Choosing a Credit Counselor: You Have Choices

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How do you go about choosing a credit counselor? With a few tips in hand! Making the decision to work with a credit counselor is a positive step toward taking control of your financial future. But how do you tell the good credit counselors from the bad ones? By doing your research and making some wise choices.

One of the first things to look for is to determine if the agency’s counselors are certified and trained in money management. Look for an agency that is a member of the National Foundation for Credit Counseling or the Association of Independent Consumer Credit Counseling Agencies (AICCA) and that employs certified counselors.

Ask an agency if they help you with multiple forms of debt. If an agency only works with credit card debt, consider looking elsewhere. Many people have financial concerns in multiple areas, not just one. Also find out if the agency works with you in a variety of ways. If an agency prescribes the same solution for everyone, then this is not the agency to choose. Your individual circumstances will determine the best course of action. There is no “one size fits all” when it comes to managing your debt.

Fees are another important area. Some agencies provide services for free; others work on a sliding scale depending on what you can afford. Others may charge for certain services. It’s important that you have it in writing exactly what you will pay for and what you will not. Be sure to read everything carefully, and ask any questions that you may have. You do not want to be surprised down the road by hidden fees or unexpected charges.

Finally, find out exactly what your plan will entail. An initial meeting can help you get an idea of what your plan will include. An important aspect of dealing with your debt is developing a long-term plan to address your future as well as current issues. If an agency does not help with creating a new way of managing your finances, then the work that you do to handle your current debt may not last. You need a plan that incorporates your immediate needs and your future goals.