Consolidating Your Debt

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I was exploring financial planning recently and spoke with Kayla Allen of reviews.com. She shared some valuable insights about debt consolidation.  Some of what she shared is summarized in this post!

For many, tackling debt is a daunting task. According to a recent article by The Wall Street Journal, “The number of Americans severely behind on payments on federal student loans reached roughly 4.6 million in the third quarter, a doubling from four years ago, despite a historically long stretch of U.S. job creation and steady economic growth.”

Millions of Americans struggle to pay off multiple loans, so many they can’t keep up with all the accounts and due dates. Unfortunately, debt isn’t going anywhere. But there are some solutions, such as debt consolidation loans. Reviews.com took a closer look at which debt consolidation loan lenders offer fixed interest rates, reasonable APRs, and no hidden fees. They found solutions for those with great, average, and poor credit. Check out their suggestions below for average credit:

Best for Average Credit:

Prosper

Minimum credit score: 640

Loan amounts: $2,000–$35,000

APR: 5.99%–35.99%

Prosper is the oldest peer-to-peer lending group in America (founded 2005). With a credit rating requirement of 640, it’s right in the middle of our top picks for credit score. It’s most comparable to Lending Club (whom we’ll discuss in a minute) as they both have similar policies on origination fees, unsuccessful and late fees, and have nearly identical APRs.

We liked how, in addition to a friendly customer service agent, Prosper let us see clearly the reason our tester had been declined for a loan. This gives us some insight into whether it was a problem we could fix, either by building up our credit history, or finding a co-signer, rather than leaving us wondering what happened. Like most of our picks, Prosper’s pre-approval process is also extremely simple, asking for name, address, credit score and income, rather than more obscure categories like “taxable income” that showed up in some of our finalists’ sign-up boxes. Once you’ve entered your information and been pre-approved, Prosper lets you evaluate available loan options by payoff period, monthly payment, and loan amount to make sure you are happy with what you’re getting.

If, after you’ve done the math and compared your options, you choose to go forward with Prosper, you will need to complete the full application. From there, your anonymous loan request will go out to Prosper’s investors. If at least 70 percent of the amount you request is funded, you will receive a loan; only during this final handshake will Prosper do a hard check on your credit. You should receive your loan three to five days after that. If your loan isn’t funded 100 percent, or at all, you can reapply for another loan. There is no waiting period between applications and no maximum number of times you can apply — however Prosper states it does decline users that have submitted a previous application and were declined by the company in the last 120 days.

Lending Club

Minimum Credit Score: 660

Loan Amounts: $1,000 to $40,000

APR: 5.99% to 35.89%

While Lending Club received a lot of media attention in 2016 (and not for any flattering reasons), the news affected investors more than borrowers. There was controversy over the ousted CEO padding reported loan volume and splitting loans to make them appear less risky to investors. For borrowers, not much has changed — the CEO has been replaced, and the company continues to offer the same services, although some analysis suggests that Lending Club might be raising their standards, becoming less willing to lend to people with very low credit scores.

We suggest that if you meet the minimum 660 requirement, you should at least see what sort of rate the company offers. The pre-approval process is as easy as Prosper’s, requiring just the basic address, birthday, and annual income. While they are the only company of our top picks to charge a check processing fee — it will cost you $7 each time you pay your bill with a check rather than electronically — their interest rates and fees are comparable to Prosper. Be aware of Lending Club’s origination fee, however, which can range all the way up to 6% (as opposed to Prosper’s 5%, or Marcus’s 0%). An APR calculator is the best way to see how origination fees will affect your overall costs.

Marcus by Goldman Sachs

Minimum credit score: 660

Loan amounts: $3,500 to $30,000

APR: 6.99% to 23.99%

Marcus by Goldman Sachs is relatively new to online lending, debuting in October 2016. Its minimum credit score, 660, matches Lending Club’s. Its minimum APR rate is higher than most of our picks (6.99%, versus Lending Club’s 5.99%), but averaging things out on the other end, the company’s maximum APR rate is also lower (23.99% versus Lending Club’s 35.89%), so that Marcus still falls well within the typical range of our top picks.

Where Marcus proves to be most interesting is its promise of “No fees. Ever.” They don’t charge origination, late, or unsuccessful payment fees. This doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll be the cheapest loan you can find — you’ll want to compare APR and interest rates as well — but it’s a nice perk and helps ensure that you know exactly what you’ll be paying each month. No need to worry about factoring these fees into your budget if you miss your payment window by a couple of days. We also appreciated their extremely courteous customer service. When we called to ask questions about our loan terms, we only had to wait a couple of seconds before being put directly through to a live representative.

Like our other top picks, Marcus’s pre-approval process can be completed in about five minutes and only requires to provide general background info, like income, credit score, and monthly housing costs.

Conclusion:

Debt consolidation can be a very useful tool, but it’s not a one-size-fits-all solution for dealing with debt. Most experts would recommend looking into other debt management measures before consolidating your loans. Do your homework and enlist the help of a financial professional to make sure you make the right choice for your unique situation.

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