Debt is a word that encompasses a wide spectrum of circumstances – and not all of them are bad. For example, you might have bought a house using a mortgage with a cracking low rate or have a balance sitting on a 0% purchase credit card.

It’s when you are unable to service your debt and it starts to spiral out of control that problems start. But even at this point one thing is for sure – panicking or sticking your head in the sand won’t make it better.

As a first step, it’s really important that you contact any creditors you are unable to pay and explain your situation. You shouldn’t worry about this as regulator, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) states that all financial providers must abide by a set of principles called Treating Customers Fairly – or TCF.

This means they have a duty to talk to you and be fair and transparent about your options, which could include a payment holiday or a freeze on interest payments until you can get back on your feet.

If your debt problems run deeper than this, you should contact a debt charity such as StepChange, (0800 138 1111), National Debtline (0808 808 4000) which is run by the Money Advice Trust. They will make an independent assessment of your situation for FREE and take you through your wider options. These could be as painless as a debt management plan (DMP) which requires you pay back just what you can afford to each month.

There are fee-charging debt solutions experts too, some of which we list below, but these should be treated as a last resort. Always seek out free methods of tacking your debt problems first.

These debt management companies all charge for their services. However there are free options available including StepChange, National Debtline and Citizens Advice, which you may want to contact first. These are all independent charities.

Debt. Trust us to explain it simply

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IVAs explained


Having debts can seem overwhelming, but an IVA could offer one way to help you get back in control of your finances.

Introduction to Debt

Debt is a fact of life for many of us, but if it isn’t managed carefully, it can be easy for things to spiral out of control. There are lots of different options for dealing with debts, and ways to avoid it.

The vast majority of us will have debts at some point in our lives, whether it’s credit card debt, a personal loan, a mortgage, or any other form of credit.

If you have borrowed money from several different lenders, it can be difficult to stay on top of what you owe, but there are plenty of things we can all do to avoid our debts getting the better of us.

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Ways to avoid debt

Before taking out any form of credit agreement, work out whether you might be able to save up the money for what you need instead. If this isn’t possible, then always compare as many deals as possible, so that you borrow money at the lowest rate of interest possible.

It’s then really important to keep track of all your borrowing – how much you owe, how long it is going to take to repay, and the interest you are paying. If you find your interest rate suddenly changes, for example, you come to the end of a 0% introductory period on your credit card, look at switching your balance to a card that offers another 0% introductory rate.

Try to make more than the minimum repayments on any credit arrangements you have, as this will ensure you clear what you owe much more quickly, and will reduce the overall amount of interest you pay.

Options for dealing with debt

If you no longer feel in control of your debts, then it’s vital to seek help as soon as possible. Free debt advice charities such as National Debtline, StepChange (formerly the Consumer Credit Counselling Service) and the Money Advice Trust can all help you tackle your debts, and may be able to devise a Debt Management Plan for you and your creditors, so you can repay what you owe in affordable monthly payments.

There are several options for those with severe debt problems, including Individual Voluntary Arrangements (IVAs) and even bankruptcy.

An IVA is a legally-binding agreement between creditors and the person who owes them money. It involves the person with the IVA making monthly payments towards clearing their debts over a five to six year period. After this time, the creditors agree to write off any remaining debt.

Bankruptcy only lasts for one year, but it will remain on your credit file for six years, making it extremely hard to obtain any form of credit. You will have to sell your home and any other valuable assets such as your car or jewellery to pay back your creditors.

A Debt Relief Order (DRO) is another type of formal insolvency procedure aimed at people who cannot pay their debts. To be eligible for a DRO, you must be on a low income, not own your home, have no other access to debt relief, and no other way of improving your situation. You must have overall assets of £300 or less and your debts cannot be more than £15,000.

A DRO lasts for 12 months, during which time creditors cannot pursue you for the money you owe, without obtaining court permission. At the end of 12 months, if your circumstances have not changed debts that were included in your order will be written off.

None of these routes should be taken lightly, so always seek professional free debt advice before proceeding.

Moneysupermarket is a credit broker – this means we’ll show you products offered by lenders. We never take a fee from customers for this broking service. Instead we are usually paid a commission by the lenders – though the size of that payment doesn’t affect how we show products to customers.


Find out more about debt, ways to avoid getting into debt and the various options you might have when dealing with debt, including Debt consolidation, Debt Management Plan, Individual Voluntary Arrangements (IVA) and Bankruptcy

Debt Management Plans
Debt IVAs
Debt Advice Guide
Get Out Of Debt Tips
IVAs Explained
Debt Management Plans
Insolvency solutions
Trust deed
Debt relief orders

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