November 20, 2017
 
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How to Choose a Credit Counseling Agency

Are you still stressed out over your bills and increasing debt even though you’ve tried everything you can to get control of your finances? You may have already set up a budget but can’t seem to stick to it. It may be time to for you to consider seeking the guidance and expertise of a professional credit counseling agency. It’s really imperative that you do your homework to find a reputable organization. Here are some things to consider.

 

  • How long have they been in business?
  • Ask them to send you some free information in the mail; you shouldn’t have to provide them with any personal financial information or money to receive it.
  • Do they belong to any professional groups such as the Better Business Bureau or AADMO (American Association of Debt Management Organizations).
  • Ask about their privacy policy; they shouldn’t sell your information.
  • Find out exactly what services are included, like budgeting, counseling, workshops, debt repayment plan, etc . . . and get it in writing.
  • Ask if your money is protected.
  • Find out how they’re audited.
  • Ask about the process; make sure the credit counselor spends time going through your budget and bills to accurately evaluate your situation.
  • Ask if there is a fee to enroll.
  • Ask if there are monthly fees or other charges for managing the plan.
  • Find out what the average time is for clients to complete the program.

 

Typically, as part of the program, you may have to agree not to apply for, or use, any more credit while in the program. Keep in mind that many agencies do charge monthly service fees, even non-profits. Check with your State to find out what is legal or not. Additionally, the counselor may be able to reduce your finance charges and monthly payments, and stop creditor harassment. Having as much information up front will enable you to make an informed decision and avoid surprises later. Achieving success requires a commitment to making regular and timely payments to the agency.

 

While a debt repayment plan can eliminate a lot of stress that comes with overdue bills and dealing with creditors, remember that you still have the debt to repay. The fact that you’ve decided to look into a debt management program, as opposed to bankruptcy, reinforces your sense of obligation. Also, knowing what to expect before you commit to the program will give you piece of mind that you’ve found a trustworthy organization that will be working for you, not against you.

 

 

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