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Personal Loans

Align Income Share Agreement Review

Editorial Note: The content of this article is based on the author’s opinions and recommendations alone. It has not been previewed, commissioned or otherwise endorsed by any of our network partners.

If you need money — such as to cover an emergency expense or to consolidate debt — but you’re worried about high-interest rates you might face with a personal loan, there is an alternative funding option you may consider: an income-share agreement (ISA).

An ISA doesn’t come with a set interest rate. Instead, you pay a percentage of your yearly income every year for a set number of years, paying back what you originally borrowed plus more.

Chicago-based Align Income Share Funding is one source of this type of agreement. The company has been providing ISAs since its founding in 2011. In this review, we’ll explain how Align’s ISA works and whether it might be a good fit for you.

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Align income share agreement details
 

Fees and penalties

  • Terms: Align states that its income-share agreement runs from 24 to 60 months. However, that may depend on your location.
  • Borrowing cost: Align doesn’t charge traditional interest rates on its loans. Instead, it charges a percentage of your income, no more than 10.00%. Say you make $40,000 a year. You might agree to spend 3% of your income each year to repay your loan, or $1,200. If you borrow $4,000 and you sign an agreement to pay back your loan over four years, you’d end up paying $4,800, or $800 more than what you initially borrowed.
  • Borrowing limits: Align will loan you a maximum of $12,500.
  • Time to funding: Align says that you once you sign your contract, it can deposit funds in your bank account in as little as one business day.
  • Hard pull or soft pull? Soft Pull. You can get a quote for an ISA on Align’s website and it will not impact your credit score.
  • Origination fee: Align does not charge origination fees.
  • Prepayment fee: Align also does not charge a prepayment fee. However, there is a cost for getting out of your agreement early.

There are no limits on how you can use your funds from an Align ISA. You can use the money for everything from consolidating high interest credit card debt to paying for home repairs or a dream vacation.

Align is flexible, too, when it comes to determining your income. As the company’s website states, anything listed in box No. 1 of your annual W-2 form can be considered income.

Eligibility requirements

  • Minimum credit score: Not specified.
  • Minimum credit history: Not specified.
  • Maximum debt-to-income ratio: Not specified.

Align doesn’t say much about the minimum credit scores or debt-to-income ratio you will need to qualify for an income-share contract. Their website, however, specifies that they’ll consider your income, creditworthiness, job, and location when determining whether to approve your request for funds.

How Align’s income-share agreement works

This yearly percentage is broken up into monthly payments. Say you borrow $8,000 from Align and you earn $30,000 a year. If you agree to pay back your ISA at 10% of your yearly salary for three years, you’d pay Align $3,000 a year, at $250 a month. After the three-year repayment period has ended, you’d end up paying a total of $9,000, or $1,000 more than you borrowed.

When you set up your contract, you pick a date on which you want to pay each month. Align then automatically deducts that amount from your checking account.

As your income changes, so can your monthly payment. If your income goes up, the percentage you contribute will remain the same. But because your income is increasing, the overall amount you pay will jump, too.

It works the other way, too. Align says that if your income falls, you will pay less. If you become unemployed and you have no income, your monthly payment could potentially fall to $0. If you become unemployed, you will have to submit proof that you are not working, such as a notice from your former employer or documents showing you are receiving unemployment benefits.

Applying for an income-share agreement from Align

Applying for an ISA from Align is a simple process. Just click on the “Apply Now” button on the company’s homepage. Once you do, you’ll be asked to provide your name, date of birth, Social Security number, email address, physical address and phone number.

Align will also ask for your gross yearly income, your income source and the industry in which you work. You’ll also need to provide your education level, estimated credit score, the amount you’d like to borrow and what you want the money for.

After filling in this information, you will then submit your application for an online quote. If you are interested, you can contact Align to speak with a representative who will verify your income, job status and credit. Once this is done, Align will make you an official offer stating how much it is willing to lend you and at what percentage of your yearly income. Align will also state how many months you will make payments, and how much you will pay each month and each year to pay off the money you received.

If you like the offer, you will sign your contract. Align will then deposit your funds into your bank account in as little as one business day.

Pros and cons of an Align income share agreement

Pros:

Cons:

  • No interest rates: Align doesn’t charge interest rates for its loans. However, you will have to pay a percentage of your annual income for a set number of months to pay back your loan.
  • No origination fees: Applying for a loan at Align is free. The company also doesn’t charge you for the work involved in originating your loan.
  • Protection if you lose your job: How much you pay is based on how much you earn, so you won’t have to make any payments if you lose your job and your income.
  • Applying is fast: You won’t have to meet in person with a lender to get your money. You can start the process online. You will have to speak with a representative to verify your financial information.
  • Monthly payment may change: Your monthly payment can vary because Align charges you a percentage of your gross income to lend you money. If your income fluctuates, your monthly payment will, too. This can be challenging when you are making a household budget.
  • Not everyone is guaranteed an ISA: Align looks at your credit score, income and employment status when determining who qualifies for funds. There is no guarantee of approval.
  • Paying out of your contract may be pricey: You can end your contract with Align before your term ends. This will cost you, though. Align lists in your contract the amount of money you’d have to pay to get out of your ISA early.

Who’s the best fit for Align Income Share Funding?

An Align ISA can work for people who aren’t afraid of a little uncertainty and are worried about high interest rates. Because Align charges a percentage of your income, your monthly payments can increase or decrease. If you don’t mind this uncertainty, an Align ISA might be a good choice.

This type of agreement might work, too, if you have a relatively low income. But if your income is high, or if you expect it to rise in the near future, an ISA might not be a good fit — your monthly payment could jump too high.

Alternative funding options

LendingClub

APR

6.95%
To
35.89%

Credit Req.

Not Specified

Terms

36 or 60

months

Origination Fee

1.00% - 6.00%

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LendingClub is a great tool for borrowers that can offer competitive interest rates and approvals for people with credit scores as low as 0.... Read More

LendingClub is an online lender providing personal loans up to $40,000. Unlike Align, LendingClub provides traditional loans with a fixed interest rate. This means that your payments remain the same every month, a benefit when you are overseeing a household budget. LendingClub does not charge prepayment penalties, but it does have an origination fee between 1.00% - 6.00%. Anyone seeking more certainty with their loan payments should explore this option.

SoFi

SoFi
APR

5.99%
To
17.67%

Credit Req.

680

Minimum Credit Score

Terms

24 to 84

months

Origination Fee

No origination fee

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Advertiser Disclosure

SoFi offers some of the best rates and terms on the market. ... Read More


Fixed rates from 5.990% APR to 17.67% APR (with AutoPay). Variable rates from 5.60% APR to 14.700% APR (with AutoPay). SoFi rate ranges are current as of August 7, 2019 and are subject to change without notice. Not all rates and amounts available in all states. See Personal Loan eligibility details. Not all applicants qualify for the lowest rate. If approved for a loan, to qualify for the lowest rate, you must have a responsible financial history and meet other conditions. Your actual rate will be within the range of rates listed above and will depend on a variety of factors, including evaluation of your credit worthiness, years of professional experience, income and other factors. See APR examples and terms. Interest rates on variable rate loans are capped at 14.95%. Lowest variable rate of 5.60% APR assumes current 1-month LIBOR rate of 2.27% plus 3.08% margin minus 0.25% AutoPay discount. For the SoFi variable rate loan, the 1-month LIBOR index will adjust monthly and the loan payment will be re-amortized and may change monthly. APRs for variable rate loans may increase after origination if the LIBOR index increases. The SoFi 0.25% AutoPay interest rate reduction requires you to agree to make monthly principal and interest payments by an automatic monthly deduction from a savings or checking account. The benefit will discontinue and be lost for periods in which you do not pay by automatic deduction from a savings or checking account.

All rates, terms, and figures are subject to change by the lender without notice. For the most up-to-date information, visit the lender's website directly. To check the rates and terms you qualify for, SoFi conducts a soft credit pull that will not affect your credit score. However, if you choose a product and continue your application, we will request your full credit report from one or more consumer reporting agencies, which is considered a hard credit pull.

See Consumer Licenses.

SoFi Personal Loans are not available to residents of MS. Minimum loan requirements might be higher than $5,000 in specific states due to legal requirements. Fixed and variable-rate caps may be lower in some states due to legal requirements and may impact your eligibility to qualify for a SoFi loan.

If you lose your job through no fault of your own, you may apply for Unemployment Protection. SoFi will suspend your monthly SoFi loan payments and provide job placement assistance during your forbearance period. Interest will continue to accrue and will be added to your principal balance at the end of each forbearance period, to the extent permitted by applicable law. Benefits are offered in three month increments, and capped at 12 months, in aggregate, over the life of the loan. To be eligible for this assistance you must provide proof that you have applied for and are eligible for unemployment compensation, and you must actively work with our Career Advisory Group to look for new employment. If the loan is co-signed the unemployment protection applies where both the borrower and cosigner lose their job and meet conditions.

Terms and Conditions Apply. SOFI RESERVES THE RIGHT TO MODIFY OR DISCONTINUE PRODUCTS AND BENEFITS AT ANY TIME WITHOUT NOTICE. To qualify, a borrower must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident in an eligible state and meet SoFi's underwriting requirements. Not all borrowers receive the lowest rate. To qualify for the lowest rate, you must have a responsible financial history and meet other conditions. If approved, your actual rate will be within the range of rates listed above and will depend on a variety of factors, including term of loan, a responsible financial history, years of experience, income and other factors. Rates and Terms are subject to change at anytime without notice and are subject to state restrictions. SoFi refinance loans are private loans and do not have the same repayment options that the federal loan program offers such as Income Based Repayment or Income Contingent Repayment or PAYE. Licensed by the Department of Business Oversight under the California Financing Law License No. 6054612. SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Lending Corp., NMLS # 1121636. (www.nmlsconsumeraccess.org)

SoFi is another popular source of personal loans. This online lender also provides traditional loans, with interest rates lower than many lenders because it primarily targets borrowers with great credit. SoFi charges no origination fee or prepayment fees and temporarily pauses your payments if you lose your job.

Payoff

APR

5.99%
To
24.99%

Credit Req.

640

Minimum Credit Score

Terms

24 to 60

months

Origination Fee

up to 5.00%

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on LendingTree’s secure website

Advertiser Disclosure

Payoff is a financial services firm that offers personal loans mainly to help consolidate credit card debt.... Read More


All loans are subject to credit review and approval. Your actual rate depends upon credit score, loan amount, loan term, credit usage and history. Currently loans are not offered in: MA, MS, NE, NV, OH, and WV.

Another online lender, Payoff lets you apply online for a personal loan. The company charges no application fees, and applying does not impact your credit score. You can choose a loan amount between $5,000 to $35,000 and terms from 24 to 60 months.

Advertiser Disclosure: The products that appear on this site may be from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all financial institutions or all products offered available in the marketplace.

Dan Rafter
Dan Rafter |

Dan Rafter is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Dan here

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Strategies to Save

Where People Save the Most: Super Saving Metros

Editorial Note: The content of this article is based on the author’s opinions and recommendations alone. It has not been previewed, commissioned or otherwise endorsed by any of our network partners.

Give credit to the residents of Dubuque, Iowa. They saved their pennies last year, according to a recent study by MagnifyMoney.

Dubuque earned the highest Saving Score in MagnifyMoney’s Super Saving Metros report, which looks at the savings habits of residents living in the biggest metropolitan areas across the United States.

Relying on data from the IRS and U.S. Census Bureau, MagnifyMoney created a Saving Score for nearly 400 U.S. metropolitan areas. This score reveals:

  • Which areas boasted the greatest percentage of adults who earned money from interest-bearing vehicles, such as savings accounts and certificates of deposit (CDs)
  • How much interest on average these residents claimed on their 2017 tax returns
  • What percent of their annual income came from interest

We’ve changed our study a bit this year. Instead of looking at cities with populations larger than 25,000, as we have in the past, this year we are looking at savings within entire metropolitan statistical areas. These areas often include several cities and provide a more accurate look at the savings habits of residents within a larger area.

One of our key findings? As a nation, the U.S. doesn’t have a lot of savers. Nationally, 28.3% of U.S. residents who filed income tax returns in 2017 earned interest income on their savings. This interest income averaged $554, equal to 0.76% of filers’ total income for the year.

Not all metro areas are created equal when it comes to savers, though. In Naples, Fla., for instance, filers reported an average of $3,224 of interest income on their taxes last year. But in Pittsfield, Mass., that average was a far lower $481.

There are also significant differences among metropolitan areas in how many residents earn enough interest from their savings to report to the IRS. Filers who earn more than $10 of interest on savings accounts, CDs, money market accounts, high-yield checking accounts or certain types of taxable bonds have to report their interest income. MagnifyMoney found that in Peoria, Ill., 48% of filers reported interest income on their returns. But in Los Angeles, just 30% did.

Key findings

  • Dubuque pulled down the top savings spot among the 381 U.S. metropolitan areas that MagnifyMoney studied. The city had the highest Saving Score, an impressive 97.8 out of a possible 100.
  • Naples, which came in second with a Saving Score of 97, topped the country with the highest amount of average interest income per return, a strong $3,224. Naples also ranked first in highest percentage of interest income compared to total income. Filers here earned an average of 2.33% of their total annual incomes from interest on their savings.
  • Peoria had the highest percentage of filers who earned at least some interest income. About half of the federal tax returns filed here last year had some amount of interest income.
  • Iowa might have been the thriftiest state in the country in 2017. Dubuque notched the highest Saving Score in this year’s study. But the cities of Cedar Falls and Cedar Rapids also earned high scores. This isn’t a one-time fluke either. MagnifyMoney found a similar trend when looking at the numbers from earlier tax years.

What does the Saving Score measure?

It can be challenging to determine how much the residents of a particular metropolitan area are saving. For our study, we crafted a Metro Saving Score that relies on data from the IRS and U.S. Census Bureau for 381 metropolitan areas across the country.

We looked at three key factors to calculate our score:

  • The percentage of all tax returns that declared interest income
  • The percentage of residents’ total annual income that came from interest earned from savings
  • The average interest income recorded on tax returns in a metropolitan area

50 cities with the top Saving Scores


Dubuque led our list of the metro areas with the biggest savers, earning a healthy Saving Score of 97.8. But what’s so special about Dubuque?

The area isn’t especially rich: The U.S. Census Bureau reported that the median household income stood at $56,154 in 2016 in Dubuque County and $48,021 in the city of Dubuque itself. That’s below the median annual household income of the U.S. as a whole, which was $57,617 in 2016. The Census Bureau also said 16.8% of the city’s residents lived in poverty, while 29.7% of residents have earned a bachelor’s degree or higher.

Regardless of the relatively modest incomes here, 44% of tax filers in the Dubuque metro area claimed interest income on their returns. This interest income averaged $781 per return, which accounted for an average of 1.24% of these residents’ annual income.

So why the high savings rate? Maybe it’s the low unemployment rate. The Bureau of Labor Statistics said the unemployment rate in Dubuque was a low 2.2% as of August 2018. It’s easier to save when you’re employed. Also, it’s not that expensive to live in Dubuque. The Census Bureau said the median costs for owners with a mortgage is $1,102 a month, while the median cost for renters is $728 a month.

Things are a bit different in Naples, where the Census Bureau said the annual median income was $84,830 in 2016. It’s important to note that median income isn’t the same as average income. The median is the dollar amount that half of all residents in an area earn less than each year and half earn more. In Naples, half of all households reported an annual income of less than $84,830, while half reported an annual income higher than that.

What is clear, though, is that the residents of this Florida city have more money to save, which might be why Naples ranked second with a Saving Score of 97. Here, 36% of income tax returns included interest income. The interest income per return in Naples was high, too, leading our survey with a hefty $3,224.

In Fairfield County, Conn., which came in third with a Saving Score of 96.3, 36% of tax returns recorded interest income. The interest claimed here was sizable, too, with an average of $2,434 claimed per return. Again, the residents here have more money to save, with the Census Bureau reporting a median household income of $86,670 in 2016.

Santa Barbara, Calif., and Boston rounded out the top five metro areas on our list. Santa Barbara earned a Saving Score of 95.7, with 36% of tax returns here claiming interest income. This income accounted for 1.18% of annual income earned by residents here. The interest income per return in Santa Barbara was a healthy $1,074.

And in Boston, with its Saving Score of 94.2, 37% of returns claimed interest income, with an average per return of $920.

10 cities with the most savers

Dubuque again represented itself well on our list of metropolitan areas with the most savers. But it didn’t top it. The No. 1 spot went to another Midwestern city, Peoria, where 48% of tax returns listed some form of interest income.

What makes Peoria residents such good savers? It’s hard to say. The income here isn’t sky-high, with the Census Bureau stating that the median household income stood at $46,547 in 2016. At the same time, though, it’s not expensive to live in Peoria, freeing up residents to save. The Census Bureau said it cost $1,200 a month for owners with a mortgage, while the median value of a home was $127,200. Those who rented didn’t pay too much, either, with the Census Bureau reporting a median gross rent of $746 a month.

Then there is Dubuque. Again, the income here wasn’t high, but housing isn’t overly expensive, perhaps making it easier for residents to save. The Census Bureau reported that owners with a mortgage paid a median value of $1,102 a month, while those who rented paid a median of $728 a month. Maybe that’s why Dubuque tied for second with 44% of returns claiming interest income.

Dubuque tied for this spot with Ithaca, N.Y., where the same percentage — 44% — of returns claimed interest income. It’s not easy determining how Ithaca residents were able to save so much. The Census Bureau reported that the median annual household income here was just $30,291 in 2016, while 44.8% of the people lived in poverty. At the same time, the median value of owner-occupied homes stood at a fairly high $219,100. This makes Ithaca’s high savings rate a bit of a mystery.

Appleton, Wis., is easier to explain. This area ranked fourth on our list with 42% of returns claiming interest income in 2017. This isn’t surprising: The Census Bureau said the median household income here was $53,878 in 2016, while the median value of owner-occupied homes was a fairly low $137,800. Perhaps residents spent less on housing costs and were able to save more.

Iowa City, Iowa, finished fifth on our list, tied with Appleton with 42% of returns claiming interest income. That percentage was a popular one, with Rochester, N.Y., and yet another Iowa city — Cedar Falls — tying with Appleton and Iowa City.

10 cities that earned the most interest income

Here is a not-so-shocking fact: People who make more money tend to save more of it. That’s proven by our list of metro areas in which taxpayers claimed the most interest on their returns.

Look at Naples. Those living here earned a lot of interest income in 2017. According to our research, the average return filed here in 2017 listed a whopping $3,224 in interest income. That easily topped our list. The reason is fairly obvious: A lot of wealthy people live here.

The city is a costly one, with the Census Bureau showing that the median home value is $770,000, while it costs owners with a mortgage a median $2,987 a month. With those barriers to entry, it’s not surprising that the median household income was $84,830 in 2016. When you earn more, it’s easier to save more — a lesson made clear in Naples.

Fairfield County was second on this list, with the average tax return listing interest income of $2,434 in 2017. Again, this is another high-income area, with the Census Bureau reporting that the median household income was $86,670 in 2016.

Next on our list is Vero Beach, Fla., where the average interest income reported on tax returns stood at a healthy $1,839. This city is a bit more puzzling: The Census Bureau showed that the median household income was a modest $38,405 in 2016. And it’s not particularly cheap to live here, with the Census Bureau stating the median costs for owners with mortgages as $1,654, while monthly rent stands at a median of $829.

Coming in fourth on our list is another Florida tourist metro, Fort Myers, where the average interest income per return was $1,195. This is an interesting place: In the city of Fort Myers, with a population of almost 80,000, the median household income is $38,971. But if you focus on the smaller area of Fort Myers Beach, where the population is just more than 7,000, the median household income is $59,416.

The New York City metro area claimed the fifth spot on this list, with an average interest income of $1,146 reported per return. With a population of more than 8.6 million, New York City itself sees a wide range of yearly incomes. The median household income is $55,191, but plenty of households saw a far higher income than that. This helps explain the Big Apple’s high spot on this list.

10 cities with the lowest Saving Scores

While there are plenty of metro areas where people are saving, there are others that have earned low Saving Scores from our research. In most of these areas, the median household income is low. In others, unemployment is high.

This isn’t surprising: It’s a challenge to save when you don’t make enough and you’re struggling to find a job.

The first metro area on our list of areas with the lowest Saving Scores — Hinesville, Ga. — earned a Saving Score of just 0.5, with 15% of income tax returns filed in 2017 claiming interest income. The average filer here claimed just $80 worth of interest on their returns.

The median household income stood at $42,949 in 2016, according to the Census Bureau. That is below the median household income for the U.S., which the Census Bureau said was $57,617 in 2016.
El Centro, Calif., ranks high on this list, too, coming in second. Unemployment is a problem here, with the Federal Reserve Bank showing the rate at a high 17.2% in El Centro as of August 2018.

Third on our list was Fayetteville, N.C., earning a Saving Score of 1.8. Only 18% of tax returns here claimed interest income in 2017, with the average return listing just $149 in interest income. The median household income was $43,882 in 2016, while 18.4% of the population lived in poverty. The Census Bureau also reported that 14.2% of the people younger than 65 do not have health insurance, a factor that could account for the low savings rate here.

Pine Bluff, Ark., scored a low 3.0 Saving Score with 19% of income tax returns claiming interest income. Pine Bluff’s population is declining, falling to 42,984 in 2017, a drop from 49,083 in 2010 — a dip of 12.4%. At the same time, the median household income was just $30,942 in 2016, while 32.5% of residents lived in poverty.

Rounding out the bottom five of savers was the metropolitan area of Florence, S.C., with a Savings Score of 3.7. Just 17% of returns here claimed interest income in 2017. The median household income here was not terrible, but at $44,989 is still below the median for the U.S.

How to save more money

Need to increase your savings rate? There’s no secret formula. Start with crafting a household budget. List the income that comes into your household each month and the money you spend during the same time. Include both fixed expenses such as your monthly rent, mortgage payment, auto payment or student loan payments while estimating those that vary each month, such as your utility bills, transportation costs and grocery bills. Make sure to also budget for discretionary expenses such as eating out and entertainment.

This budget will tell you how much you should have at the end of the month for savings. If you don’t have much, or if you are spending more than you are earning, you’ll need to cut back on whatever expenses you can. This might require slashing your spending at the supermarket or cutting back on restaurant meals.

Be sure to start an emergency fund, too. You use the dollars in this fund to pay for any unexpected expenses that pop up, such as a busted water heater or blown transmission on your car. If you have this fund built up, you won’t have to resort to paying for these emergencies with a credit card, something that will build up your debt and make it even more difficult to save.

It’s important to note, too, that it might be a bit easier now to earn interest on your savings. That’s because as the Federal Reserve raises its benchmark interest rate, banks and credit unions are starting to do the same, boosting the interest rates attached to their savings accounts and CDs. These rates might still be small, but they are set to improve, so now is a great time to begin saving those dollars.

Methodology

To rank cities, MagnifyMoney created a Saving Score on a scale of 0 to 100 that included three equally weighted components:

  1. How broadly individuals in the metro saved (measured by the percentage of all tax returns that declared interest income, ranked by percentile).
  2. The metro’s dedication to saving regardless of their income (measured by the percentage of total income that came from interest, ranked by percentile).
  3. The absolute magnitude of savings in the metro (measured by the average interest income per tax return, ranked by percentile).

MagnifyMoney measured these factors using anonymized data from tax returns filed with the IRS from Jan. 1 to Dec. 31, 2017.

To be counted as a saving household, the taxpayer must declare interest income using Form 1099 on their 2016 tax returns. Filers who earned over $10 in interest on savings and investments, including a high-yield checking or savings account, a CD, a money market account or certain types of taxable bonds, should have received a copy of 1099-INT, which reflects interest income reported by financial institutions to the IRS.

Advertiser Disclosure: The products that appear on this site may be from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all financial institutions or all products offered available in the marketplace.

Dan Rafter
Dan Rafter |

Dan Rafter is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Dan here

Advertiser Disclosure

Pay Down My Debt

New Era Debt Solutions Debt Relief Review

Editorial Note: The content of this article is based on the author’s opinions and recommendations alone. It has not been previewed, commissioned or otherwise endorsed by any of our network partners.

Is your debt growing each month? Are you struggling to keep up with the number of creditors to whom you owe money? Debt settlement could be an option. For a fee, private companies negotiate reduced payments with your creditors, lowering the amount of debt you owe. This is a different approach than debt consolidation, in which your existing debts are combined into one account that you then pay off with regular monthly payments.

Camarillo, Calif.-based New Era Debt Solutions specializes in debt settlement and might be able to help you settle your debt. Here’s what you need to know.

What is New Era Debt Solutions?

New Era Debt Solutions has an A-plus rating with the Better Business Bureau. The company boasts competitive settlement agreements and a high success rate.

Breakdown of New Era Debt Solutions

Let’s break things down even further:

Services offered

Debt settlement

Minimum debt required

New Era does not specify a minimum debt level to participate in its services.

Credit score

New Era says participating in debt settlement will hurt your credit score.

Debt settlement timeline

New Era says the average customer completes its debt settlement process slightly more than 27 months.

Consultation fees

New Era doesn’t list specific fees, but does say it only charges clients after a settlement has been reached. It does not charge any upfront fees.

Service fees

New Era only charges fees after a settlement has been reached.

Types of debt accepted

New Era says it can settle unsecured debt. Everything from credit cards to unsecured personal loans can be negotiated. New Era can't work with secured debt such as mortgages and auto loans. The creditors behind this debt can simply take back the collateral by foreclosing on your home or repossessing your car.

Accreditations

New Era is an accredited member of the Better Business Bureau.

Ratings

New Era has an A+ rating from the Better Business Bureau.

Service limitations

New Era does not operate in Iowa, Maine, North Dakota, South Carolina, South Dakota or West Virginia.

Free tools and resources

New Era’s website includes information about debt reduction options. It also features a debt reduction calculator that can help you calculate how long it will take you to pay down your debt.

Customer service

It’s easy to contact New Era. You can visit this page to reach out to the company online or you can call New Era at 800-527-4421 .

Who’s eligible?

New Era doesn’t list any strict requirements for who can and can’t qualify for debt settlement. New Era doesn’t list a minimum amount of debt that you need to qualify or a minimum income or credit score.

The company, though, does provide some general guidelines:

  • New Era does say that consumers who are struggling mostly with credit card debt are the best fit for its services.
  • Those consumers who are fighting a financial hardship — caused by events such as a job loss, medical issues or a divorce — are also a better match for debt settlement.
  • Household income matters, too. As New Era says, participants will need to have money available to make payments on whatever debt settlement they reach.
  • New Era says participants in its program should be able to set aside about 1.5% of their debt amount on a monthly basis to cover the payments of a debt settlement. The company gives this example: If you owe $30,000 in unsecured debt, you should be able to devote $450 a month to pay back your new negotiated debt. If you do this, New Era says, it would take you about three years to pay back the average settlement.

Benefits and risks of New Era Debt Solutions

Benefits

Risks

There are no upfront fees involved with working with New Era Debt Solutions. You are only charged after you agree to a debt settlement deal. This is known as a performance-based fee model.

Your three-digit credit score is probably already dinged if you are looking to settle your debt. But, as New Era says, your score will fall even further if you agree to debt settlement.

Debt settlement could save you a significant amount of money. New Era says it settles clients’ debt for an average of 43.73% of what they owe.

It’s not the fastest process. New Era says it takes clients about 27 months to complete the debt settlement process.

Most people who start a program with New Era do finish. New Era says only slightly more than 18% of clients drop out before reaching a settlement.

The collection calls won’t necessarily stop. If you are stressed by the calls from collection agencies, New Era can’t promise that you won’t receive any new calls while in the program. Collection agencies don’t have to stop calling just because you are enrolled in a debt settlement program.

The odds are low that you’ll be sued once you begin the debt settlement process. New Era says only 6% of its clients experience any legal activity.

Not all debt can be settled. New Era says it can settle most forms of unsecured debt, but it can’t settle auto loans or mortgages — debt that requires collateral. New Era also can’t negotiate federal student loan debt, but it can settle private student loans that are in default.

How much does New Era Debt Solutions cost?

New Era Debt Solutions does not provide pricing information on its website. The company does, though, operate under a performance-based fee model, meaning that you are not billed until a debt settlement has been reached. New Era does not charge monthly administrative fees.

The amount New Era charges depend on several factors. The company says such factors like how much debt you owe, whether you can contribute monthly payments to pay down that debt after a settlement is reached and how long it takes for a settlement to be reached all affect how much you’ll pay.

How long does the program take?

New Era says debt settlement programs usually take three to four years from the time a client signs up. The company, though, says it acts faster, completing the debt settlement process in an average of 27.73 months.

Clients working with New Era who are struggling with debt from several creditors can expect to reach their first settlement within the first six months of starting the program, according to the company. In some instances, though, that first settlement can arrive even sooner. New Era states that some clients start receiving settlement offers from their creditors within 90 days.

It’s important to remember that no debt settlement company, including New Era, can guarantee that you’ll reach settlements with your creditors. New Era, though, does claim that most of its clients do agree to offers from their clients, saying that only 18% of its clients leave the program before settling their debts. New Era also says its clients usually pay about 43% of what they initially owed when signing up for the program. This, though, doesn’t guarantee that you will have the same success rate.

Is New Era Debt Solutions safe to use?

New Era Debt Solutions has been an accredited business with the Better Business Bureau since 2001. The bureau has zero customer complaints on file about the company.

Of the 19 reviews on the Better Business Bureau site, 18 were positive five-star reviews. Customers leaving reviews complimented the company on the regular contact and updates from New Era, the comprehensive way that employees explained the debt settlement process and the results that they received.

New Era also has no complaints listed in the Consumer Complaint Database maintained by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

How do I sign up for New Era Debt Solutions?

New Era offers a free analysis of your debt. The company says it will review your basic information and send you an estimate of how much time the debt settlement process will take and how much money you might save.

To get started, you’ll have to send New Era your name, phone number, the state in which you live and how much money you owe.

You can also call New Era at 800-527-4421 to speak directly with a representative.

What to expect after signing up for New Era Debt Solutions

Once you sign up with New Era, representatives from the company will start negotiating with your creditors. How long this takes will vary, though New Era says you should start receiving your first settlement offer within six months.

Before starting the process, New Era will review your debts to determine which can be settled and which can’t. Unsecured debt — debt not tied to collateral such as a home or vehicle — can usually be settled. New Era says it can settle debts from credit cards, department store cards, signature loans, personal lines of credit and private student loans that are in default. The company, though, can’t settle debt associated with mortgages, federal student loans, car loans, credit unions and medical/hospital bills.

You will have to set up an escrow account during the process. This is an account that you pay into on a monthly basis so that when settlement offers are made, you’ll have the funds necessary to pay them. How much you deposit into the account will depend on the amount you owe and your monthly income.

Alternative methods to pay down debt

We’ll take a look at debt consolidation, debt management plans, bankruptcy and DIY debt settlement.

Debt consolidation

Part of the challenge when paying down a significant amount of debt? You have so many creditors to pay back, deciding who to pay first can become overwhelming. Debt consolidation can help with this.

In debt consolidation, a private company consolidates all your loans into one package. You then pay this company a single payment each month, and the company makes your payments on your behalf.

Pros

  • Making just one payment a month can reduce the stress of paying down your debt.
  • Your debt consolidation company might be able to reduce the interest rate you pay on your debt.

Cons

  • Your debt doesn’t go away just because you are consolidating it into one payment. You still have to pay it off.
  • You might end up paying more than what you owe when you factor in the fees that a debt consolidation provider charges.
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A Personal Loan can offer funds relatively quickly once you qualify you could have your funds within a few days to a week. A loan can be fixed for a term and rate or variable with fluctuating amount due and rate assessed, be sure to speak with your loan officer about the actual term and rate you may qualify for based on your credit history and ability to repay the loan. A personal loan can assist in paying off high-interest rate balances with one fixed term payment, so it is important that you try to obtain a fixed term and rate if your goal is to reduce your debt. Some lenders may require that you have an account with them already and for a prescribed period of time in order to qualify for better rates on their personal loan products. Lenders may charge an origination fee generally around 1% of the amount sought. Be sure to ask about all fees, costs and terms associated with each loan product. Loan amounts of $1,000 up to $50,000 are available through participating lenders; however, your state, credit history, credit score, personal financial situation, and lender underwriting criteria can impact the amount, fees, terms and rates offered. Ask your loan officer for details.

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Debt management plan

When you sign up for a debt management plan, you’ll work closely with a credit counseling agency that will set up a schedule for you to repay your debts. The goal is to leave you with a monthly payment that you can afford and that your creditors will accept.

After you agree on a debt management plan, you’ll send money directly to your credit counseling agency each month. This agency will then make payments to your creditors. The National Foundation for Credit Counseling says it usually takes three to five years to settle your debt through a debt management plan.

Pros

  • Enrolling in a debt management program won’t affect your credit score.
  • You can focus on making just one monthly payment, eliminating the stress of dealing with several different creditors.
  • Credit counselors might be able to negotiate lower payoff amounts or interest rates on your debt.

Cons

  • Debt management usually isn’t free. Your credit counseling agency will generally charge a setup and monthly fee.
  • It can take a long time to pay off your debt.

Bankruptcy

Declaring bankruptcy can eliminate your debt, depending on the type you declare, but it will also have a devastating impact on your credit score. A Chapter 13 bankruptcy sets up a repayment schedule that allows you to pay back your debts at a pace you can afford. In a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, your unsecured debts could be eliminated. But you could also lose certain assets.

Pros

  • A bankruptcy filing could wipe away some of your biggest debts.
  • Collection agencies cannot pursue you for those debts that are discharged.

Cons

  • Bankruptcy filings will wreck your credit score, causing it to fall by 100 or more points.
  • Chapter 7 bankruptcy filings remain on your credit reports for 10 years, while Chapter 13 filings remain for seven.

DIY debt settlement

Instead of hiring a company to negotiate your debt on your behalf, you can try to settle your debt on your own. To do this, you’d have to contact companies, explain your financial situation and try to negotiate a lower payoff amount with them.
Pros

  • You won’t have to pay fees to an outside company to negotiate your debt.
  • You can tackle your outstanding debts in the order with which you feel most comfortable.

Cons

  • Negotiating debt on your own will take plenty of time.
  • You might not have the same negotiating skills possessed by private companies.

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Dan Rafter
Dan Rafter |

Dan Rafter is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Dan here

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