If you are in financial difficulties due to debt or have built
up a variety of debts over time, a debt consolidation loan may
be for you. But before you take that route, you should consider
all the options.
However you got into debt - unexpected financial difficulties,
illness, loss of providing member of the family or overspending
- you can turn to several organizations and charities for
advice. These include the Citizen's Advice Bureaux, the Consumer
Credit Counselling service, the Community Legal Service (England
and Wales) or call the National Debtline on 0808 808 4000.
Remember debt consolidation is one option and you should not
feel pressured into taking it. These organizations can help you
consider the alternatives.
Your own lenders can also be surprisingly sympathetic about
restructuring repayments. Talk to them as well.
Having said that, many borrowers can benefit from consolidating
their debts on better interest rate terms. Some credit cards
cost up to 17.9 % (e.g. MBNA) and store cards can cost more.
Consolidating your debt could cut interest payments by up to two
It may be more convenient to make one payment rather than
several. Or you can improve your cash flow in the short term by
reducing monthly outgoings. But this may cost you more over time
because you are paying the debt off over a longer period of time.
Be careful if you are borrowing larger sums of money (over £
25000) as your loan is likely to be secured as a second mortgage
rather than an unsecured personal loan. Many adverts make it
sound like debt consolidation will solve your financial
problems. But taking out a secured loan means you are gambling
your house that you can repay the debts. You need to be sure of
your ability to repay before doing this.
Most people simply want to consolidate unsecured personal debts,
overdrafts or credit cards. Taking out a second mortgage to do
this could mean you lose your home if you fail to pay the debt
even though you keep up the payments on your first mortgage. You
should also consider insuring this kind of loan, although not
necessarily with the lending company. You may find a cheaper
Make sure you deal with the causes of your debt as well as
restructuring your credit. There is little point in taking out a
debt consolidation loan if you continue to live beyond your
means. If you don't exercise financial discipline you run the
risk of getting into the same trouble again in two or three
Before taking out a loan, think about how much you can afford
to repay per month. You need to know -
- what the APR is - whether it is variable - what the overall
cost of the loan is - if the rate of repayment can change for
other reasons - what happens if you miss a payment - what
happens if you repay early or refinance - if you have secured
the loan on your home, what are the consequences of defaulting -
what happens if you decide to move house
Things to be wary of are -
- firms which specialize in debt consolidation; they generally
cost more in interest and fees - claims to improve credit
records; only you can do this and it takes time - offers to lend
extra money, for example, to buy a car; extra debt puts your
home at further risk
Finally, shop around for the best credit and payment protection
deals. You do not have to get them from the same company and you
may not get the best deal if you do.
About the author:
Working in site design, structuring and content for over 3 years
and currently writing for Creditmarket.co.uk
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