary in order to collect.
In my experience, most debt negotiation companies do not look to settle your credit cards with your original lender. They mostly wait for accounts to charge off. Charge-off typically happens at about 6 months after you stopped paying your credit card. Once creditors charge off bad debt, they will generally do one of three things with your account, assign, sue or sell.
You can still negotiate your bills when they are sent to someplace else, like debt collection agencies (most debts are settled with debt collectors), but you can often save more by getting the settlement negotiated with your bank prior to charges off (though there are exceptions where the best deals happen with outside third party collectors).
Nichole was portrayed as still hoping that settling debt was going to work for her when it stated “She’s crossing her fingers that this arrangement works.” That was a bit odd, in that Nichole was interviewed after finishing her settlements. The program worked as it was designed to, and she was done with all negotiations in less time than the vast majority of debt settlement customers nationally.
Nichole got out of debt in 6 months.
What happens to credit scores when settling debt?
Negotiating lower lump sum pay offs is a debt relief option designed for people who cannot afford to make on time monthly credit card payments. And because credit card banks do not offer to settle bills until they have gone unpaid for sometime, credit scores will drop, and often precipitously.
What happened to Nichole’s credit score?
From an email exchange I had with her after her last debt was settled, but not yet showing resolved on her credit:
“…Two days ago, I re-ran my credit and 3 of the 4 settlements had already posted. My credit was already 671-677 from each of the three bureaus! I think my credit ranged from 670-710 in the year prior to starting the settlement process so this is amazing.”
Now, you cannot think that will be the case with you, as each persons credit reports are unique, and how soon people’s credit scores will bounce back after settling will depend on a host of things. Do not take Nichole’s experience as an indication of what your credit scores will look like after your settlements are done.
And I should point out that the point of debt settlement is to eliminate the debt. Credit scores recover, quickly or slowly, and there really is no debt relief option that will spare your credit.
There are some good debt settlement companies out there that can help you in Michigan. I am obviously a big fan of negotiating debts the way we helped Nichole, which is helping her to do debt settlement on her own.
If you need debt settlement help, or need help considering other options too, post some details about what you are going through in the comments below for feedback.