Best For Veterans: Consolidated Credit
Since 1993, Consolidated Credit has been providing personalized credit counseling services to people facing challenges with debt. We chose it as the best for veterans because it partners with Army OneSource and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to help military personnel and their families improve their financial literacy.
Consolidated Credit offers free standard credit counseling services as well as debt consolidation and debt management programs. The agency specializes in housing counseling, including homebuyer education and counseling, foreclosure prevention, and reverse mortgage counseling. Consolidated Credit also offers a financial wellness program to help employers provide financial education to their employees.
In addition to offering a variety of webinars and tools, Consolidated Credit partners with Army OneSource and the VA to offer educational resources for military service members. These include a practical guide for veterans that walks them through the basics of bill paying, housing options, increasing credit scores, saving for retirement, and more. The agency also helps military service members plan ahead before deployment and Permanent Change of Station to ensure their families and finances are taken care of.
Filers In All Other States And Territories
Certificate of completion for both credit counseling and debtor education are required but before the filers debts can be discharged. Only credit counseling organizations and debtor education course providers that have been approved by the U.S. Trustee Program may issue these certificates for filers in all states and territories except for Alabama and North Carolina. Find an approved or debtor education provider.
Youre Our First Priorityevery Time
We believe everyone should be able to make financial decisions with confidence. And while our site doesnt feature every company or financial product available on the market, were proud that the guidance we offer, the information we provide and the tools we create are objective, independent, straightforward and free.
So how do we make money? Our partners compensate us. This may influence which products we review and write about , but it in no way affects our recommendations or advice, which are grounded in thousands of hours of research. Our partners cannot pay us to guarantee favorable reviews of their products or services.Here is a list of our partners.
Filers In Alabama And North Carolina
By law, the U.S. Trustee Program does not operate in Alabama and North Carolina in these states, Bankruptcy Administrators approve pre-bankruptcy credit counseling organizations and pre-discharge debtor education course providers. The following is a list of Bankruptcy Administrator approved providers in Alabama and North Carolina.
Dealing With Debt Collectors
Federal law dictates how and when a debt collector may contact you: not before 8 a.m., after 9 p.m., or while youre at work if the collector knows that your employer doesnt approve of the calls. Collectors may not harass you, lie, or use unfair practices when they try to collect a debt. And they must honor a written request from you to stop further contact.
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History Of Consumer Credit Counseling Services
The NFCC was founded in 1951 to promote awareness of credit and financial literacy. This was in response to the widespread introduction of credit cards and the emergence of the credit card industry. The NFCC began offering nonprofit credit counseling as a new service for those obtaining their first credit card.
Individual CCCS offices soon opened around the country. Although the individual CCCS offices were independently operated, they were all under the umbrella organization and guidance of the NFCC.
Debt Relief & Credit Counseling
Debt Relief and Credit Counseling
Once you’ve obtained credit, it’s easy to be overwhelmed. You may overspend, become ill or lose your job, making it difficult to keep up with your bills. If you are struggling with debt, there are steps you can take to avoid bankruptcy.
Consult with a legitimate credit counselor who will help you develop a personalized money-management plan.
The U.S. Department of Justices U.S. Trustee Program provides a list of government-approved credit counseling agencies on its website.
The National Foundation for Consumer Counseling provides a list of member agencies online at www.nfcc.org or call 1-800-388-2227 for a 24-hour automated message with office listings.
Think carefully before sending money to a credit counseling or repair program that doesnt have an office in your community. Shop around. Compare a couple of services and get a feel for how they operate. The credit counselor should spend at least 20 to 30 minutes with you in order to get a complete picture of your finances. Also, be aware that just because an organization says it is nonprofit doesnt guarantee that its services are free or affordable.
Bankruptcy should be your last resort for financial recovery. Federal law requires that you must receive credit counseling from a government-approved organization within six months before you file for any bankruptcy relief.
Cautions about Credit Repair Offers
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Services From Approved Credit Counseling Agencies
If youre looking for advice on housing matters, ACCCs highly skilled can answer your questions. We also have many guides on our website to assist you through the home buying process and beyond. ACCC is also one of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Developments approved credit counseling agencies in the following housing related services:
- Reverse mortgage counseling
- Foreclosure counseling
For those who are considering filing for bankruptcy or have filed, ACCC provides approved credit counseling services. Our pre-bankruptcy credit counseling and post-bankruptcy debtor education courses are approved by the U.S. Trustee Program of the Department of Justice.
During our pre-bankruptcy credit counseling session, your counselor evaluates your personal financial situation and its causes and discusses alternatives to bankruptcy. Please note that approved credit counseling agencies simply explain the different options available for debt resolution, including bankruptcy, during these sessions. During the pre-bankruptcy counseling we do not give .
Our post-bankruptcy credit counseling consists of a debtor education course that covers budget development, money management, using credit wisely, and additional resources that help you control spending and maintain a debt-free lifestyle.
Debt Relief Programs Approved By The Government
Though its not ideal, if you are in an absolutely desperate debt situation and can see no feasible way out, your best bet is to petition your local branch of the United States Bankruptcy Court and file for bankruptcy. If the Court reviews your records and finds your debt to be eligible, you may be granted partial or full relief. If you are facing credit card debt, this is the closest to a credit card debt relief government program. There are two personal types of bankruptcy you can file with the Bankruptcy Court: Chapter 7 and Chapter 11 Bankruptcy.
- Chapter 7: You may be eligible to file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy if your income is less than the median yearly income level for a person or family in your state. Filing Chapter 7 bankruptcy will erase most of your debt history however, you should be aware that your credit score will be damaged for 10 years after your filing.
- Chapter 13: You may be eligible to file for Chapter 13 bankruptcy. One thing to be aware of with filing Chapter 13 bankruptcy is that your credit score will be damaged for seven years after the date on which you filed.
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What Are Debt Management Plans
Credit.org partners with nonprofit credit counseling agencies to offer Debt Management Plans . These plans consolidate a consumers unsecured credit and debt payments into one convenient monthly payment. Some of the advantages of having a Debt Management Plan include concessions from your creditors including a reduction in interest rates or elimination of late fees.
- A single monthly payment to all of your creditors
- Reduced total monthly payments
Approved Agencies Offering Services In Languages Other Than English And Spanish:
Many approved credit counseling agencies offer services in languages other than English. For a list of agencies and the languages that they offer, select the language from the list on the left. If you are looking for a language that is not found on the drop down list, please contact the Credit Counseling Unit at the Executive Office for U.S. Trustees at .
For questions relating to the information provided on this page contact the Credit Counseling Unit at the Executive Office for U.S. Trustees:
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When Should You Consider Debt Counseling Services
Some typical examples of situations when credit counseling would help include:
- A job loss or reduction in work hours causes financial problems.
- Your work is steady, but youre still living paycheck-to-paycheck because you cant create a budget or dont have the discipline to live with one.
- You use credit cards to pay everyday expenses like rent, utilities, food and gas because you dont have enough cash in your wallet or money in your bank account to pay those expenses immediately.
- Overspending on things like dining out, entertainment and clothing means there is never enough money left over at end of month to put in savings account or emergency fund.
Situations like this are common and correctable. Credit counselors have experience dealing with the issues that weigh consumers down and can offer a list of suggestions and solutions that will change the direction of your financial life for the better.
Cons For Credit Counseling
- The cons associated with credit counseling deal with the debt management program that nonprofit agencies use to help consumers eliminate credit card debt. While the counseling is free, there are fees involved for enrolling in the debt management programs.
- Its possible that you may benefit from one counseling session, but if you are deep in debt, the program usually takes 3-5 years to eliminate your debts.
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File A Complaint About A Debt Collector
Report any problems you have with a debt collection company to your State Attorney General’s Office, the Federal Trade Commission , and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau . Many states have their own debt collection laws that are different from the federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. Your state Attorney Generals office can help you find out your rights under your states law.
The Cost Of Debt Counseling
Initial debt counseling sessions are typically free, but you could pay an enrollment fee and a monthly fee depending on the depth of services provided. Many nonprofit counseling agencies offer free debt advice and educational materials on their website however, other services, including setting up debt management and repayment plans, come at a cost.
Any reputable debt counseling agency should provide you with pricing information when asked. Always ask for a free consultation this way, you can see if a particular debt counselor is the right fit for your needs.
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Approved Debt Management Counselor Certification Providers
The Michigan Debt Management Act, 1975 PA 148, as amended, requires an employee or agent of a licensee who engages in financial counseling and debt counseling functions to become a certified counselor. A certified counselor is defined as an individual who is certified by a training program or certifying organization, approved by the director, that authenticates the competence of individuals who provide education and assistance to other individuals in connection with debt counseling and financial counseling functions.The following certification programs or organizations have been approved by the Office of Consumer Finance:
- Partnership for Financial Education – www.financialed.org
- National Association of Certified Credit Counselors – fcnonline.org
- Association of Financial Counseling & Planning Ed – www.afcpe.org
- Institute for Financial Literacy, Inc. – www.Fincert.org
- National Foundation for Credit Counseling – www.nfcc.org
- Arbor Investment Ltd. – www.arbored.com
Approved Agencies By State:
For a list of approved credit counseling agencies by state and Judicial district, select a state, U.S. territory or commonwealth from the list on the left and then select a district.
Don’t know your judicial district? Click here.
Addresses listed for internet and telephone credit counseling agencies may be outside the requested state or judicial district. In such cases, the credit counseling agency is physically located in another state or judicial district, but is approved to provide credit counseling in the requested state or judicial district. In some states and judicial districts, credit counseling may be available only by internet and telephone, and not in person.
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Finding A Reputable Consumer Credit Counseling Agency
Reputable consumer credit counseling organizations advise you on managing your money and debts, help you develop a budget, and usually offer free educational materials and workshops. Their counselors are certified and trained in the areas of consumer credit, money and debt management, and budgeting. Counselors discuss your entire financial situation with you, and help you develop a personalized plan to solve your money problems. An initial counseling session typically lasts an hour, with an offer of follow-up sessions.
A reputable consumer credit counseling agency should send you free information about itself and the services it provides without requiring you to provide any details about your situation. If a firm doesnt do that, consider it a red flag and go elsewhere for help.
Once youve developed a list of potential consumer credit counseling agencies, check them out with your state Attorney General, local consumer protection agency, and Better Business Bureau. They can tell you if consumers have filed complaints about them.
The United States Trustee Program also keeps a list of consumer credit counseling agencies that have been approved to provide pre-bankruptcy counseling. You can find a state-by-state list of government-approved organizations at www.usdoj.gov/ust. After youve done your background investigation, its time for the most important research you should interview the final candidates.
Debt Counseling And Your Credit Score
Debt counseling doesnt affect your credit score, at least directly.
However, some counseling agencies may advise that you enroll in a debt management plan, which will show up on your but wont negatively affect your score. Over time, though, your credit score could improve if youre making on-time payments to creditors.
Its important to consider that through a debt management plan, youll make payments to an agency that will make payments to your creditors on your behalf.
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How To Choose The Right Credit Counseling Agency
The Federal Trade Commission recommends contacting nonprofit credit counseling companies, like InCharge Debt Solutions, for online credit counseling, over-the-phone or in-person counseling.
Most nonprofits agencies offer credit counseling for free, however, the FTC website warns that nonprofit status does not guarantee the services are free and suggests careful research before choosing a
What To Do During Your Debt Management Plan
Ask the agency for regular written status reports on your plan. Ask also for receipts of all transactions involved with the debt management plan. This will provide you with proof that the agency made your payments. While you’re in a debt management plan, companies you owe money to may stop sending you monthly statements.
Carefully review your status reports or monthly statements. Make sure the agency is paying your creditors on time. This will avoid any late fees or negative entries on your credit report.
You can also monitor your progress, by reviewing your credit report. It includes information on whether you’re making regular payments.
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Government Debt And Financial Assistance
- The U.S. Treasury Department joined other federal agencies to establish the Financial Literacy and Education Commission with a purpose of improving the financial literacy and education of persons in the United States.
- The FDIC offers a link on its website to help individuals become better informed consumers and to help them submit comments on bank complaints.
- The Federal Reserve has a dedicated website that consumers can access if they have a problem with a bank or other financial institution.
- The FTC has a link on its website to a section with helpful information on credit cards, consumer loans, and credit counseling agencies.
- Headquartered in Washington, D.C., the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency has four district offices plus an office in London to supervise the international activities of national banks.
How To Find A Credit Counselor
The easiest way to find a credit counselor is through the National Foundation for Credit Counseling . The NFCC is a nonprofit network of member agencies. In other words, they do not perform the credit counseling themselves. Rather, they will refer you to one of their member agencies, which must be properly vetted.
A credit counseling agency must meet these standards to become a member of the NFCC:
- Register as a 501 nonprofit
- Comply with the NFCC member quality standards
- Provide financial counseling in compliance with federal and state laws
- Be accredited by the Council on Accreditation
The Financial Counseling Association of America is another network of member agencies similar to the NFCC.
All of the credit counseling agencies on our top five list are accredited by either the NFCC or the FCAA. If you see these accreditations, you should feel confident that they will be working in your best interest.
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Approval Process For Credit Counseling And Debtor Education Courses
In Alabama and North Carolina, the bankruptcy administrator approves credit counseling and debtor education providers. Lists of approved providers for the six judicial districts in Alabama and North Carolina are maintained by the bankruptcy administrator for that district or bankruptcy court.
An entity seeking to become an authorized credit counseling or debtor education provider in Alabama or North Carolina must go through an application process administered by the bankruptcy administrator for that district.
Use Caution When Shopping For Debt Relief Services
Avoid any debt relief organization whether its credit counseling, debt settlement, or any other service that:
- charges any fees before it settles your debts or enters you into a DMP plan
- pressures you to make “voluntary contributions,” which is really another name for fees
- touts a “new government program” to bail out personal credit card debt
- guarantees it can make your unsecured debt go away
- tells you to stop communicating with your creditors, but doesnt explain the serious consequences
- tells you it can stop all debt collection calls and lawsuits
- guarantees that your unsecured debts can be paid off for pennies on the dollar
- wont send you free information about the services it provides without requiring you to provide personal financial information, like your credit card account numbers, and balances
- tries to enroll you in a debt relief program without reviewing your financial situation with you
- offers to enroll you in a DMP without teaching you budgeting and money management skills
- demands that you make payments into a DMP before your creditors have accepted you into the program
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