If you find yourself constantly living from paycheck to paycheck, you might want to consider a credit counseling program. A credit counseling program helps you develop a budget while managing your debt. For most of us, just keeping us with daily expenses is an ongoing effort. To manage this problem, we take out needless loans and use too many credit cards, and before you know it, we have a mountain of bills that can’t be paid.
Credit counselors and their services
Nonprofit credit counseling programs are the most common type of programs currently available to assist those who have gotten in over their heads with debt. Most will help you in a positive way to solve your debt problems. However, the nonprofit label for a credit counseling program doesn’t necessarily mean that its services will be free, cheap, or even legitimate. Some might charge hidden fees or expect unnecessary contributions that could plunge you further into debt. Be sure the company you are dealing with is reputable and has your best interests at heart.
Most credit counseling programs offer services through the Internet, local offices, or through telephone consultation. The most effective type of credit counseling program is one that offers in-person counseling. Try to get in-person counseling if possible. From your counseling, a good program will teach you how to manage your money and debts, develop a budget, and offer free workshops and educational materials. Counselors should be certified and trained in the areas of financial management. You should feel comfortable about discussing your personal financial matters with the counselor assigned to you.
Shopping around for a credit counseling program
Reputable credit counseling programs should be able to send you free information about their program, without the need to know any personal information about your financial situation. You should not work with a credit counseling program that will not provide this for you. Getting free information will enable you to select from a variety of programs to find the one that’s best for you. You can also do background research on credit counseling programs by seeing what your local consumer protection agency, attorney general, or Better Business Bureau has to say about them. If consumers have registered complaints about the credit counseling program, they might not be the best to use. Carefully consider any complaints you find, keeping in mind that some people are unreasonable or vindictive and not every complaint necessarily has validity. If the agency has a complaint, be sure to read their explanation of events to see what they claim occurred. Then decide if it makes sense to you to work with that company.
Questions to ask
After you narrow down which credit counseling programs you might like to use, you can make a final decision based on probing questions with which to “interview” the credit counseling program. They’re going to be asking you everything about your life, and you have the right to know all about them as a business too. A good question to ask is if agreements and price quotes can be made in writing. Formal written agreements and contracts can minimize confusion later on. Another good aspect to ask about is the qualifications of their counselors. Find out how they are trained or if they certified or accredited to help you with your problems.
What Advantage Credit Counseling Does
Advantage Credit Counseling Service (ACCS) is a nonprofit company that provides credit counseling, bankruptcy counseling, bankruptcy classes, debt management counseling, housing counseling, and online classes for consumers that are struggling with debt. Advantage Credit Counseling provides free, confidential, and professional credit counseling services, and has been doing so for more than 37 years. Advantage Credit Counseling makes potential customers feel at ease by letting them know that their company has helped many others before in similar situations.
Counseling sessions with Advantage Credit Counseling
Your counseling sessions with Advantage Credit Counseling include one-on-one work with a certified credit counselor. Your counselor will help you get a better understanding of your financial situation and help you put together options you have that can help you better manage your money. After asking a series of questions and assessing your monthly spending habits, the credit counselor will help you develop a balanced monthly spending plan. This is an important step in the process because it will give you more money to work with and help you restructure some of your debts. The counselor could refer you to a specific debt management program, or local, state, and national programs that you could use to your advantage.
Who they work with and what they can do for you
Advantage Credit Counseling works with people in all stages of financial trouble and economic level. Unlike other programs, Advantage Credit Counseling has no minimum debt level that you have to meet before you can use their programs. In fact, credit agencies usually look favorably upon consumers who use these programs early in their financial troubles. Get control of your finances and you will gain control of your life.
Do you need debt consolidation credit counseling? If you are deep in debt and headed for personal bankruptcy you might need to consider credit counseling.
Debt consolidation credit counseling is an important undertaking. Avoiding bankruptcy and keeping your credit record intact are two keys to financial success. You also need to know how to distinguish a good credit counseling agency from a bad one. There are many good credit counseling agencies out there but some are bad apples. It is important to understand how credit counseling can effect your credit report. Also be aware of a key change to the bankruptcy laws that involve credit counseling.
What is Debt Consolidation Credit Counseling?
Debt consolidation credit counseling agencies provide a service to people who are in over their heads in debt. Credit counseling agencies provide counselors, education, and Debt Management Plans (DMP). A Debt Management Plan is a service where consumers send an agency a lump sum payment which is then distributed to creditors who have agreed to the plan. Creditors sometimes agree to lower interest rates, waive fees, and post updates to credit reports as well. The convenience of making one payment to a single credit counseling agency is also a plus. The problem with Debt Management Plans is they only address unsecured debt. Secured debts such as home loans or auto loans should be prioritized and paid first. You risk losing your home through foreclosure and your car through repossession if you fail to make your payments.
How to Find a Good Debt Consolidation Credit Counseling Agency
A good credit counseling agency is one that offers an in-person consulting in your local area. Services beyond Debt Management Plans including personalized education are also good options to expect. The National Foundation for Credit Counseling (NFCA) and the Association of Independent Consumer Credit Counseling Agencies (AICCCA) are the key industry groups for credit counseling agencies to be members of. Ideally you want a counselor who will give you personal attention and present you with all of your options. You don’t want to feel pressured into a bad decision.
Some Debt Consolidation Credit Counseling is a Scam
With consumer debt at an all time high and federal personal bankruptcy laws requiring credit counseling many aggressive agencies have opened up shop targeting unsuspecting consumers in need. Non-profit credit counseling status does guarantee legitimacy or trustworthiness. In many states non-profit status is a requirement for a debt consolidation credit counseling agency to do business. Another caveat is that some not-for-profit credit counseling agencies are closely aligned with for profit businesses. Some debt consolidation credit counseling agencies charge excessive fees and only push DMPs. Asking good questions and referring to credit counseling agencies on the NFCA and AICCCA lists will help you sort the wheat from the chaff.
How Debt Consolidation Credit Counseling May Effect Your Credit Report
When you enter into a Debt Management Plan creditors will often make updates to your credit report. These updates include “re-aging” accounts and removing delinquent payment references. A potential drawback is that since lending is subjective, lenders may consider the notes your creditors put on your report as a good or bad sign. A good sign would be that you took steps through credit counseling to take care of your debts. A perceived bad sign would be that you had so much debt that it became unmanageable and you may be a credit risk. In the long term this may effect your credit score.
Debt Consolidation Credit Counseling and Personal Bankruptcy
If you decide that personal bankruptcy is the best course of action for your situation, you need to be aware of a key change to the bankruptcy laws. Before you can file for bankruptcy under either Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 you need to know the law. Changes in the Federal bankruptcy laws brought about by the Bankruptcy Act of 2005 require folks to get credit counseling from a federally approved agency six months before they can take advantage of bankruptcy protection.
Credit Counseling can put you on the right track for lifetime success today. Sleep easier at night and rest assured that your financial future is very bright. You have the tools to pick a good credit counselor. Ask a lot of questions and educate yourself. Do it now!
Legitimate consumer credit counseling services are not easy to find, as many of them have come under public wrath of late. A common criticism about credit counseling is that participating in such a plan ruins a consumer’s credit which also has led to charges that credit counseling is a marketing gimmick the lending industry makes use of. Probably it is for this reason the experts opine that credit counseling is ineffective. But one must not forget that credit counseling is not the same as debt consolidation.
In the forefront is the Christian credit counseling which is making a difference in this field not just by demonstrating genuine intentions but also by offering credit counseling in an affordable way to consumers. It helps consumers take steps to improve their credit.
A consumer credit counseling service has the goal educating debtors of different consolidation ways. Of which the secured debt credit is the one with which you can avoid unnecessary additional clerical costs and also prevent legal actions against you. In short credit counseling is designed to persons who are neck deep in debt.
The Statutory Bindings
If you are looking for information on nonprofit credit counseling agency Christian credit counseling is your natural first choice. Like all nonprofit organizations they have an obligation to educate and counsel the needy people. All nonprofit credit counseling agencies are bound by nonprofit corporation statutes and comply with state charitable solicitation laws. This is why nonprofit credit counseling agencies provide free services or at least charge minimal fees to recover their cost. It helps to keep in mind that appropriate Federal and Senate committees have taken cognizance of the profitable nature of some of the nonprofit credit counseling agencies.
In fact, for more than five decades now, nonprofit credit counseling organizations are helping consumers. Those providing assistance to consumers credit counseling and debt management services must keep your private information confidential. Rules are put in place to limit the fees a nonprofit credit counseling firm charge their clients. Californian licensed nonprofit credit counseling firms must file their financials with the statutory agencies regularly.
However, some community credit counseling services are setting precedence and are taking their services beyond expectations. If you act sensibly you can actually get free counseling and debt consolidation advice from them.
Here Are Some Helpful Steps
List out all community based and nonprofit credit counseling services.
Checkout their accreditations and business histories through their websites and testimonials.
Talk to them before signing any documents.
Don’t leave anything to ambiguity; get their and your obligations in writing.
Take help from The National Foundation for Credit Counseling for researching about some credit counseling organization.
You must always remember, at the back of your mind that, credit counseling is a legal and ethical alternative to file bankruptcy. In any case, credit counseling is a viable option before meeting a bankruptcy attorney. For an industry having more than its share of questionable reputation, at least this is the only way out. In addition, for those consumer credit counseling agencies in the for-profit side of the industry, the problem is that the fees are rather too high and typically take long times to clear off the debt. However, the bottom line is credit counseling is still best if you want a total makeover of your finances.
Have you ever found yourself overwhelmed by the pile of credit card bills sitting in front of you? For those of us that have experienced an overwhelming amount of credit card debt know that this type of stress can be the most traumatic experience that an individual can go through. Getting in credit card debt is a slippery slope, it usually starts with one card and one purchase but it can quickly turn into a sandtrap where the minimum payments are similar to putting a Band-Aid on a hemorrhaging wound.
When we find ourselves at the helm of a ship drowning in a sea of credit card debt there are organizations that we can turn to, and with a little due diligence and articles such as the one your reading right now can help yo navigate you to safe waters, and get you on the path to financial freedom. Credit counseling is one of those organizations that fall under the “debt solutions” category and out of all the different solutions and organizations that could assist you in time of financial crisis credit counseling will probably give you the most bang for your buck.
It was first established in the 1950′s when creditors created the National Foundation for Credit Counseling or NFCC for the purpose of, according to the W. Patrick Boisclair, Chairman of the NFCC, “the NFCC initially monitored legislative and regulatory activity for its retail credit members” and “also conducted public awareness campaigns on credit.” Their mission statement reflected an objective to help the American consumer avoid bankruptcy and keep them educated on fiscal responsibility. In 1993 another organization was established called the “Independent Consumer Credit Counseling Agencies,” or AICCCA, stating that there was a need for, “industry…standards of excellence and ethical conduct.” In 2005 the Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act of 2005 made counseling a requirement 180 days prior to filing bankruptcy.
So now credit counseling has been such an integral part of financial health when facing the prospect of bankruptcy that now there are approximately 300 organizations that offer credit counseling in the US. Previous to choosing one of these organizations to assist you, let’s get a better grasp on what credit counseling is and how we can benefit from this breakthrough methodologies.
The main goal of credit counseling, if you walk away with anything, would be to educate you on credit card debt, and how you can avoid being swamped underneath a mountain of credit card debt. Another big part of the process is the credit counselor is involved with the negotiation of better terms across your unsecured credit card debt, which translates to lower rates and lower overall debt. Most likely, you will find yourself enrolled in a debt management plan (or DMP).
The debt management plan is another huge benefit of enrolling into counseling. A DMP is fairly simple, after your enroll in the DMP, and the credit counselor negotiates lower interest rates you close your accounts, and stop making your monthly payments directly to your creditors and begin paying the agency one payment who will disburse the funds according to the terms of the DMP.
Many counseling agencies tout some significant savings and advertise that they cut your debt by 50%-60% and you will be “debt free’ in little as two years. Realistically the industry average is you will be able to cut your debt by 20% and the DMP usually has a turnaround of about 4 years to be completely free of your debt.
Another benefit of enrolling in a DMP is the lowering of interest rates. The interst rate on a credit card that has been defaulted on is usually in the range of 30% to 50%, after enrolling in a DMP, a seasoned credit counselor can negotiate a lower interest rate where your payments will be a more manageable dollar amount reflecting your income.
Credit Counseling Scams
Unfortunately there are some fly by night credit counseling agencies that are seriously lacking in the ethics department. There are some red flags, or signals, that you should be cognizant of on your search for an agency.
Some of the more obvious red flags are:
They refuse to give any references or contact information to testimonials.
They promise that they can lower your debt in by a ridiculous amount in a ridiculous amount of time.
Poor rating on the BBB or several poor reviews on the internet.
You received an unsolicited email or phone call from them.