How do I choose which credit counselor is right for me?

There are several things you should consider when trying to find a credit counselling service.

Tip:

A reputable credit counseling agency should be willing to send you free information about itself and the services it provides without requiring you to provide any details about your situation. If a service doesn’t do that, consider it a red flag and go elsewhere for help.

Here are some questions to ask to help you find the best credit counseling service for you:

What services does the organization offer?
Look for an organization that offers a range of services, including budget counseling, and savings and debt management classes.

Tip:

Avoid organizations that push a debt management plan (DMP) as your only option before they have spent a significant amount of time analyzing your financial situation.

In a debt management plan, you deposit money each month with a credit counseling organization. The organization pays your credit card bills and other debts according to a payment schedule they’ve worked out with you and your creditors.

Warning:

The Federal Trade Commission has found that some organizations that offer debt management plans have defrauded people. If you do choose a debt management plan, contact your creditors and confirm that they have accepted the proposed plan before you send any payments to the organization handling your debt management plan.

Does the organization offer in-person counseling?
Consider finding an organization that does offer in-person counseling.

Does the organization offer free educational materials?
Avoid organizations that charge for information.

What are the fees the organization charges?
Are there set-up or monthly fees? Get a specific price quote in writing.

What if a consumer can’t afford to pay  the organization’s fees or make contributions?
If an organization won’t help you because you can’t afford to pay, look elsewhere for help.

Does the organization provide a formal written agreement or contract with consumers?
Don’t sign anything without reading it first. Make sure all verbal promises are also in writing. As with any financial product or service, don’t sign anything that you don’t understand.

Is the organization licensed?
Is the organization or counselor licensed to offer services in your state? Find out about what training or professional certifications the counselor has received.

How are the organization’s employees paid?
Are the employees paid more if you sign up for certain services, if you pay a fee, or if you make a contribution to your organization? If the answer is yes, consider it a red flag and go elsewhere for help.

Tip:

If you have complaints or concerns about a credit repair scam, contact the FTC at (877) FTC (382)-HELP (4357).

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