Consolidation loans can be perceived as a last resort for people who did not practice responsible spending habits, but this is far from the truth. People who actively stay on top of their finances also benefit from consolidation loans. Who would pass up an opportunity to lower your rate, save money, or get out of debt faster?
Although some young adults new to credit cards and consumer loans may not have the budgeting experience to set accurate spending limits and do get overwhelmed, others may suffer setbacks that cause expenses to nearly outweigh their paycheck. No matter your situation, everyone may benefit from consolidation loans.
It’s important to carefully consider whether consolidation loans are suitable for your financial situation. And if so, explore the critical next steps involved in understanding the process and determining the best consolidation loan to achieve your financial goals.
Understand How Consolidation Loans Work
The majority of consolidation loans are fixed-rate products that offer borrowers a static monthly installment. The lump sum disbursement is used to pay off credit card balances, high-interest loans, and other types of debt. Examples of these include home equity loans and personal loans.
Rather than writing checks or making electronic payments for multiple accounts each month, you are left with a single bill. In this way, consolidation loans streamline your finances, reduce the amount of monthly income applied to consumer debt, and usually save money on interest and fees. In some cases, you can even shorten your repayment period.
Decide if a Consolidation Loan Can Help
Consolidation loans prove viable solutions for many people with strained finances. But that does not necessarily mean they are the go-to option in every scenario. Before applying for a home equity loan, personal loan, or low-rate credit card, conduct some due diligence to determine if consolidating multiple loans and credit card balances is right for you. Here are some scenarios where a consolidation loan may benefit your finances.
- You are carrying balances on several high-interest credit cards.
- You are paying too many bills each month and tend to forget a payment.
- You are only making the minimum payments each month.
- Paying back taxes is straining your finances.
- Little money is left for leisure spending after paying bills.
Because consolidation loans can be used to pay off credit cards, personal loans, taxes, medical costs, and even utility bills, they reduce outgoing revenue. Paying one manageable fixed-rate monthly installment frees up money to pay down the principal faster, increase savings, or improve your quality of life.
Review Consolidation Loan Options
There are multiple consolidation loans for qualified borrowers to consider. Each option provides borrowers with specific benefits that may be a fit for their unique financial situation. There are also reasons certain consolidation loans may not be effective to achieve long-term financial goals. These rank among the popular consolidation loan options.
Home Equity Loan as a Consolidation Loan
A home equity loan is essentially a second mortgage that leverages the difference between what is owed on the initial mortgage and fair market value. Because home equity loans are lump sums secured by property, qualified borrowers generally enjoy access to low-interest options. In terms of lowering the amount of your hard-earned money spent on accruing interest and fees, home equity loans used for debt consolidation rank among the preferred choices.
Property with viable equity may also qualify for a flexible home equity line of credit or HELOC. This option also uses home equity as collateral. The key difference between a HELOC and a traditional home equity loan is the former does not involve a lump sum. Instead, borrowers can apply the resource much like a low-interest credit card. After paying off debt, borrowers make installments on only what they use.
Although consolidation loans usually help reduce some of the financial strain, not everyone is comfortable using their home as collateral to achieve financial independence.
Personal Loan for Debt Consolidation
Personal loans can be used for a wide variety of purposes, which makes them a great debt consolidation option. Lenders generally do not require collateral to back up the lump sum disbursement, unlike home equity loans. Of course, borrowers are obligated to make on-time monthly installments even though specific assets are not part of the written contract.
Although community members may feel more comfortable with unsecured loan products, they rarely come with the rates associated with home equity and other asset-secured options. Credit scores, repayment histories, and debt-to-income ratios largely determine the interest rates of these consolidation loans.
Credit Card Options for Bill Consolidation
The notion of paying off debilitating credit card debt by taking out another account may seem counterintuitive. But not every lender attaches high-interest rates and fees to credit card programs. Unlike big corporations, local credit unions operate under a mandate of providing community members with low-interest borrowing opportunities.
Charging only necessary rates and fees, these credit cards reduce monthly interest and eliminate many fees.
Although low-interest credit cards typically cannot deliver rates comparable to secured loan options, they rank among the best alternatives for people with limited assets.
How to Improve Your Consolidation Loan Approval Chances
It’s important to put yourself in the best possible position to gain approval for a debt consolidation solution. Seemingly subtle differences in your finances can impact your credit score and determine whether you enjoy access to the lowest rates and favorable terms. If rolling multiple bills into one convenient installment would improve your financial health and quality of life, these are ways to improve your chances of getting approved.
- Credit Score: Request a free credit report from the three major bureaus — TransUnion, Equifax, and Experian. Check the report for any errors and request changes. Take proactive measures if you see any items that could be cured to improve your FICO score.
- Debt-to-Income: Lenders consider income to expenses as a significant metric when approving or denying consolidation loans. If you have the bandwidth to eliminate a credit card balance while keeping the card or pay off a straggling personal loan balance, take action before applying.
- Pre-Qualify: When people apply for loans, lenders must make what is known as a “hard credit pull.” A credit score and report are requested from the three major bureaus. In doing this, your score dips slightly. By contrast, pre-qualifying only involves a “soft” inquiry and your credit score is not necessarily impacted. Getting pre-qualified helps determine how much you can borrow and if that figure can deliver debt relief.
If you fall short of the mark after pre-qualifying, it may make sense to have a loved one effectively co-sign and bring collateral to the equation.
How to Apply for the Best Consolidation Loan
Once you have completed your due diligence, applying for a consolidation loan is a relatively straightforward process. Gather necessary items such as bank statements, tax returns, state-issued identification, and proof of employment if applicable before applying online.