Everyone's debt situation is unique and determining what will work best for you begins with categorizing your debt. Whether your debt is secured or unsecured significantly effects the measures you can take to eliminate debt.
Secured debt is a loan which is "secured" by property. Simply put, if the bank can come and take something from you if you don't pay (ie; home, car) then the debt is secured.
Unsecured debt is the most common type of debt and is typically in the form of credit card debt.
Eliminating Unsecured Debt
The three most common ways to eliminate unsecured debt are
1. paying as agreed
3. reaching a settlement with the creditor for less than the balance due - also known as debt settlement or debt negotiation
Bankruptcy is rarely a viable option. Due to the changes to the Bankruptcy Law in 2004 by the Bush administration, estimates are that less than 10% of people who file for bankruptcy are successfully discharging any debt. Most have to pay it back now under Chapter 13.
Credit Counseling and Debt Consolidation services typically focus on eliminating your debt by settling with your creditor for less than the balance due. These services are typically owned by large banks and credit companies and typically charge a fee. The good news is, this is something you can do on your own.
Settle For Less than the Balance Due
The key to a successful settlement is leverage. If a bank thinks they can get more out of you, they will not settle. This means that you may have to go months without making any payments. This will reflect poorly on your credit report and affect your credit score, but it is a necessary to obtain a good settlement.
During the time you are not making payments to the credit card company they will constantly attempt to contact you to discuss it. This is best dealt with from the very beginning by sending them a letter requesting that they only contact you in writing. Also, it is very important that you familiarize yourself with your rights under the Fair Debt Collections Practices Act and the Fair Credit Reporting Act. Collections representatives often behave in unscrupulous ways and knowing your rights is your key to fighting back.
Once you have sufficient leverage against the company it is time to attempt a settlement. A realistic goal would be to settle the debt for between 35%-50% of the balance. Contact the bank or credit card company directly and they will likely transfer you to their collections department. Once in touch with the collections representative simply let them know you wish to resolve the debt. Typically, they will make you an offer to settle for 65%-80% of the balance before you ever make an offer to pay. Let them know what you do have; an initial offer of 15%-25% of the balance is reasonable. They may tell you no or tell you that they have to speak with their manager but continue the negotiation as necessary to settle within the range that you desire.
Some credit companies are more apt to settle than others. For instance, American Express can be a very difficult company to settle with for less than 60%. Search the internet for information on your particular bank or credit card company to see how others have fared.How to Eliminate Unsecured Credit Card Debt