Credit Counseling Questions.
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When you find yourself thinking about using a credit counseling service, you need to be very
Is the counseling agency affiliated with major industry groups?
There are two major debt industry groups, The National Foundation for Credit Counseling
and the Association of Independent Consumer Credit Counseling Agencies.
Affiliation with one of these is no guarantee you have a good agency but these groups do
have a set of standards which need to be followed, so it is a start.
Are there large up front fees?
The credit counseling agency will usually charge a small fee to set up your account. They then
will charge a fee to administer your plan each month.
If a large fee is required to begin your plan, watch out. Some companies have charged large
up front fees and then disappeared with the clients money. You need to be sure the money
you are paying is going to your debts and not being syphoned into the pocket of your credit
Can you really do that for me?
Some credit counseling agencies make unrealistic promises. If statements made seem too
good to be true, you need to pin them down. Settling your debts for little money or without
harming your credit rating are not realistic.
If they insist they can, ask for the promises in writing. Chances are they will not be willing to
do this if they cannot deliver. If they do put it into writing, at least then you will have
something to use for evidence if legal action becomes necessary.
Which of my creditors have you worked with in the past?
You have a list of your creditors. You want to compare it to the creditors they have worked
with in the past. Have they been successful working with your creditors in reducing
payments,lowering interest, and eliminating fees?
You need to know not all creditors will work with credit counselors. If all, or most, of your
creditors have, or will, you should investigate these services further. If not, credit counseling
won’’t do you much good. To protect yourself, ask for a list (in writing) of any of your
creditors they have worked with in the past.
Will my creditors be paid on time each month?
Two things come into play here. What are the due dates of each creditor and when during the
month do you get paid? Nothing defeats the purpose faster than paying a creditor late, after
you have set up a new payment schedule.
Some credit counseling services use a set date each month to make payments from the money
you have given them. If they don’’t have your creditors change the due date you could be
socked with late fees each month. Find a service that adjusts the due dates of your bills to
work around the days you get paid.
How do I pay you each month?
The credit counselor can’’t pay your creditors until you pay them each month. Will they
remove money, each month, from your account with an electronic transfer or are you required
to send them a guaranteed check or money order? You want to make it as easy as possible
for this plan to work. Look for a service that will withdraw funds from your account
automatically each month.
When and how often will I get statements of my accounts?
Just because you have turned over a portion of your financial life to someone else to run, does
not mean you don’’t need to keep track of what is going on. Your statements should break
down your payments so you can see where the money is going. How much is going to
interest, how much to the principal balances, and how much is being paid to the credit
Who can I call?
When you have a problem or question can you speak with someone on the phone? Are
you able to speak to the same counselor each time? If not, how long does it take to return
Do this up front. Make sure you can live with the answers you receive. Then test the service
to see if they live up to what they have said. Check their service out before you sign on the
bottom line. If you find that you can’’t get questions answered or telephone calls returned
look for another service. Going through credit counseling is stressful enough without any
These questions will give you a good idea what kind of service you have found. There are other
questions you may ask. If you think of any do not hesitate to ask and don’’t stop asking until you get
the answers you need. It is your money.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
David Wilding has for the past ten year worked with groups and individuals to rid themselves of debt. Visit his website http://www.debtattack.com for ideas, tools, and strategies to live debt free.