Pros And Cons Of Debt Consolidation (2024)

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Between credit cards, student loans and auto loans, it can be difficult to keep track of payments and balances on outstanding debts. Consolidating these debts into a single loan may streamline your finances, but the strategy likely won’t fix underlying financial challenges. For that reason, it’s important to understand the pros and cons of debt consolidation before committing to a new loan.

To help you decide whether debt consolidation is the right way to pay off your loans, we’ll walk you through the advantages and disadvantages of this popular strategy.

Table of contents

  • What Is Debt Consolidation?
  • How Does Debt Consolidation Work?
  • Is Debt Consolidation a Good Idea?
  • Pros of Debt Consolidation
  • Cons of Debt Consolidation
  • When Should I Consolidate My Debt?
  • How To Get a Debt Consolidation Loan

What Is Debt Consolidation?

Debt consolidation is the process of paying off multiple debts with a new loan or balance transfer credit card—often at a lower interest rate.

The process of consolidating debt with a personal loan involves using the proceeds to pay off each individual loan. While some lenders offer specialized debt consolidation loans, you can use most standard personal loans for debt consolidation. Likewise, some lenders pay off loans on behalf of the borrower, while others disburse the proceeds so the borrower can make the payments themselves.

With a balance transfer credit card, qualified borrowers typically get access to a 0% introductory APR for a period between six months and two years. The borrower can identify the balances they want to transfer when opening the card or transfer the balances after the provider issues the card.

How Does Debt Consolidation Work?

Debt consolidation works by merging all of your debt into one loan. Depending on the terms of your new loan, it could help you get a lower monthly payment, pay off your debt sooner, increase your credit score or simplify your financial life.

Debt consolidation is a three-step process:

  • Take out a new loan
  • Use the new loan to pay off your old debts
  • Pay off the new loan

For example, let’s say you have $20,000 in credit card debt split among three different cards, each with an interest rate above 20%. If you take out a $20,000 personal loan with an interest rate of 10% and a five-year term length, you could pay off that debt faster and save money on interest.

Is Debt Consolidation a Good Idea?

Debt consolidation is usually a good idea for borrowers who have several high-interest loans. However, it may only be feasible if your credit score has improved since applying for the original loans. If your credit score isn’t high enough to qualify for a lower interest rate, it may not make sense to consolidate your debts.

You may also want to think twice about debt consolidation if you haven’t addressed the underlying problems that led to your current debts, like overspending. Paying off multiple credit cards with a debt consolidation loan is not an excuse to run up the balances again, and it can lead to more substantial financial issues down the line.

Pros of Debt Consolidation

Consolidating your debt can have a number of advantages, including faster, more streamlined payoff and lower interest payments.

1. Streamlines Finances

Combining multiple outstanding debts into a single loan reduces the number of payments and interest rates you have to worry about. Consolidation can also improve your credit by reducing the chances of making a late payment—or missing a payment entirely. And, if you’re working toward a debt-free lifestyle, you’ll have a better idea of when all of your debt will be paid off.

2. May Expedite Payoff

If your debt consolidation loan is accruing less interest than the individual loans would, consider making extra payments with the money you save each month. This can help you pay off the debt earlier, thereby saving even more on interest in the long run. Keep in mind, however, that debt consolidation typically leads to more extended loan terms—so you’ll have to make a point of paying your debt off early to take advantage of this benefit.

3. Could Lower Interest Rate

If your credit score has improved since applying for other loans, you may be able to decrease your overall interest rate by consolidating debts—even if you have mostly low-interest loans. Doing so can save you money over the life of the loan, especially if you don’t consolidate with a long loan term. To ensure you get the most competitive rate possible, shop around and focus on lenders that offer a personal loan pre-qualification process.

Remember, though, that some types of debt come with higher interest rates than others. For example, credit cards generally have higher rates than student loans. Consolidating multiple debts with a single personal loan can result in a rate that is lower than some of your debts but higher than others. In this case, focus on what you’re saving as a whole.

4. May Reduce Monthly Payment

When consolidating debt, your overall monthly payment is likely to decrease because future payments are spread out over a new and, perhaps extended, loan term. While this can be advantageous from a monthly budgeting standpoint, it means that you could pay more over the life of the loan, even with a lower interest rate. A loan consolidation calculator can help you estimate your monthly payments.

5. Can Improve Credit Score

Applying for a new loan may result in a temporary dip in your credit score because of the hard credit inquiry. However, debt consolidation can also improve your score in a number of ways. For example, paying off revolving lines of credit, like credit cards, can reduce the credit utilization rate reflected in your credit report. Ideally, your utilization rate should be under 30%, and consolidating debt responsibly can help you accomplish that. Making consistent, on-time payments—and, ultimately, paying off the loan—can also improve your score over time.

Cons of Debt Consolidation

A debt consolidation loan or balance transfer credit card may seem like a good way to streamline debt payoff. That said, there are some risks and disadvantages associated with this strategy.

1. May Come With Added Costs

Taking out a debt consolidation loan may involve additional fees like origination fees, balance transfer fees, closing costs and annual fees. When shopping for a lender, make sure you understand the true cost of each debt consolidation loan before signing on the dotted line.

2. Could Raise Your Interest Rate

If you qualify for a lower interest rate, debt consolidation can be a smart decision. However, if your credit score isn’t high enough to access the most competitive rates, you may be stuck with a rate that’s higher than on your current debts. This may mean paying origination fees, plus more in interest over the life of the loan.

3. You May Pay More In Interest Over Time

Even if your interest rate goes down when consolidating, you could still pay more in interest over the life of the new loan. When you consolidate debt, the repayment timeline starts from day one and may extend as long as seven years. Your overall monthly payment may be lower than you’re used to, but interest will accrue for a longer period of time.

To sidestep this issue, budget for monthly payments that exceed the minimum loan payment. This way, you can take advantage of the benefits of a debt consolidation loan while avoiding the added interest.

4. You Risk Missing Payments

Missing payments on a debt consolidation loan—or any loan—can cause major damage to your credit score; it may also subject you to added fees. To avoid this, review your budget to ensure you can comfortably cover the new payment. Once you consolidate your debts, take advantage of autopay or any other tools that can help you avoid missed payments. And, if you think you may miss an upcoming payment, communicate that to your lender as soon as possible.

5. Doesn’t Solve Underlying Financial Issues

Consolidating debt can simplify payments but it doesn’t address any underlying financial habits that led to those debts in the first place. In fact, many borrowers who take advantage of debt consolidation find themselves in deeper debt because they didn’t curb their spending and continued to build debt. So, if you’re considering debt consolidation to pay off multiple maxed-out credit cards, first take time to develop healthy financial habits.

6. May Encourage Increased Spending

Similarly, paying off credit cards and other lines of credit with a debt consolidation loan may create the illusion of having more money than you actually have. It’s easy for borrowers to fall into the trap of paying off debts, only to find their balances have climbed once again.

Make a budget to reduce spending and stay on top of payments so you don’t end up racking up more debt than you started with.

When Should I Consolidate My Debt?

Debt consolidation can be a wise financial decision under the right circ*mstances—but it’s not always your best bet. Consider consolidating your debt if you have:

  • A large amount of debt. If you have a small amount of debt you can pay off in a year or less, debt consolidation is likely not worth the fees and credit check associated with a new loan.
  • Additional plans to improve your finances. While you can’t avoid some debts—like medical loans—others are the result of overspending or other financially dangerous behavior. Before consolidating your debt, evaluate your habits and come up with a plan to get your finances under control. Otherwise, you may end up with even more debt than you had before consolidating.
  • A credit score high enough to qualify for a lower interest rate. If your credit score has increased since taking out your other loans, you’re more likely to qualify for a debt consolidation rate that’s lower than your current rates. This can help you save on interest over the life of the loan.
  • Cash flow that comfortably covers monthly debt service. Only consolidate your debt if you have enough income to cover the new monthly payment. While your overall monthly payment may go down, consolidation is not a good option if you’re currently unable to cover your monthly debt service.

How To Get a Debt Consolidation Loan

Qualifying for a personal loan for debt consolidation can be simple and straightforward, especially if you have a good income and a solid credit history. Here’s how to do it:

  • Check your credit. Check your credit score and reports from all three major bureaus. Fix any errors that could negatively affect your credit score, and use your credit score to help inform which loans you can qualify for. Even if your credit is low, there are lenders that offer debt consolidation loans for bad credit.
  • Gather your loan application documents. This can speed up your loan application process since most lenders require the same documents. You’ll need your most recent pay stubs, W-2s, bank statements and tax returns, among others.
  • Get a payoff estimate from your current lenders. For any debt that you’ll be consolidating, you’ll generally need a current debt payoff statement that includes your remaining balance, plus any interest that has accrued since your last payment.
  • Shop around for rates. Look for the best rates available to you, both online and in person. Prequalify, if possible, to see which rates you may receive without impacting your credit score.
  • Submit your application. Choose the best option and complete your loan application. Quickly respond to the lender if they need any additional information.
  • Receive the loan funds. If approved, your lender will contact you about how your loan funds are disbursed. Some lenders pay off your old creditors for you while others require that you do it yourself.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Do debt consolidation loans hurt your credit?

You might see a small dip in your credit score after you take out the loan because your lender will run a hard credit check. Luckily, this usually only lowers your credit score by five points or less, and after a year it won’t affect your credit score at all. After that, as long as you make your payments on time, you’ll generally see a credit boost as you repay the loan.

When is debt consolidation not a good idea?

If you wouldn’t be able to qualify for a lower interest rate than you’re already paying on your existing loans, debt consolidation might not make sense. Additionally, if you might be tempted to rack up a balance on your credit cards again, it might not be a good idea because you’ll soon find yourself in the same spot you started in—but with more debt this time.

Is it hard to get approved for debt consolidation ?

It depends on your financial situation. If you have excellent credit, high income and are borrowing a relatively small amount of money, it can be easy to get approved for a debt consolidation loan.

On the other hand, if you have poor credit, low income and are applying for a large loan, it may be difficult to get approved.

How long does debt consolidation stay on your credit report?

It depends on the type of information that’s reported to the credit bureaus. If you miss any payments on your debt consolidation loan, that information will stay on your credit report forseven yearsbefore being automatically removed. However, positive information like loans that you paid off in good standing will stay on your credit report for a lot longer—10 years.

Pros And Cons Of Debt Consolidation (2024)


What is a disadvantage of debt consolidation? ›

You may pay a higher rate

Your debt consolidation loan could come with more interest than you currently pay on your debts. This can happen for several reasons, including your current credit score. If it's on the lower end, lenders see you as a higher risk for default.

Does debt consolidation hurt your credit? ›

If you do it right, debt consolidation might slightly decrease your score temporarily. The drop will come from a hard inquiry that appears on your credit reports every time you apply for credit. But, according to Experian, the decrease is normally less than 5 points and your score should rebound within a few months.

Is debt consolidation program a good idea? ›

Consolidating debt can be a good idea if you have good credit and can qualify for better terms than what you have now and you can afford the new monthly payments. However, you might think twice about it if your credit needs some work, your debt burden is small or your debt situation is dire.

Is debt consolidation a good way to get out of debt? ›

Debt consolidation is ideal when you are able to receive an interest rate that's lower than the rates you're paying for your current debts. Many lenders allow you to check what rate you'd be approved for without hurting your credit score so you can make sure you're okay with the terms before signing on the dotted line.

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