Do credit card hardship programs really work?

Debt management plans
Debt management plans

If you're struggling to pay your credit card bills each month, getting help from a credit card hardship program may sound like the perfect solution. But getting into one and reaping the benefits are easier for some cardholders than others, and there are myriad factors that come into play. Still, it's an option many are turning to in these tough economic times: A Bank of America modified $10 billion in consumer credit last year alone.

WalletPop investigated these programs and found that while most of the major card issuers offer hardship programs, the terms and conditions can vary greatly. We also spoke with people who've been through the system like Kira Botkin (pictured right), to find out just how helpful -- or unhelpful -- these programs were for them.

What we found: Credit card hardship programs can be a lifesaver, but you need to know what you're getting into before you say "sign me up." Here's how these programs worked for Botkin and others.