Our member agencies can advise you on managing your money and debts, help you develop a budget and offer free educational materials and workshops. All member agency counselors are indepently certified and trained in consumer credit, money and debt management, and budgeting. They discuss your entire financial situation with you, and help you develop a personalized plan to deal with your money problems. An intial counseling session typically lasts an hour, with an offer of follow-up sessions.
Our members provide education and assistance to consumers who have more debt than they feel they can repay on their own. Our members have the ability to obtain concessions from creditor(s) to reduce or eliminate interest charges and stop late and over-limit fees on unsecured debts as well.
Frequently Asked Questions
Who should consider seeing a credit counselor?
Credit counseling is appropriate for individuals who are trying to pay off their debt Dollar-for-Dollar but who don't feel like they are making any headway on their own. They may also be individuals who have high interest rates on their credit cards, who may have taken out a payday loan, and/or who may be late on any such debts. Credit counselors may or may not be able to help you with the negotiation of a mortgage, car loan, or other secured debt. Many of our members are HUD certified and you can find more information about Housing Counseling by reviewing the Housing Counseling section of our site.
What are the cost and fees involved in Credit Counseling?
There is no fee for meeting with a credit counselor to discuss your situation nor are there any fees associated with educational materials each agency can provide to you. Fees are generally only charged if you sign up on what is commonly referred to as a Debt Management Program (DMP). When enrolled in a DMP, your unsecured debt payments are consolidated into one monthly payment to the credit counseling agency who then distributes them to your various creditors on your behalf. There is usually an initial DMP Enrollment fee (typically $75 or less) and monthly administrative fees (generally capped at $50). These may be flat fees, but they are more often based on a percentage of your monthly debt payment to your creditors or the number of creditors you place on the program. All fees are regulated by various State agencies and all members are also required to have fee waiver policies in place.
Does meeting with a Credit Counselor impact my credit score?
No. Credit counselors do not report your visits or counseling sessions to any credit bureau. Only if you sign up for a Debt Management Program through the credit counselor is there any notation at all on your credit report.
How does a Credit Counseling session itself impact my credit score and what if I enroll in a Debt Management Plan?
A credit counseling session itself has no impact on your credit score whatsoever. All member agencies have the ability to obtain a "soft" credit report on your behalf to better ascertain your overall financial picture. Since this is a "soft" inquiry it has no impact and is not seen as an inquiry for credit in any way. If an agency is able to provide the assistance you need and there is no need to enroll into a Debt Management Plan (DMP), there is no "record" of you seeking an agency's assistance.
Fair Isaac Company, the pioneer in credit score modeling and still the overwhelmingly most commonly-used credit score, clearly states that they do not take participation in a credit counselor's debt management program into account when calculating an individual's credit score. It should be noted, though, that any of the following may occur:
- Creditors may place a temporary notation on the individual's report stating that they are enrolled in a DMP. This is done for the purpose of preventing any further credit card accounts from being opened while the individual is paying off current debt. The creditor is obligated to remove the notation once the individual is no longer enrolled in the DMP.
- When an individual enrolls in a DMP, their accounts are effectively closed (either by the individual or by the creditor) and converted into monthly installment accounts by the creditor. Because of how a credit score is calculated and depending upon the balance on the individual's account(s), such closings may initially lower the individual's credit score. However, FICO's credit scoring model relies most heavily upon a history of on-time payments and lower balances, which is also what member agencies strive to help their clients achieve.
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Information courtesy of Member Agency Debt Reduction Services