Florida’s total debt per capita is about $1,299, not including mortgage debt or student loans. Although it’s not the highest in terms of consumer debt, many Floridians struggle to repay what they owe. If you’re one of them, here’s everything you need to know about paying off your debts and becoming debt-free.
Here is a look at each program to help you determine what works best if you seek Florida debt relief:
Disclaimer: Credit Summit may be affiliated with some of the companies mentioned in this article. Credit Summit may make money from advertisements, or when you contact a company through our platform.
Table of Contents
1. Debt Consolidation Loan
Works best for: People with 670+ credit scores.
Debt consolidation loans involve using a new, larger loan to pay off your other unsecured debts, including credit cards. A debt consolidation loan should typically have a lower interest rate than your current debts in order to be effective.
This leaves you with one monthly payment and one creditor, saving money and simplifying your payments.
2. Debt Consolidation Company / Debt Consolidation Program
Works best for: Anyone with more than $10,000 in unsecured debt who is struggling to make their payments and wants to avoid bankruptcy.
Debt settlement involves negotiating with creditors to repay less than the total amount they owe, sometimes as a lump sum and sometimes as a longer-term payment plan.
In Florida, debt settlement can help you pay off different forms of consumer debts, including:
- Credit cards/lines of credit
- Personal loans
- Department store cards
- Old judgments
- Student loans in default
- Other unsecured loans or debts
To make debt settlement work, you’ll need to stop making payments on your debts for three to six months until your creditor charges off the debt. This will damage your credit score but will incentivize the creditors to negotiate. Once settlements are reached and payments are made, your credit score will rebound.
The average debt settlement customer ends up debt-free while paying about 75% to 80% of the total enrolled in the program after all fees are paid.
Debt Settlement Risks
- Your creditors aren’t obligated to settle
- If a creditor refuses to settle, you could end up having to pay accrued interest and late fees
- Missed payments will show up on your credit report
- You may have to report the forgiven amount as income tax to the IRS
Florida Debt Consolidation Companies
Looking for a debt consolidation agency in Florida to help you get a handle on debts? Here are a few firms that could help:
Best Overall: DebtHammer
DebtHammer helps borrowers who are overwhelmed by unsecured debts ranging from payday loans and tribal loans to credit cards and medical bills.
After a free consultation to review the situation, the DebtHammer representative will offer you a menu of options. You will decide on the course of action you prefer. These options may include debt settlement, debt consolidation, bankruptcy or others. DebtHammer requires a minimum debt of $7,500 for program enrollment (or $1,000 in payday loans). The company charges 25% of the total enrolled debt.
Though based in Texas, DebtHammer currently provides solutions to residents of Florida, Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Delaware, Georgia, Illinois, Kansas, Louisiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Montana, Nebraska, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, West Virginia and Wyoming. Some service options may not be available in all states.
Click here to schedule a free consultation.
READ MORE: DebtHammer review
More Top Debt Consolidation Companies
- Global DS: 675 W Indiantown Rd. Jupiter, FL 33458-7555, (866) 677-5044; globaldsgroup.com
- InCharge Debt Solutions: Orlando, FL (800) 565-8953; incharge.org
- Golden Financial Services Debt Settlement Corporation: Lake Worth (619) 600-5189; goldenfs.org
- Debt Negotiation Services Debt Settlement Company: Boynton Beach (561) 964-6404; thednsway.com
- Alleviate Financial Solutions: 4 Park Plaza Suite 1500, Irvine, CA 92614 (800) 308-2935; alleviatefinancial.com
- DebtBlue: 1125 E Campbell Rd Suite 200, Richardson, TX 75081 (855) 269-9462; try.debtblue.com
- National Debt Relief: 180 Maiden Ln 30th floor, New York, NY 10038 (800) 300-9550; nationaldebtrelief.com
- Guardian Litigation Group: 17922 Fitch Suite 150, Irvine, CA 92614 (949) 312-4226; guardianlit.com
- New Era Debt Solutions: 330 Wood Rd., Suite B Camarillo, CA 93010 (805) 303-8773; neweradebtsolutions.com
Florida Debt Settlement Attorneys
- Bankruptcy Law Group: 3323 NE 163rd St #504, North Miami Beach, FL 33160 (888) 740-2420 freshstart.miami.bankruptcylawgroup-partners.com
- Debt Relief Legal Group: 901 W Hillsborough Ave, Tampa, FL 33603 (813) 231-2088 1800debtrelief.com
- Van Horn Law Group, P.A.: 500 NE 4th St Suite 200, Fort Lauderdale, FL 33301 (954) 765-3166 www.vanhornlawgroup.com
- Debt Relief Law Center: 3670 Maguire Blvd Suite 310, Orlando, FL 32803 (888) 877-5103 consumerrightsorlando.com
- Loan Lawyers: 3201 Griffin Rd # 100, Fort Lauderdale, FL 33312 (954) 280-6157 www.fight13.com
- The Golden Law Group: 429 Lithia Pinecrest Rd, Brandon, FL 33511 (813) 896-3558 www.brandonlawyer.com
- The Port Law Firm: 2161 Palm Beach Lakes Blvd STE 202, West Palm Beach, FL 33409 (561) 721-1212 www.portlawfirm.com
- Ziegler Diamond Law: 2561 Nursery Rd Ste A, Clearwater, FL 33764 (727) 538-4188 www.attorneydebtfighters.com
- Segaul Law Firm: 300 S Pine Island Rd Suite 304, Plantation, FL 33324 (954) 424-3600, segaul.com
- Stiberman Law, P.A.: 2601 Hollywood Blvd, Hollywood, FL 33020 (954) 922-2283 stibermanlaw.com
When seeking debt relief in Florida, it’s important to note that not all types of debt are eligible. Debts that can be included in the state’s debt settlement programs include:
- Credit cards
- Department store cards
- Signature loans
- Personal lines of credit
- Old repossessions
- Other unsecured debts
- Old judgments
- Private student loans in default
Debts that don’t typically qualify for debt settlement in Florida include:
- Home mortgages
- Federal student loans
- Car loans
- Other secured debts
- Credit Union debts
- Medical bills
3. Debt Management
Works best for: People with primarily credit card debt. Many credit counseling agencies work exclusively with credit card debt (and thus won’t be a help if you need to consolidate medical bills or student loans.)
A debt management program will usually reduce the interest rates on your credit cards from the current average of about 20% down to somewhere around 9%. This will lower your monthly payment. However, unlike debt settlement, you will repay the full amount you owe plus a lower amount of interest. The program usually takes 3-5 years to complete.
Pro tip: It’s worth noting that the number of enrollees who successfully complete a Debt Management Plan is between 55% and 70%. The plan won’t work unless you can see it through to the end.
So, for example, if you had $5,000 in credit card debt and were paying 25% interest, your monthly interest rate would be $105. If you reduce the interest to 8%, the interest payment is just $33 a month. That’s a $72 savings you could apply to reduce your debt and pay it off faster.
These programs are usually set up and administered by nonprofit credit counseling agencies.
Like with debt settlement, debt management does not involve a loan. Credit scores won’t matter. But if you default on payments, your creditor could raise the interest rate back to its original amount.
Nonprofit Credit Counseling Agencies in Florida
- Debt Management Credit Counseling Corp.: 1330 SE 4th Ave STE F, Fort Lauderdale, FL 33316, (866) 618-3328; dmcccorp.org
- Consumer Credit Counseling: 8751 Commodity Cir, Orlando, FL 32819, (407) 930-5609; floridaconsumercredit.org/about-us
- Family Foundations of Northeast Florida, Inc.: 40 E Adams St Suite 120, Jacksonville, FL 32202, (904) 396-4846; www.familyfoundations.org
- American Consumer Credit Counseling, Inc.: 1688 Meridian Ave Suite 600 & 700, Miami Beach, FL 33139, (786) 650-1192; consumercredit.com
- Consolidated Credit: 5701 W Sunrise Blvd, Fort Lauderdale, FL 33313, (800) 667-1387; consolidatedcredit.org
READ MORE: How credit counseling works
Works best for: People who can see no other way to get out of debt within the next five years, who’ve already suffered significant credit score damage or tried one or more of the other options and failed.
Bankruptcy is a last resort for those in debt, but it might be the best for some.
Bankruptcy may sound like the nuclear option, but it can often mean a second chance and a fresh start. And you can get your financial situation in order without losing valuable possessions, like your home or car.
There are two types of bankruptcy:
- Chapter 7: Your non-exempt assets are liquidated by a court-appointed trustee and the money is used to repay your debts. Some assets are exempt, including Social Security, your home, pensions and your car.
- Chapter 13: You keep your assets but are put on a payment plan to make regular payments toward your debt. All of the repayments go through your bankruptcy trustee.
Bankruptcy will stay on your credit report for seven to ten years and could knock your credit score down by as much as 200 points.
However, that does not mean you won’t be able to borrow money for that entire period. As years pass, lenders will be more forgiving and you’ll have a better shot at loan approval.
READ MORE: Types of bankruptcy
Statute of Limitations on Debt in Florida: 5 years
This applies to medical bills, credit card debt, and state tax debt. However, the statute of limitations for debts obtained through an oral agreement or open accounts is four years. This period begins as soon as you miss the initial payment on a debt that’s due.
After the statute of limitations expires, the debt becomes “time-barred.” This means the original creditor can no longer collect on it. The court can’t order you to repay the debt at this point either. Debt collectors also can’t garnish your wages or place a lien on your car or home.
You’ll still legally owe these debts. Also, debt collectors can still contact you via phone or letter to try to get you to pay.
Debt Collection Laws in Florida
Floridians are protected under the Florida Consumer Collection Protection Act (FCCPA). The FCCPA extends the federal protections defined by the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act governing third-party collectors (ex. debt collection agencies) and the original creditors. Under the FCCPA, neither creditors nor debt collectors can:
- Use deceptive, abusive, fraudulent, or manipulative tactics to collect debts.
- Use force or violence to get borrowers to pay their debts
- Contact a borrower’s employer about a past-due account unless a prior agreement was made or they have a judgment
- Sell or otherwise disclose private information to a third-party agency
- Harass borrowers at home or at work about the debt
- Contact borrowers outside of standard business hours (9:00 p.m. to 8:00 a.m.) without consent
- Intentionally misrepresent information
You have the right to contact a debt collector and tell them to stop contacting you, but it must be done in writing.
Debt collectors and creditors must also provide written notification with details relating to the debt within five days of contacting the borrower. If you’ve been contacted about a debt you might not owe, you have 30 days to dispute it with a debt verification letter. In the letter, write that you don’t owe the debt and that they must provide written proof before anything else happens.
Where to Make a Complaint in Florida
The best place to register a complaint about illegal activity or harassment is the Florida Office of Financial Regulation. You can do this by completing an online form. The office tries to resolve complaints within 30 days or less.
Alternatively, you can contact them here:
- Regulator: Florida Office of Financial Regulation
- Address: 200 E. Gaines St. Tallahassee, FL 32399
- Phone: (850) 487-9687
- Fax: (850) 410-9663
- Official website: https://flofr.gov/sitePages/FileAComplaint.htm
You can also file a complaint with the Consumer Federal Protection Bureau (CFPB). The CFPB is a federal organization that enforced federal consumer financial law to foster fair, transparent practices.
More Debt Statistics in Florida
The average consumer debt in Florida was $84,926 in 2021, up 4.2% from the previous year. This includes things like mortgage debt, student loans, credit cards, personal loans, auto loans, and payday loans.
Florida Ranks 13th for Consumer Debt
Here are some other key debt statistics for the Sunshine State:
|Florida average||National average|
|Median household income||$61,777||$70,784|
|Per capita household income||$63,597||$36,430|
|Auto loan debt||$6,370||$5,470|
|Credit card debt||$3,940||$3,480|
|Median mortgage payment (30-year fixed)||$1,616||$2,823|
|Average student loan debt||$38,725||$37,338|
|FICO credit score||707||714|
|Bankruptcies over one year||37,700||387,721|
|Foreclosure starts (2022)||22,968||248,170|
|Identity thefts reported||111,221||1,108,609|
|Percentage of unbanked residents||3.7%||4.5%|
|Average credit utilization ratio||28%||31%|
Payday Loans in Florida: Legal
Here’s what you can expect from a typical payday loan taken out in Florida:
- Maximum loan term: 31 days for a single payment and 90 days for installment loans
- Average loan amount: $500
- Maximum loan amount: $500 for a single payment and $1,000 for installment loans
- APR Cap: None, an average of 304%
- Number of payday lenders in Florida: 1,164
- Average 14-day payday loan APR: 304%
- Collection fees: 10% for every $100 plus a $5 verification fee
What Happens if You Can’t Repay a Payday Loan in Florida
You cannot face criminal charges for being unable to repay your payday loan in Florida. However, if a lender sues you or you receive a court order and you ignore it, a warrant may be issued for your arrest, so be sure to appear in court as scheduled.
The lender may try many different ways to contact you, including phone calls, texts and letters from lawyers.
Borrowers have a 60-day grace period in Florida if they cannot repay on time. Payday loans are regulated by the Florida Office of Financial Regulation, where you can file a complaint if you run into illegal payday lender actions in the state.
- Those who currently live in the state
- People who plan to move there
Pro tip: Lenders are not required to verify a borrower’s ability to repay. You enter into an agreement at your own risk.
Debt Resources for Floridians Facing Hardship
Florida offers a variety of local and state programs for residents looking for help with debt or finances. These resources can provide low-cost or free childcare, job-related education and training, healthcare, and legal aid. Some programs can also help with the cost of rent or utilities.
Some of the main food banks in the state include:
- Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida: Orlando, (407) 295-1066
- Feeding South Florida: Pembroke Park, (954) 518-1818
- Feeding Northeast Florida: Jacksonville, (904) 513-1333
- Florida Gateway Food Bank: Lake City, (386) 755-5683
- Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida (Marion Branch): Ocala, FL, (352) 732-5500
- Harry Chapin Food Bank: Fort Myers, (239) 334-7007
- Feeding Tampa Bay: Tampa, (813) 254-1190
- Leesburg Food Bank Inc.: Leesburg, (352) 326-5463
- Treasure Coast Food Bank Inc.: Fort Pierce, (772) 489-3034
- All Faiths Food Bank Sarasota: (941) 379-6333
How to Apply for Unemployment Benefits in Florida
Florida’s unemployment program is called Reemployment Assistance.
To qualify for Florida unemployment benefits, you must meet several criteria:
- You must have lost your job through no fault of your own. You won’t qualify if you quit or were terminated.
- You must be totally or partially unemployed (Partially unemployed means your hours were cut or you work part-time but can’t find additional work)
- You must have earned at least $3,400 before taxes in the first four quarters beginning 18 months prior to your claim.
- You must be able to work, available to work, and actively seeking work
The best way to find out if you are eligible is to apply online.
To apply for unemployment benefits, you will need your Social Security number, driver’s license or state ID number, and information on your employment history over the last 18 months.
- Employer names, addresses, and phone numbers
- Dates of first and last day of work
- Gross earnings (before taxes)
- Reason for separation
- FEIN number (on your W2 or 1099 tax forms) or employer details from paystub
Submit your application as soon as possible (even before your last day of work if you can.) The effective date starts the Sunday of the week you apply.
For more information: https://www.stateofflorida.com/articles/florida-unemployment/
State Hardship Programs
Texas offers many state-specific hardship programs for low-income households and people experiencing financial hardship. These include:
- CHIP: Children’s Health Insurance Program is designed to help low-income families obtain affordable health care for their children. It includes certain services, like medicine and hospital care.
- SNAP: In Florida, SNAP is available to help low-income households subsidize their food costs. Apply for a reloadable card and use it like you would a debit card at most grocery stores.
- TANF: This program helps low-income individuals through a monthly cash stipend that can be used to pay for necessities – such as food, housing, and clothing.
- WIC: The Women, Infants and Children program is designed to help certain people, including low-income women with young children, afford food costs. Most people who qualify for SNAP or TANF benefits also qualify for this program.
- LIHEAP: The Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program is federally funded and helps income-qualified families with heating and cooling costs. The Florida Department of Commerce administers it.
- CAFCP: The federal Child and Adult Food Care Program reimburses eligible organizations and daycare home providers for nutritious meals that are served in care settings. The U.S. Department of Agriculture administers the program.
If you need help finding or applying for benefits, check with the Florida Department of Children and Families.
Cost of Living in Florida
|Annual mean wage (All occupations)||$51,908|
|Median monthly rent||$1,999|
|Value of a dollar||99 cents|
|Cost of living||102.8|
|Cost of living rank||26|
|Grocery cost index||106.9|
|Housing cost index||99.6|
|Utilities cost index||103.1|
|Transportation cost index||101.7|
|Miscellaneous cost index||98.4|
The Bottom Line
Florida has various debt relief programs available to residents, including debt settlement and debt consolidation. If you’re struggling with debt, knowing your rights as a consumer and your options is essential. That way, you can start working on becoming debt-free sooner.