The biggest risks associated with debt consolidation include credit score damage, fees, the potential to not receive low enough rates, and the possibility of losing any collateral you put up. Another danger of debt consolidation is winding up with more debt than you start with, if you’re not careful.
While debt consolidation can often save borrowers money and help them pay off their debts faster, it’s important to consider all of the potential dangers before consolidating.
Top Debt Consolidation Risks:
Credit score damage: If you apply for a debt consolidation loan or credit card, your score will drop 5-10 points from the hard inquiry. But consolidating debt can help improve your score in the long run if you get rid of your debt sooner.
Good rates and large dollar amounts not guaranteed: Depending on your credit, income and other factors, you may not be able to qualify for a loan or credit card with lower rates than the APRs on your existing debts. You might not be able to get enough funding to pay off all your existing balances, either.
Fees: Debt consolidation loans may charge origination fees of up to 8% of the loan amount. Balance transfer credit cards may charge 3% to 5% of each transfer.
Possibility of losing collateral: If you consolidate with a secured loan, and you are unable to pay that loan back, the lender will take possession of the collateral that you put up to open the loan.
High credit utilization: If you consolidate using a credit card or other line of credit, your credit utilization ratio may increase. That will hurt your credit score. But loans do not count toward credit utilization, since they are not revolving credit accounts.
It’s up to you to decide whether the dangers of debt consolidation are worth the potential benefits. Check out WalletHub’s guide on debt consolidation to learn even more about the process.
A credit card consolidation loan is a good idea if it reduces the cost of your debt and allows you to repay what you owe sooner than you would otherwise. Furthermore, a credit consolidation loan is the best choice if it will save you more than the top balance transfer credit cards… read full answer.
Credit card debt consolidation loans help put all your balances in one place. But they’re not worth it unless you also get a reduced interest rate relative to what you’re currently paying. Checking with a personal loan provider to see what rates you’re pre-qualified for should give you an idea of whether you’ll actually save money if approved.
If you can qualify for a balance transfer credit card that will accommodate all of your debt and provide a 0% introductory interest rate for 12+ months, that may be a better choice. That’s easier said than done, however, so it’s a good idea to keep your options open.
Credit card consolidation loans are a good idea when they:
Save you money on interest.
Help you get out of debt sooner.
Offer a better deal than balance transfer credit cards.
If you can’t find a credit card consolidation loan that will save you money, or qualify for any good balance transfer cards, there are a few alternatives to consider. A secured personal loan or home equity loan could get you lower rates, but at the risk of losing your property/home if you default. A loan from a friend or relative could get you low rates but could put stress on your relationship. Finally, other debt solutions like settling with your creditors may be helpful.
Personal loans affect your credit score in the short-term and in the long-term. In the short-term, a personal loan may damage your score because it causes a hard credit inquiry and increases your debt load. But in the long-term, a personal loan can either help or hurt your credit, depending largely on whether or not you pay the bills on time. Ultimately, it’s up to you how much impact the personal loan will have.… read full answer
How a Personal Loan Affects Your Credit Score:
Does temporary damage with an initial hard inquiry. When you first apply for a personal loan, your credit score will immediately take a small hit. That’s because applying for a personal loan triggers a hard inquiry into your credit history. But this shouldn’t drop your score by more than 5 points or so, and you should be able to bounce back quickly.
Adds to your overall debt. If you’re approved for a personal loan, you will immediately have a higher debt load, which may cause your credit score to drop in the short-term. That’s because the more debt you have, the riskier it is for banks and credit unions to lend to you.
Reports to the major credit bureaus monthly. The banks, credit unions and online lenders that issue personal loans report payment information to the major credit bureaus on a monthly basis. If you make on-time payments, you can expect your score to increase. But if you are late or don’t pay altogether, your score will drop.
Improves your credit mix. Proving yourself capable of managing multiple types of loans and lines of credit responsibly is good for your credit score. It shows you can be trusted to repay what you borrow in a variety of situations. So if you only have one or two other types of accounts on your credit report, such as credit cards or student loans, your score may benefit in the long run from getting the personal loan.
Could help reduce credit utilization. Personal loans give you a lump sum up front, which you pay back in monthly installments. This is different from a credit card, where you can borrow up to a certain amount any time you want. Credit cards are known as “revolving credit,” and a big part of your credit score is how much of your revolving credit you use up each month, or your “credit utilization ratio.” Personal loans don’t count toward this ratio, so if you use them to pay off revolving debt, you can lower your ratio and improve your score.
In conclusion, as long as you’re sure to pay on time each month, a personal loan should eventually increase your score by a lot more than the initial inquiry caused it to fall. You can also avoid wasting hard inquiries by getting pre-qualified for a loan first. Pre-qualification only uses a harmless soft inquiry. And while it doesn’t guarantee approval, it will let you know if your odds are good.
WalletHub Answers is a free service that helps consumers access financial information. Information on WalletHub Answers is provided “as is” and should not be considered financial, legal or investment advice. WalletHub is not a financial advisor, law firm, “lawyer referral service,” or a substitute for a financial advisor, attorney, or law firm. You may want to hire a professional before making any decision. WalletHub does not endorse any particular contributors and cannot guarantee the quality or reliability of any information posted. The helpfulness of a financial advisor's answer is not indicative of future advisor performance.
WalletHub members have a wealth of knowledge to share, and we encourage everyone to do so while respecting our content guidelines. Please keep in mind that editorial and user-generated content on this page is not reviewed or otherwise endorsed by any financial institution. In addition, it is not a financial institution’s responsibility to ensure all posts and questions are answered.
Ad Disclosure: Certain offers that appear on this site originate from paying advertisers, and this will be noted on an offer’s details page using the designation "Sponsored", where applicable. Advertising may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). At WalletHub we try to present a wide array of offers, but our offers do not represent all financial services companies or products.