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By streamlining your debt, you lower the amount of bills in your mailbox and simplify your monthly budget.Secondly, just as with refinancing, a consolidation may allow you to pay a lower, overall rate of interest.This can ease your mind and help you avoid missing a payment—which can have a serious impact on your credit scores.Since a debt consolidation loan is essentially just a personal loan that you use to assume all your existing debt, it comes with multiple benefits and can be used as you wish.

Overall, you should only consider debt consolidation if your credit rating is in relatively good shape and you have no trouble paying off your existing loans.

You'll be paying less per month, but you'll be paying for much longer, and with interest rates as high as 20 percent [source: Dunleavy] Be wary of any debt consolidators that charge high, up-front fees, or promise outlandish offers like 0 percent interest or "instant" debt relief.

If you're unsure about whether to consolidate, consider calling up a non-profit credit-counseling agency.

Stressed, debt-ridden consumers are easy prey for shady debt consolidators.

One trick is for consolidators to lower your monthly payment, but dramatically increase the interest rate and the terms of payment.

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