There are several ways consumers can lump debts into a single payment.
One is to consolidate all their credit card payments onto one new credit card – which can be a good idea if the card charges little or no interest for a period of time – or utilize an existing credit card's balance transfer feature (especially if it's offering a special promotion on the transaction).
However, there are specific instruments called debt consolidation loans, offered by creditors as part of a plan to borrowers who have difficulty managing the number or size of their outstanding debts.
One thing is clear: If you have private student loans, they should be treated like any other negative event, cycling off your credit report after seven years from the date of the late payment.
So a negative mark on your private loan (and most federal student loans) will cease to hurt your credit after that time frame.
A 1998 change in federal law made it extremely difficult for people to escape student loans through personal bankruptcy.
The Education Department also can now seize parts of borrowers' paychecks, tax refunds and Social Security payments without a court order, a power similar to the IRS's....