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(Not every creditor has to participate, so you may be able to keep a credit card out of the debt management plan if you need it to remain open for travel or business purposes, for example.)Once you complete your plan, some of your creditors may re-establish your credit based on your new, debt-free status and the on-time payment history you established through the course of the debt management plan.

Other ways credit card consolidation can hurt your credit: Applying for a new line of credit results in a hard inquiry on your credit report, adding a new credit account can lower the average age of your credit history and a new personal loan will show that you have a high level of outstanding debt (your scores should improve as your remaining balance shrinks from where it started). Adding a personal loan to your credit history can improve your mix of accounts (it’s good to have a combination of installment and revolving credit, like credit cards).

Promotional interest rates expire — like 12 months of a 0% APR on a balance transfer card — so make sure you can repay your debt within that time frame, otherwise you may not be saving any money at all.

The same goes for debt consolidation loans: Ask about any loan origination fees, and make sure the loan payment amount is something that easily fits into your budget.

The best way to consolidate credit card debt — and whether consolidation will work for you at all — depends on your situation, so you might want to consult a non-profit credit counselor about your best options.

The following five tips can help you figure out which credit card consolidation strategy suits you best.

Keep in mind a debt management plan may have a negative impact on your credit during the course of the program because your creditors will close or suspend your accounts while in the program, and this can affect your credit utilization.

So make sure you are ready to live credit card free for a while.

For example, if you’re consolidating multiple balances onto one card, you’ll want to avoid maxing out that card’s credit limit, because that will hurt your credit utilization rate (how much debt you’re carrying compared to your total credit limit).And you can verify if a lender is registered to do business in your state by contacting your state Attorney General’s office or your state’s Department of Banking or Financial Regulation.Beware of any lender that promises to offer you a loan regardless of your credit.Some strategies will be more affordable than others, and your credit card consolidation choices may be limited by your credit standing.Personal loans charge simple interest (as opposed to credit cards, which often have variable rates and sometimes have different rates for balance transfers and purchases on the same card) and they typically have loan terms of three to five years.

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