How credit counseling works and when you could benefit from it

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How credit counseling works and when you could benefit from it.


Credit counseling can help with debt payoff and management. CNBC Select explains how credit counseling works and whether it’s time to find a credit counselor near you. Megan DeMatteo Credit counselor speaks to client about getting out of debt Whether you’re trying to rebuild your credit score or you want to tackle debt that has been building up for years, credit counseling provides objective advice and resources to help you get your finances back on track. Credit counseling organizations offer a range of services, classes and programs around topics like bankruptcy, credit card debt, mortgages and reverse mortgages, foreclosure prevention, student loans and small business loans all at low or no cost. Below, CNBC Select explains how credit counseling works and how to find a credit counselor to help you repair your finances. What is credit counseling How credit counseling works Who needs credit counseling Where to find a free credit counselor How credit counseling works While there are a lot of programs out there, you want to find a nonprofit organization staffed by credentialed financial experts who specialize in debt payoff and debt management.

You can start by checking out the National Federation for Credit Counseling (NFCC) and the Financial Counseling Association of America (FCAA). Both provide directories of their accredited member locations. You can expect your credit counseling session to last about an hour, and they can take place online, in person or over the phone. Typically, you meet with a counselor one-on-one, but they may refer you to additional services, including free or low-cost classes on specific topics that are led by their counseling staff. When you meet with the credit counselor, you and the counselor will take an in-depth look at your finances, starting with the big picture (reviewing expenses like rent/mortgage and car payments, as well as looking at total assets and total debts), then honing in on the specifics (like the APRs and late fees on each of your credit cards). For this process, you may need to authorize a credit check so that the counselor can see your credit report. Or if you have an up-to-date version of your credit report, you can take it with you to the appointment. After your conversation, the credit counselor will make recommendations on steps you can take to improve your financial situation.

They might recommend you enroll in a debt management program, where the credit counseling organization would negotiate a payment plan with your issuers on your behalf. Who needs credit counseling You may need credit counseling if you feel overwhelmed or anxious about your being able to pay off your debt. If you are having trouble meeting your financial obligations, you may benefit from counseling. Credit creep is a common problem, and it doesn’t take long for your debt to feel out of hand. You also may benefit from credit counseling if you plan on starting a business or taking on a mortgage, or if you’ve just navigated an unexpected life event that impacted your finances, such as a job loss. Typically, people turn to a credit counselor when they need to know how to pay off their debt faster, consolidate their debt into one monthly payment, eliminate or recover late fees, negotiate lower interest rates and generally improve their money habits so they can work toward a better financial future.

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