Thursday, April 05, 2007

Credit And Debt Counseling - What You Should Know

Credit and debt counseling may be something worth looking into if you feel that you are drowning in debt. Many people lack the knowledge and discipline needed to set up their own budget plan and start getting their credit card debts down. If you can't resolve your credit problems yourself or you need additional help, using a good credit and debt counseling service can help you get your head above water. These services basically negotiate with your creditors on your behalf to help make debt payments more manageable. This is usually done by convincing your creditors to lower your interest rates and extend repayment time on your debts.

As with any service, credit and debt counseling should be researched before jumping right in with a company. A major thing to look out for is counseling fees. Credit and debt counseling services often do not "officially" charge a fee, but you may wind up paying monthly maintenance fees, donations, voluntary contributions, etc. These fees should be low enough for someone in credit trouble to actually pay, so always make sure you ask the credit and debt counseling service you choose WHERE exactly your money is going – most of it SHOULD go to paying off your creditors.

Some important factors to think about when choosing to take part in credit and debt counseling:

1. What kind of up front fee is involved? – it shouldn't be anything extravagant.

2. Be sure to get a layout of payment and contract terms in writing to protect yourself.

3. Make sure your creditors are willing to work with the service you choose.

4. Don't rely on a service that just enrolls you in a debt management program – you want actual counseling and education. (The "take a man fishing, you feed him for one day, teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime" approach.)

5. Make sure they have some sort of hardship program in case something happens and you can't make the minimum payments.

6. Find out the qualifications of counselors. Are they accredited or certified?

7. Make sure they keep their credit and debt counseling confidential (between them, yourself and your creditors)

8. How often does the agency pay creditors? The faster they pay, the faster your payment is credited. Slow payments could result in higher interest rates or even late fees.

9. Do they ask for confidential information over the phone? You really shouldn't give out bank account or credit card number unless you can get with them in person.

10. Don't believe or trust any credit and debt counseling service that says they can just wipe out your debt fast. It takes time and prudent planning to really overcome credit and debt problems.

With more and more purchases and money matters relying on your credit report and score, it is important that consumers have better credit education from a young age. Many people get themselves into trouble at a younger age because they just don't know any better. As such, there is a huge need for credit and debt counseling and education. The key to choosing the right agency for you is to do research on the companies you think about using and make an educated decision. Unfortunately, some credit and debt counseling services are set up simply to scam consumers out of money. As long as you ask questions and do research, you can separate the scams from the legitimate services offering good credit and debt counseling

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