Choosing a Debt and Credit Counseling Service
Have the bills been piling up, and you don’t know where to turn? You need a credit or debt counselor to steer you in the right direction. Most credit counselors with a good reputation are non-profit organizations and offer their services through local branches, online and over the phone, says the Federal Trade Commission.
What to Look For in Debt Counseling
Choose an organization that offers in-person credit counseling, which is more personal than over the phone or online and can indicate more of a solid, proven reputation, advises the FTC. You’ll often find these types of organizations as part of universities, credit unions, housing authorities and even military bases. Get additional information from your trusted financial institution or local consumer protection agency. However, just because an organization is nonprofit, this doesn’t mean that the services it offers are free or even affordable. They may not even be legitimate. Always do your research before choosing a debt counselor and find out what they charge — many have extremely high fees that can counteract your attempt at reducing debt.
What Does a Debt Counselor Do?
When you hire a credit counseling organization, you typically get advice on how to manage your money and how to come up with a reasonable budget. They may also offer educational workshops and materials to help you on your journey to debt consolidation. The counselors should be trained and certified in all aspects of counseling, debt management, consumer credit and budgeting, so be sure to ask about that. Look to credit and debt counseling services to help you go over your entire financial overview and create a customized plan of attack on how to get out of debt. Most sessions last about an hour, but you’ll probably be invited back to follow up on the suggestions put forth in the initial meeting. Before settling on one debt or credit counseling company, check out its background with your state’s attorney general office and the Better Business Bureau.
Check out the National Foundation for Credit Counseling for a list of reputable member agencies that provide individual, confidential counseling over the phone, in face-to-face meetings and online. If you opt for the online counseling, be sure to have pay stubs, creditor statements, listing of your assets, monthly expenses and any collection notices ready. For phone or in-person sessions, simply input your zip code to find counseling close to you.
Employing the benefits of a debt counselor can help you get back on track and get a hold of your finances again. Advantage Credit Counseling Service offers both online consultations, as well as the option to meet with a debt counselor in person at one of our six locations. Contact us today at 866.699.2227 to find a financial service to fit your credit counseling needs.