Credit Counseling FAQs
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What is a credit counseling session?
A session will educate individuals about their current financial situation, show them some ways to repay their debts and teach them how to better manage their personal finances. A counseling session is always customized to that particular person’s unique situation. Whether you decide to take your session over the phone, online or in-person the session is always free, confidential, and secure. You provide some information about your income, living expenses, assets, liabilities, and debts. This information will be used to evaluate your situation, create a realistic budget, and offer some tips and advice to help you manage your finances.
What are the benefits of a credit counseling session?
There are many benefits to completing a counseling session. Even if you are not in debt it could help you with proper money management, set you up with a realistic household budget and much more. If you are in debt it can feel very overwhelming, and having some help can be priceless. Credit counseling will let you analyze your financial situation and come up with a game plan. You should leave feeling more organized and in charge of your financial future.
How do I know I’m dealing with a reputable agency?
You have to do your due diligence and research. Check out online customer reviews and always review their Better Business Bureau (BBB) rating. Ask to see their credentials and qualifications like being a member of the National Foundation for Credit Counseling (NFCC) or The Association of Independent Consumer Credit Counseling Agencies (AICCCA).
Check to see if the agency is accredited by the Council on Accreditation (COA) or the International Organization for Standardization (ISO). If a credit counseling agency is not accredited and they don’t have any good reviews, just say, “No Thanks” and walk away. It’s best to move on and find another agency that meets the requirements listed above.
Are you a non-profit agency that has licensing and accreditation?
Advantage CCS is a non-profit 501(c)3 organization. We are licensed and registered in all 50 states to provide our counseling services. Making sure the agency you choose has proper accreditation and a strong reputation with the Better Business Bureau (BBB) is a very important first step. Advantage is proud to have an A+ Rating with the BBB of Western PA.We are a member of the National Foundation for Credit Counseling (NFCC), and we’re accredited by the Council on Accreditation (COA). We are also a Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) approved housing counseling agency. Advantage is also an approved agency of the Executive Office for United States Trustees (EOUST) for bankruptcy counseling and education. To receive these accolades and accreditations, it involves regular reviews of our operations to ensure we meet the highest quality standards of ethics and services provided.
Are you able to provide counseling in my state?
If you live in the United States, we are licensed and registered in 38 states and we are able to provide credit counseling to you. Check out our States Serviced page to see which states we are able to provide credit counseling in. Advantage is a Non-Profit 501(c)3 credit counseling agency and we can help you.
What kind of certification and training do your counselors go through?
Every Agency is different so it’s important to ask them directly about the training and certification of their counselors. As for Advantage CCS, our counselors go through a minimum of 20 Professional Development Units (PDUs) every two years to obtain and maintain their certification. The counselors must become proficient in basic counseling principles, budgeting, credit, collections and debt management, consumer rights and responsibilities, and also bankruptcy.
Our counselors must become certified by the National Foundation for Credit Counseling (NFCC). They must pass quite a few tests, and they will need to attend continuing education training to ensure that they have the most current and up-to-date information on many subjects such as government laws, new budgeting techniques, and much more.
Most third-party credit counseling certification organizations such as the NFCC require candidates to complete a corresponding training program and pass several exams (6-8) in order to be awarded certification. Continuing education is usually needed in order to maintain or renew that certification. We believe in frequent training for our counselors to make sure they are constantly staying ahead of the game when it comes to financial counseling.
What are the different methods of conducting a counseling session?
There are usually three different methods to conduct a credit counseling session. These methods include: over the telephone, online through a secure counseling system, and in-person at a local office. Some agencies offer a “mail-in” credit counseling session where you fill out all the forms and then you mail everything back to the agency.
The counseling session is basically the same no matter how it’s conducted. The only real difference is with online counseling or “mail-in” counseling, you won’t speak to a counselor until after you’ve finished your online session or mailed the paperwork back.
How long does a session usually take?
A standard session will usually take around one hour to complete, but it all depends on that person’s unique situation and what’s going on with their finances. As with anything in life, you get out what you put in. Meaning the more information you can provide and the more questions you can answer, the more rewarding your session will be.
Is there a cost for a credit counseling session?
No. The credit counseling session is completely free. You will need to have on-hand some important documents such as your pay stubs or statements for your income. You’ll also want to provide recent credit card statements, your monthly payment amounts, interest rates, and the total amount you owe. If you have information about your car loan or lease, your mortgage loan, medical bills, utility bills, etc. then you will want to provide these during your session as well. The more information that you are able to provide the better!
I’m only a little behind on my bills; can credit counseling still help me?
Yes, because you don’t necessarily have to be in debt for credit counseling to help you. You’ll learn valuable money-saving tips, ways to make cut-backs and save money each month, and how to properly manage your money. You might just catch a potential problem early enough, and learn how to deal with it so it doesn’t become a huge crisis.
Can you loan me money?
No. We do not loan money. We are a non-profit counseling agency and we are not permitted to provide any loans. We are not a bank or financial institution like a credit union. We can only offer credit counseling, debt management plans, bankruptcy counseling and education, credit report review services, and housing counseling.
Will credit counseling affect my credit score?
A credit counseling session will not affect your credit report or credit score in any way. A counseling session is just a discussion between you and your counselor to review your financial situation. If you happen to sign up for a Debt Management Program (DMP) after your counseling session, then your creditors will be notified that you started a DMP. Your creditors may report that to the credit bureaus, but it’s not a derogatory mark. It’s just a statement or a note that might appear on your credit report.
Is my personal information kept confidential and secure?
Absolutely! We never release your information to any outside third parties. All records are kept secure and safe to protect our clients. There’s no need to worry about your personal information being revealed because we will never give information about you to anyone.
Is there one counselor who will work with me or is this a team effort?
Some agencies might differ from Advantage CCS, but with our agency, you will always work with one counselor. This individual is highly trained and certified. Our counselors are friendly, understanding, and very knowledgeable. If you’ve decided to enroll in a Debt Management Program after your counseling session, then you may speak with a few different customer service representatives.
What happens after I complete my counseling session?
After you’ve completed your session, whether it was in-person, over the telephone or online, you will be able to ask questions and find out more information about our other services. If you’re in debt and it’s appropriate, the counselor may give you an explanation about our Debt Management Program. If you have other financial issues, such as a mortgage problem or student loans, the counselor might also recommend Housing Counseling or provide you with other helpful resources. You’ll be able to take the advice, tips, and suggestions from your counseling session and put them to good use.
What are the other services that you offer?
Besides free Consumer Credit Counseling, we also provide the following services:
- Debt Management Program
- Bankruptcy Counseling
- Bankruptcy Education
- Credit Report Review
- Housing Counseling
- Foreclosure Prevention Counseling
- Pre-Purchase Counseling
- Reverse Mortgage Counseling
- Online Budget Advisor
What are your business hours?
Our business hours are as follows:
Monday-Thursday: 8:00am to 8:00pm
Friday: 8:00am to 5:00pm
Our online credit counseling session is available 24/7 from the comfort of your own home using any laptop or desktop PC. It’s very convenient and that is one reason it’s the most popular method chosen by our clients. We also offer telephone support, email support, and live chat on our website.