When you get short on cash, you will often turn to credit to get the things you want. This cycle of living beyond one’s means can result in serious consequences. Before you know it, you are overwhelmed with credit card debt. Then you start searching for credit card relief programs. Let us talk about the legitimate programs that provide you relief.The underlying problem with credit card debt is that it perpetuates itself. Once your monthly minimum payments get too high, you start to have less and less cash each month. That is when you start using the credit cards to buy groceries and the whole thing gets out of hand.Fortunately for the consumer, there are options for credit card relief programs that are legitimate and effective. Before you get involved in a debt relief program, you should understand the different types and how each of them works.BankruptcyWe start the discussion with bankruptcy because it is often the first option that consumers consider. Bankruptcy is expensive and has long-lasting effects. There are pros and cons to bankruptcy. If you pass the means test for Chapter 7, you can wipe out all your unsecured debts. This is the major benefit. The biggest drawback is the effect on your credit. If you are overwhelmed with credit card debt, then there are alternatives that may give you better results than bankruptcy.Debt ConsolidationDebt consolidation is a legitimate way of handling credit card debt, and it is used by many consumers all over the country. But for all of the good it can do, debt consolidation does have several challenges.On the good side, a debt consolidation loan with a lower interest rate than your credit cards will lower your interest rate debt. A debt consolidation loan also makes paying your debts easier because it takes several payments and condenses them down to one.One of the big problems with debt consolidation is that it is a program based on a loan. If you have bad credit, then you may not qualify for an unsecured personal loan big enough to cover your debts. If you do qualify, the interest rate may be too high to make it worthwhile.With bad credit, you can get a secured personal loan that requires you to put thousands of dollars of your personal property down as collateral. If you default on the loan, then you lose your property.Another problem with consolidation is that it does not address the core issue of high credit card debt. Debt consolidation is much like a financial shell game where you move your debt from one place to another until it is all under one cup. You have the same debt, but now it is all in one place. It does not address the issue.Debt ManagementDebt management usually involves working with a credit counseling agency, working out payment arrangements with your creditors and then paying off your debt based on the money you have left over each month. If you are overwhelmed by debt, then you can see the challenges with this program.While debt management teaches important financial skills, it also requires you to adhere to a strict repayment schedule. A debt management program does not attack the core problem – how much you owe. That is covered by the next debt relief program – settlement.Debt SettlementIf you are looking for a legitimate debt relief solution, then you need to look at debt settlement. This is a process that lowers your debt and then helps you pay it all off in as little as two years to four years. A credit relief counselor will talk to your credit card companies and negotiate a fair settlement. You can save thousands off your debt. The financial professional then takes the money from your settlement fund and settles with each creditor. You make one payment and it satisfies all of your debt. It is not a loan, and it does not rely on shifting your debt around. Debt settlement lowers your debt up front, and then helps you to reduce it quickly.The best debt relief program is the one that gets you real results. A debt settlement program gets you immediate results by cutting your debt by thousands, and then it gets you long-term results by allowing you to reduce your debt quickly.There is no “one-size-fits-all” debt relief program that will work for everyone. Even though I’ve mentioned the benefits of settlement, it is not for all consumers. There may be times when bankruptcy is a better option. Just as debt management may work best for your situation. Your best bet is to speak to a debt professional and compare all your options. You can also do your own homework to be doubly sure you have made the right choice.