Frequently Asked Questions
What is a debt resolution program?
Debt resolution (aka debt settlement, negotiated debt settlement, or debt negotiation) is a process where a company negotiates or settles an unsecured debt to a creditor or debt collector.
The debt resolution company has two goals when they’re negotiating with your creditors:
- to reduce the amount you owe and
- to “settle” the debt more quickly than you’d pay it off on your own.
While that may seem too good to be true, the debt resolution process is pretty standard for creditors... many often settle debt for less than the amount owed. Creditors know that clients facing hardship may never pay the debt or decide to declare bankruptcy, so it’s in the creditor’s own interest to settle the debt for less rather than getting no money at all.
Who is best suited for a debt resolution program?
Debt resolution is generally for people with $10,000 or more in unsecured debt who want to reduce their total amount of debt without declaring bankruptcy. If you’re facing financial hardship and have more debt than you can pay off in the next two to four years, debt resolution can be a solid option for getting yourself back on track financially.
What type of debt can First Premier Credit help me with?
We only work with debts without collateral attached to them, also known as unsecured debt. Unsecured debt includes everything from credit cards to store cards and medical bills. Debts with collateral attached –like mortgages, car loans, or federal student loans– are not eligible for debt resolution. Get in touch with us if you need to clarify which of your debts are eligible.
How does First Premier Credit’s debt resolution program work?
We can walk you through each step in detail over the phone, but here’s an overview of our process after you’ve enrolled in the program.
- Once you’ve enrolled in the program, a custom negotiation strategy is created based on your particular mix of creditors and debt amounts. Your program is designed around maximizing your savings, reducing your overall payments, and settling your debt as quickly as possible.
- Next, you’ll open your FDIC-insured Dedicated Account (sometimes called an “escrow” or “settlement” account) that you fully own. That’s where you’ll send your monthly deposits. This account is used for one purpose only: building up your savings so you can eventually use those funds to pay off your creditors.
- Our negotiators will do everything they can to get your creditors to call them (rather than you) to negotiate as quickly as possible. It can also be a good idea to voluntarily stay off the phones with your creditors...the more you pick up, the more they call (and vice versa). At this point, you’ll also need to stop using the credit card or loan your program is targeting.
- Once one of your creditors agrees to a lower settlement and you’ve approved it, payments from your Dedicated Account will be sent to the creditor. Sometimes, the settlements involve one lump-sum payment to creditors, while others involve multiple payments over time. When the settlement is complete, your debt with the creditor is considered resolved and the debt resolution services on that debt are complete.
When will I have my debts paid off?
While it varies from person to person, the average debt resolution program lasts two to four years. How long your program takes depends on a few factors, including how much money you deposit in your account every month. You can start paying off debts when you’ve saved enough money to cover the amount negotiated in the settlement. The more money you can add to your Dedicated Account, the quicker your debts can be settled.
Keep in mind: Making all program deposits consistently and on time is the most important thing you can do to ensure a successful plan. Missing payments towards your debt resolution program can stall your negotiation process as there won’t be enough funds in your Dedicated Account for us to leverage in negotiations.
How soon do you start working with my creditors?
Most of your creditors won’t get into serious debt reduction discussions with us until they know you’re serious about paying them off. You can only prove that commitment to paying them off by building up enough money in your Dedicated Account. On top of that, creditors may be more likely to negotiate a settlement that benefits you once multiple payments have been missed.
In general, the first settlement tends to happen within the first four to six months of the program.
Who is in charge of that Dedicated Account?
The answer is simple: you are! Once you’ve enrolled in a program, you’ll set up your Dedicated Account in your name and deposit your money into it. The reason for setting up this new account (rather than just putting your monthly deposits into an existing bank account) is to keep those settlement funds separate from your other money. Of course, if you ever withdraw from the program, the remaining funds in your Dedicated Account (minus banking and earned settlement fees) are –as always– yours.
What happens if I end up missing monthly payments? Am I going to be kicked out of the program?
Though making consistent, on-time program deposits is the best way to ensure your plan’s success, we know that even the most organized, punctual person on the planet will sometimes face unforeseen issues. It could happen to anyone, so it’s not a reason to drop you from the program. Keep in mind, though, that missing multiple program deposits could put your program at risk.
If something comes up out of the blue, give customer service a call and we can find a way to get you back on track. If you know ahead of time that you’ll have a problem with a payment, tell us at least five business days ahead of time so we can make other arrangements.
Keep in mind: building up the amount of money in your Dedicated Account is an important part of settling your debts, so missing a payment may delay your debt relief program progress (plus, you could miss possible settlements.)
Will I still get charged interest and late fees on my debts?
Part of your agreement with your credit card companies allows them to continue to add interest and late fees to your debt any time you fail to make payments. This means while you’re getting your Dedicated Account set up and funded, your credit card debt could go up. However, the goal of the debt resolution program is to arrange settlements that reduce your debt balances no matter what kind of interest charges or late fees are added after you begin our program.
What happens if any of my creditors won’t budge on a settlement?
In extreme cases when a creditor refuses to settle, the only option may be to remove the creditor from the program. If a settlement can’t be reached, we can’t collect a fee from you for that specific debt.
What about calls from collectors? How should I handle them?
Creditors hire collectors to pressure you into paying as much as they can get, and they’ll then pocket a percentage of whatever you pay your creditors. Collection calls are a natural part of debt resolution programs, and are actually a key indicator that your debt resolution program is working! Our most successful clients choose to let calls from unrecognized numbers go to voicemail. There are even free apps you can download on a smartphone to block certain calls.
Thanks to federal and state laws, you have rights against collection harassment (click here for more FTC guidelines about those laws and your rights). If you accidentally end up speaking to a collector, you should let the collector know you’re working with First Premier Credit, so they should call us instead of you. Then, make sure to let us know about the call, including which collector is calling you and when they called you. We want to get your creditors to call us if they’re looking to receive payment, not you.
What happens if my creditors take legal action against me?
Legal action by creditors could occur. If you do receive a legal notice, please send it to our service team so they can prioritize this creditor or lender and work to settle it first.
Rather than taking legal action, a more common step creditors take is selling your debt to third-party collection agencies and/or law firms. When something like this happens, this particular creditor or lender might get moved to a priority list.
If a lawsuit does get filed against you, your settlement negotiators can attempt to resolve that creditor or lender’s account by setting up a specific payment plan. They also may be able to refer you for further help if needed.
Note: We are not a law firm and can’t offer any legal advice.
Am I going to owe taxes on whatever debt was forgiven?
While the answer can be different for everyone, in general, forgiven debts can be taxable. When tax time rolls around, you’ll likely receive a Cancellation of Debt form (1099-c) from the lender that forgave your debt.
To find out about your specific situation –and understand the potential tax implications of any debt that’s been forgiven through a debt relief program– it’s a good idea to talk to your tax advisor.
How could a debt resolution program impact my credit?
Most client credit is already being negatively impacted by poor payment history and amounts owed, which are the two largest factors of your credit. Whether your credit is maxed out or you have a high debt-to-credit or debt-to-income ratio, chances are that your credit has been negatively impacted.
Our goal is to help you resolve your debt quickly, so that you can start building a brighter financial future (including a more positive credit score) as soon as possible. Everyone’s specific credit situation is different, but in general, enrolling in any debt resolution program could have a negative impact on your credit. The good news is that, while you may take one step back with your credit, you’ll take five steps forward with resolving debt. In the long term, the credit effect could be much more positive; Once your debts are resolved, you can practice positive credit behavior to build your credit score back up over time.