Look for a nonprofit credit counseling organization that belongs to either the National Foundation for Credit Counseling (NFCC) or the Financial Counseling Association of America (FCAA). They ensure member agencies pass rigorous standards set forth by the Council on Accreditation or another approved third party, and that their counselors pass a comprehensive certification program. Even if they are members of such organizations, though, be picky.

However, there are impacts to your credit that don’t affect your score. While on a Debt Management Plan, a client’s credit report will have a notation that he or she is currently enrolled in a Debt Management Plan. While that notation is active, they will not be granted new credit. Plainly, this is an impact to one’s credit that should be considered. But the notation goes away when the Debt Management Plan is complete, and doesn’t have a lasting impact on one’s credit.
But sometimes, disaster strikes and people are forced to confront their circumstances head-on. A series of unfortunate events — a sudden job loss, an unexpected (and expensive) home repair, or a serious illness — can knock one’s finances so off track they can barely keep up with their monthly payments. And it’s in these moments of disaster when we finally realize how precarious our financial situations are.
“When someone meets with a certified credit counselor, they get expert advice for overcoming their most urgent financial challenges,” Bruce McClary, Vice President of Communications at the NFCC said. “Consumers benefit from a comprehensive review of their entire financial situation. Every counseling session is completely confidential with advice that is uniquely designed for each individual.”
Instead of diving into debt settlement, a better option might be to talk to a nonprofit credit counselor. Credit counseling organizations can help you better understand tactics for managing and reducing your debt, including creating and following a budget. Credit counseling may not have the negative impact of debt settlement (though if you choose a Debt Management Plan, it could appear on your credit report).
“When someone meets with a certified credit counselor, they get expert advice for overcoming their most urgent financial challenges,” Bruce McClary, Vice President of Communications at the NFCC said. “Consumers benefit from a comprehensive review of their entire financial situation. Every counseling session is completely confidential with advice that is uniquely designed for each individual.”
Hybrid loan option: CommonBond offers a unique “Hybrid” rate option in which rates are fixed for five years and then become variable for five years. This option can be a good choice for borrowers who intend to make extra payments and plan on paying off their student loans within the first five years. If you can a better interest rate on the Hybrid loan than the Fixed-rate option, you may end up paying less over the life of the loan.

I’m about 70k in debt (which includes a car loan and student loans). I was very naive in thinking that earning a Bachelor’s degree would award me with a high paying job and I would be able to take care of this mountain of debt no problem. Of course, that’s not reality, and I make 25k a year. I’ve been working at this job for about a year and a half now, and I have FINALLY found a better paying job after a year of active searching. Although it’s not much, I’ll be moving up to 29k a year. While I pay off my 10k car loan at 250 a month, I’ve been completely avoiding my student loan debt, I don’t even look at it. Right now my loans are in deferment but I owe my first payment in August. I’m really starting to panick. I appreciated your article and found a lot of useful advice in it. I think my first step to paying off my loans will be to work as hard as possible at my new job so maybe after another year or so I can increase my salary more substantially…. Other than that I’m really at a loss for what to do. Any specific advice regarding such a high amount of student loans? (That honestly, I’m almost too embarassed to admit to in this post)

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Here’s how balance transfers work: As a way of attracting new customers, credit card companies will let you transfer a balance—in other words, a debt—from one credit card to a new credit card at 0 percent interest for a certain number of months. For example, if you were to transfer a $2,000 balance from one card (15 percent APR) to a new card (0 percent APR for 12 months), you could save up to $300 in interest.
Checking your credit report for inaccuracies is an important step in your journey to reduce your debt. Remedy: You are allowed a free credit report from each of the major credit reporting bureaus, Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. Split them up, one every four months. Check them closely for incorrect delinquencies and/or balances that hurt your credit score and could make a difference in your ability to buy a house or car, or obtain more credit.
Credit counseling (known in the United Kingdom as Debt counselling) is commonly a process that is used to help individual debtors with debt settlement through education, budgeting and the use of a variety of tools with the goal to reduce and ultimately eliminate debt.[1] Credit counseling is most often done by Credit counseling agencies that are empowered by contract to act on behalf of the debtor to negotiate with creditors to resolve debt that is beyond a debtor's ability to pay. Some of the agencies are non-profits that charge at no or non-fee rates, while others can be for-profit and include high fees. Regulations on credit counseling and Credit counseling agencies varies by country and sometimes within regions of the countries themselves.[1] In the United States, individuals filing Chapter 13 bankruptcy are required to receive counseling.
Next, your credit counselor will compile your data and ask you to commit to a debt management plan if they believe it’s the best option. If you choose to move forward, you will begin making a single monthly payment to the credit counseling agency who will disburse the funds on your behalf. Your credit counselor may also suggest alternatives to debt management plans if they believe a better option is available.
It will decimate your credit scores and stay on your credit report for up to 10 years even as you restore your credit history. That’s no small thing, because poor credit history can affect your eligibility for certain jobs, your chances of getting an apartment lease, and how much you pay for car insurance. When your credit is already bad, a bankruptcy may allow you to rebuild your credit much sooner than continuing to try to repay. (Learn more about when bankruptcy is the best option.)
Yes and no. If you begin with the biggest debt, you won’t see traction for a long time. You might think you’re not making fast enough progress and then lose steam and quit before you even get close to finishing. It’s important to pay your debts in a way that keeps you motivated until you’ve wiped them out. Getting quick wins in the beginning will light a fire under you to pay off your remaining debts! Listen—knock out that smallest debt first, and you will find the motivation to go the distance. 
There are many ways to get out of credit card as well as medical debt or to get help with loans. Find a list of solutions below. You can consolidate it, enter into debt reduction or credit card hardship programs, reduce the interest rates on any loans or even completely eliminate it. Most lenders are willing to offer some form of assistance to borrowers, and non-profit agencies can also assist. Various options, including some that are free, are available to help consumers reduce the amount of debt that they have.
The rule also specifies that the consumers’ money set aside to pay debts be maintained in an account at an insured financial institution; that the consumer owns the funds and any interest accrued; that the debt settlement company does not own, control or have any affiliation with the company administering the account; and that the provider does not exchange any referral fees with the company administering the account, the FTC says.

If your financial problems stem from too much debt or your inability to repay your debts, a credit counseling agency may recommend that you enroll in a debt management plan (DMP). A DMP alone is not credit counseling, and DMPs are not for everyone. Don’t sign up for one of these plans unless and until a certified credit counselor has spent time thoroughly reviewing your financial situation, and has offered you customized advice on managing your money. Even if a DMP is appropriate for you, a reputable credit counseling organization still can help you create a budget and teach you money management skills.
If your expensive habit is smoking or drinking, that’s an easy one — quit. Alcohol and tobacco do nothing for you except stand between you and your long-term goals. If your expensive habit is slightly less incendiary – like a daily latte, restaurant lunches during work hours, or fast food — the best plan of attack is usually cutting way down with the goal of eliminating these behaviors or replacing them with something less expensive.
This can be especially helpful for someone with serious debt (generally $7,500 or more), who is struggling to make minimum payments and who have suffered a financial hardship, such as job loss, medical expense and divorce. Regulated by the Federal Trade Commission, debt settlement companies work on a consumer’s behalf to lower the principal balances owed. It usually takes two to five years and is best for those who would otherwise need to consider bankruptcy. Check the American Fair Credit Council for reputable providers.
InCharge is the only national credit counseling service that offers online counseling: enter your income, assets and debts and you’ll receive a personalized debt relief solution – all without having to talk to a person. Other reasons to choose InCharge for consumer credit counseling services: A+ rating from the BBB and we are certified by the NFCC.
On average, National Debt Relief can reduce enrolled debt by around 49 percent which is slightly higher than Freedom and New Era. You will pay fees of between 15 to 25 percent on the amount that is settled. This debt relief company doesn’t charge any upfront fees, so you’ll only pay on the debts that are settled. Keep in mind, though, that the fees are in addition to the settlement, so a 20 percent fee in addition to a 49 percent settlement ends up being 69 percent of the original amount.
Financial education. You'll have access to a wide variety of educational resources for help getting out of debt. These include newsletters, articles and tools on our website that can help you manage credit card debt, budget your finances more effectively, learn about how to stay out of debt, and get answers to questions like "How can I improve my credit score?" and "What is debt consolidation?"
Paying off credit card debt won’t hurt your credit scores, and often helps. As for closing accounts, it’s impossible for us to predict exactly what will happen if you close those accounts, Since they are department store cards they probably aren’t charging you an annual fee, are they? Why not just stop using them once they are paid off? You can even cut up the plastic if you don’t want to be tempted to use them again.
You cannot sign up for new credit cards, nor can you use the ones you have. While it may sound unreasonable to bar you from using credit, the point of your debt management plan is helping you dig your way out. “The last thing you want to be doing is running up more high-interest debt on the side,” said McClary. “You’re not doing yourself any favors in that situation.”
You may think that while paying off debt, you don’t have money to save, but this is essential. Life happens, so if anything comes up, like a job loss, medical bill, or car repair, you’re covered. The suggested amount is three to six months’ worth of expenses, but if that’s not immediately possible, aim for one months’ worth – that’s a great starting point.

Ask for help from your friends, relatives, coworkers, and acquaintances. I don’t mean ask people to pay your debts for you. I mean ask for help with transportation, child care, manual labor, tips, recipes, and ideas. Ask to borrow tools. Ask handy people to show you how to do things to save money. Google stuff. Just because you don’t know how to do something now or have never done it before doesn’t mean you can’t do it.
Once a credit counselor has reviewed your situation and you both agree that a debt management plan is the next best step, the counselor will negotiate with your creditors to see if they'll agree to reduce interest rates or monthly payments, waive fees or reduce the amount you owe. When your credit counselor reaches an agreement with all creditors, you'll begin making monthly deposits with the credit counseling organization, and it will use the money to pay your unsecured debts.
Bill “No Pay” Fay has lived a meager financial existence his entire life. He started writing/bragging about it seven years ago, helping birth Debt.org into existence as the site’s original “Frugal Man.” Prior to that, he spent more than 30 years covering college and professional sports, which are the fantasy worlds of finance. His work has been published by the Associated Press, New York Times, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, Sports Illustrated and Sporting News, among others. His interest in sports has waned some, but his interest in never reaching for his wallet is as passionate as ever. Bill can be reached at bfay@debt.org.
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