Debt Management vs Debt Consolidation: Which Can Help You?

This illustration shows a person holding an oversized credit card and a ball and chain around the ankle. This story goes over the differences between debt management and debt consolidation.
Getty Images
Some of the links in this post are from our sponsors. We provide you with accurate, reliable information. Learn more about how we make money and select our advertising partners.

So, you’ve got debt.

It sucks, but you’re not alone — about 80% of Americans have debt, too. Some of it is good debt, like mortgages and student loans; some of it not so great, like overwhelming credit card balances.

When you decide to take on that credit card debt, there are a couple of options for you, debt management and debt consolidation being the most common and affordable. Debt-settlement companies are a third option, but they can be expensive, hurt your credit score and won’t stop the creditors from calling you.

So instead of using one of those debt-relief programs you hear about on the radio, consider whether debt management or debt consolidation is right for your situation.

Debt Management

If you have credit card balances that are beyond your ability to repay, creditors may be open to negotiating. That’s when working with a nonprofit or a credit union to create a debt-management plan can be the most helpful.

Certified counselors will help you set up a voluntary agreement between you and your creditors, and set up a single payment for you. You’ll pay directly to the non profit, who will handle each of your debt payments on your behalf. There’s no charge and you’ll likely get reduced or waived charges and fees from your creditors.

Something to consider: Your debt management plan could take three to five years to pay off, meaning you won’t be able to open any line of credit until your debts are entirely paid off. That means no new credit cards, no mortgages and no car leases.

That being said, your credit could improve throughout that time (no hard inquiries!) and you may be able to build up your savings, helping you achieve your financial goals.

Debt Consolidation

If you have a number of credit cards with escalating balances and mounds of interest making it worse, a debt-consolidation loan could be the right choice for your situation. It’s a personal loan that lets you combine multiple high-interest debts into a single, lower-interest loan.

Think about it this way: credit card interest rates could be 20% or more of your balance every month. Those interest payments could keep you trapped in debt to your credit card company. A debt-consolidation loan will pay off those balances for you, so you can focus on a single lower-interest payment every month.

You’ll still be able to open new lines of credit (the loan itself is a new line of credit, after all). This won’t put as much of a pause on your financial life as a debt-management plan would. But it could ding your credit score with a hard inquiry, so having a good score in the first place will help secure a worthwhile loan.

You can get started on consolidating your debt and lowering your interest payments right now. A website called AmOne wants to help.

If you owe your credit card companies $50,000 or less, AmOne will match you with a low-interest loan you can use to pay off every single one of your balances.

The benefit? You’ll be left with one bill to pay each month. And because personal loans have lower interest rates (AmOne rates start at 3.99% APR), you’ll get out of debt that much faster. Plus: No credit card payment this month.

AmOne keeps your information confidential and secure, which is probably why after 20 years in business, it still has an A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau.

It takes two minutes to see if you qualify for up to $50,000 online. You do need to give AmOne a real phone number in order to qualify, but don’t worry — they won’t spam you with phone calls.