What Is Debt Consolidation: Does it Hurt Your Credit? | Equifax (2024)


  • Debt consolidation is a debt management strategy that combines your outstanding debt into a new loan with a single monthly payment.
  • There are several ways to consolidate debt. What works best for you will depend on your specific financial circ*mstances.
  • Weigh the pros and cons of debt consolidation and how it might affect your credit scores to decide whether it's the right path for you.

If you're struggling to pay off multiple debts simultaneously, you might consider debt consolidation. Consolidation can be an extremely useful repayment strategy — provided you understand the ins, the outs and how the process could impact your credit scores.

What is debt consolidation?

Debt consolidation is a debt management strategy that combines your outstanding debt into a new loan with just one monthly payment. You can consolidate multiple credit cards or a mix of credit cards and other loans such as a student loan or a mortgage. Consolidation does not automatically erase your debt, but it does provide some borrowers with the tools they need to pay back what they owe more effectively.

The goal of consolidation is twofold. First, consolidation condenses multiple monthly payments, often owed to different lenders, into a single payment. Second, it can make repayment less expensive. By combining multiple balances into a new loan with a lower interest rate, you can reduce cumulative interest, which is the sum of all interest payments made over the life of a loan.

Debt consolidation loans often feature lower minimum payments, saving you from the financial consequences of missed payments down the line. In short, you'll generally spend less on interest and pay off what you owe more quickly.

Types of debt consolidation

There are several ways to consolidate debt. What works best for you will depend on your specific financial circ*mstances. These include:

Debt consolidation loan. The most common of these are personal loans known simply as debt consolidation loans. Frequently used to consolidate credit card debt, they come with lower interest rates and better terms than most credit cards, making them an attractive option. Debt consolidation loans are unsecured, meaning the borrower doesn't have to put an asset on the line as collateral to back the loan. However, borrowers will only be offered the best interest rates and other favorable loan terms if they have good credit scores.

Home equity loan or home equity line of credit. For homeowners, it's also possible to consolidate debt by taking out a home equity loan or home equity line of credit (HELOC). However, these types of secured loans are much riskier to the borrower than a debt consolidation plan, since the borrower's home is used as collateral and failure to pay may result in foreclosure.

401 (k) loan. You can also borrow against your 401(k) retirement account to consolidate debts. Although 401 (k) loans don't require credit checks, dipping into your retirement savings is a dangerous prospect, and you stand to lose out on accumulating interest.

Consolidation can certainly be a tidy solution to repaying your debt, but there are a few things to know before you take the plunge.

Debt consolidation loans and your credit scores

Before you're approved for a debt consolidation loan, lenders will evaluate your credit reports and credit scores to help them determine whether to offer you a loan and at what terms.

High credit scores mean you'll be more likely to qualify for a loan with favorable terms for debt consolidation. Generally, borrowers with scores of 740 or higher will receive the best interest rates, followed by those in the 739 to 670 range.

If your credit score is lower than 670, debt consolidation may not be a good option for you. Consolidating debt when you have bad credit can be challenging. Although you may be approved for a loan, the interest rates offered to you will likely be high and may negate the savings you hoped to achieve by consolidating your debt.

It's also important to understand that debt consolidation involves taking out a new loan. As with any other type of loan, the application process and the loan itself can affect your credit scores. Weigh the pros and cons of debt consolidation and how it might affect your credit scores to decide whether it's the right path for you.


  • Credit Utilization. Your credit utilization ratio, the amount of revolving credit you're using divided by the total credit available to you, contributes to your credit scores. Lenders interpret high credit utilization ratios (usually above 30%) as an indicator of risk. So, if you have several credit cards open and each is carrying a large balance, your credit utilization ratio will be high, which typically translates to lower credit scores. However, credit cards and personal loans are considered two separate types of debt when assessing your credit mix, which accounts for 10% of your FICO credit score. So if you consolidate multiple credit card debts into one new personal loan, your credit utilization ratio and credit score could improve.
  • Payment History. If you have been struggling with high-interest debt, you already know that missed payments can quickly drag down your credit scores. Debt consolidation offers a solution: if you are able to obtain lower interest rates and lower payments, then it may be easier to meet your monthly obligation and avoid a negative hit to your credit scores.


  • Hard Inquiries. When you apply for loans, including those for debt consolidation, potential lenders review your credit reports, which generates what's known as a hard inquiry. Hard inquiries help lenders track how often you apply for new credit accounts. Each new inquiry may knock your credit scores down a few points, so you'll want to be sure that you only apply for loans for which you're likely to be approved.
  • Newer Accounts. The average age of your accounts has a big impact on your credit scores. Opening a new account will lower the average age of your accounts, and you might see a corresponding drop in your credit scores. Closing credit accounts that have been paid off will generally have the same effect.

Alternatives to debt consolidation

Consolidation isn't the only option for debtholders looking for relief. Consider these alternatives:

Debt management plans. Some non-profit credit counseling services offer debt management programs, where counselors work directly with the creditor to secure lower interest rates and monthly payments. This approach may help you avoid taking out a new loan, but there's a catch. You'll also lose the ability to open new credit accounts as long as the debt management plan is in place.

Credit card refinancing. Credit card refinancing involves transferring your debt onto a new balance transfer credit card with an interest rate as low as 0%. This introductory rate is only temporary, however, and these kinds of cards are difficult to get without good credit scores.

Bankruptcy. Filing for bankruptcy is a legal process for individuals and businesses that find themselves unable to pay their debts. During bankruptcy proceedings, a court examines the filer's financial situation, including their assets and liabilities. If the court finds that the filer has insufficient assets to cover what they owe, it may rule that the debts be discharged, meaning the borrower is no longer legally responsible to pay them back.

While bankruptcy can be a good choice in some extreme situations, it's not an easy way out. Bankruptcy proceedings will have a severe impact on your credit scores and can remain on your credit reports for up to 10 years after you file. Bankruptcy should generally only be considered as a last resort.

Juggling multiple debts can be overwhelming, but it's important not to let those bills pile up. With a few deep breaths and some careful consideration, finding a strategy for debt management that keeps your credit healthy is well within your reach.

What Is Debt Consolidation: Does it Hurt Your Credit? | Equifax (2024)


What Is Debt Consolidation: Does it Hurt Your Credit? | Equifax? ›

Debt consolidation offers a solution: if you are able to obtain lower interest rates and lower payments, then it may be easier to meet your monthly obligation and avoid a negative hit to your credit scores.

How bad 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.

Do you lose your credit cards after debt consolidation? ›

If a credit card account remains open after you've paid it off through debt consolidation, you can still use it. However, running up another balance could make it difficult to pay off your debt consolidation account.

How can I consolidate my debt without affecting my credit score? ›

Best Options to Consolidate Debt Without Hurting Your Credit
  1. Personal Loans. A personal loan is one of the most common methods of merging multiple debts into one. ...
  2. Home Equity Loans. With a home equity loan, you can borrow against your home's equity and use the money to pay off existing debts. ...
  3. Balance Transfers.
Sep 13, 2023

Can you do debt consolidation if you have bad credit? ›

You can get a debt consolidation loan with bad credit by working with online lenders with less-stringent requirements than traditional banks or credit unions. These financial institutions may be more willing to work with borrowers who wouldn't otherwise be able to qualify for a loan.

How long does it take your credit to recover from debt consolidation? ›

Debt consolidation itself doesn't show up on your credit reports, but any new loans or credit card accounts you open to consolidate your debt will. Most accounts will show up for 10 years after you close them, and any missed payments will show up for seven years from the date you missed the payment.

Is it smart to consolidate debt? ›

Debt consolidation can help your credit if you make on-time payments or if consolidating shrinks your credit card balances. Your credit may be hurt if you run up credit card balances again, close most or all of your remaining cards, or miss a payment on your debt consolidation loan.

Can I buy a house after debt consolidation? ›

Debt settlement could saddle you with more financial problems, like lower credit scores and a bill from the IRS, both of which could make it harder to qualify for a mortgage. Ultimately you can still get a mortgage after debt settlement, but you have to approach the process with some strategy and caution.

What are the drawbacks of a debt consolidation loan? ›

Cons of Debt Consolidation
  • May Come With Added Costs. ...
  • Could Raise Your Interest Rate. ...
  • You May Pay More In Interest Over Time. ...
  • You Risk Missing Payments. ...
  • Doesn't Solve Underlying Financial Issues. ...
  • May Encourage Increased Spending.
Apr 9, 2024

What happens when you go into debt consolidation? ›

Banks, credit unions, and installment loan lenders may offer debt consolidation loans. These loans convert many of your debts into one loan payment, simplifying how many payments you have to make. These offers also might be for lower interest rates than what you're currently paying.

How much debt is too much to consolidate? ›

It generally takes a DTI of 36% or less to get the best interest rates and other terms. Many lenders won't loan to borrowers whose DTIs are over 43% at all. Even if approved, a high-DTI borrower may have to pay more interest on a debt consolidation loan than for the loans being consolidated.

What is the minimum credit score for debt consolidation loan? ›

Every lender sets its own guidelines when it comes to minimum credit score requirements for debt consolidation loans. However, it's likely lenders will require a minimum score between 580 and 680.

What is the best debt relief company? ›

National Debt Relief is the best overall debt settlement company, according to our research. National Debt Relief's low-cost fee structure and referral service make it a top option for people struggling with debts. Our highest-rated debt settlement companies all charge similar fees, ranging from 15% to 25% of the debt.

Can you get a debt consolidation loan with a 500 credit score? ›

The exact credit score needed for debt consolidation depends on the specific lender. In general, however, lenders prefer borrowers who have a good or excellent credit score (typically 670 or higher).

What is the quickest way to pay off credit card debt? ›

Strategies to help pay off credit card debt fast
  1. Review and revise your budget. ...
  2. Make more than the minimum payment each month. ...
  3. Target one debt at a time. ...
  4. Consolidate credit card debt. ...
  5. Contact your credit card provider.

Is it possible to get a loan with a 520 credit score? ›

It is 180 points away from being a “good” credit score, which many people use as a benchmark, and 120 points from being “fair.” A 520 credit score won't knock any lenders' socks off, but it shouldn't completely prevent you from being approved for a credit card or loan, either.

Does debt consolidation affect buying a home? ›

5 As we mentioned already, getting a lower monthly payment on a personal debt consolidation loan can lower your DTI and make it easier to qualify for a mortgage. However, the opposite is also true, and a debt consolidation loan with a higher monthly payment could make qualifying more difficult.


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