Always keep in mind when dealing with services like debt relief that many customer view it as a magic pill to solve all their debt problems and make them financially stable, which is not the case. There are no guarantees when it comes to debt relief. These companies try to work with customers to lower their debt burden, but they aren’t going to work miracles.
Most nonprofit agencies are members of either the National Foundation for Credit Counseling or the Financial Counseling Association of America. Both of these groups have certification requirements to ensure a standard level of education and quality among counselors. They also require accreditation, in which an outside body checks that standards of practice are being met.
The National Foundation for Credit Counseling or the Association of Independent Consumer Credit Counseling Agencies lists affiliated legitimate credit counseling services across the United States. Also, consumers can check with their state's attorney general’s office and the local consumer protection agency to determine if consumers have filed complaints about a credit counseling organization. As another resource, the United States Trustee Program keeps a list of credit counseling agencies approved to provide pre-bankruptcy counseling. Bankruptcy law mandates that anyone filing for bankruptcy must first undergo credit counseling.
Free advice from credit counseling agencies is available. Several different organizations, all of which are non-profits, operate across the country. A number of agencies operate regionally as well. They provide a number of low cost or free debt reduction programs, offer ways to improve credit scores, can advise on filing for bankruptcy, offer budgeting services, and in general provide information on ways to gain control of your bills. Find a listing of non-profit credit counseling agencies.

Offer a variety of deferment options: Discover offers four different deferment options for borrowers. If you decide to go back to school, you may be eligible for in-school deferment as long as you are enrolled for at least half-time. In addition to in-school deferment, Discover offers deferment to borrowers on active military duty (up to 3 years), in eligible public service careers (up to 3 years) and those in a health professions residency program (up to 5 years).

Please note that all calls with the company may be recorded or monitored for quality assurance and training purposes. *Clients who are able to stay with the program and get all their debt settled realize approximate savings of 50% before fees, or 30% including our fees, over 24 to 48 months. All claims are based on enrolled debts. Not all debts are eligible for enrollment. Not all clients complete our program for various reasons, including their ability to save sufficient funds. Estimates based on prior results, which will vary based on specific circumstances. We do not guarantee that your debts will be lowered by a specific amount or percentage or that you will be debt-free within a specific period of time. We do not assume consumer debt, make monthly payments to creditors or provide tax, bankruptcy, accounting or legal advice or credit repair services. Not available in all states. Please contact a tax professional to discuss tax consequences of settlement. Please consult with a bankruptcy attorney for more information on bankruptcy. Depending on your state, we may be available to recommend a local tax professional and/or bankruptcy attorney. Read and understand all program materials prior to enrollment, including potential adverse impact on credit rating.

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Tip: If you are having trouble making payments on your debts, a credit counselor may be able to help you with advice or by organizing a “debt management plan” for all your debts. Typically, under a debt management plan you make a single payment to the credit counseling organization each month or pay period and the credit counseling organization makes monthly payments to each of your creditors. Under debt management plans, credit counselors usually do not negotiate any reduction in the amounts you owe–instead, they can lower your overall monthly payment. They do so by negotiating extensions of the periods over which you can repay a loan and by asking creditors to lower the interest rates  and waive certain fees.
Because we are a non-profit counseling agency, Advantage Credit Counseling Service (CCS) is 100% focused on helping you achieve debt relief. With more than 50 years of experience and the industry’s best Online Credit Counseling system, you can rest assured that not only will our certified counselors understand what you’re going through, they’ll also know how to help you uncover truly personalized solutions to improve your financial future.

You may want to set net worth goals, too. Getting to a positive net worth might be an initial goal, and you might also set a series of savings goals for arriving at what you need for retirement. First, though, you'll need to have your debt under control -- and, ideally, wiped out. Keep these goals handy and regularly reflect on them to assess whether you're making progress, and what behaviors are hindering your success. 
A second option is consumer credit counseling. There is any number of consumer credit counseling agencies available on the Internet or you may be able to find one locally. The best of these are nonprofits. When you contact one of these agencies either via a website or in person you will have a counselor that will spend from 45 minutes to an hour with you discussing your finances. The best of these agencies charge nothing for that service.
It could also help to reach out to a debt counselor or financial planner to take steps toward getting your finances in order, or at least developing a game plan for getting back on track, McClanahan said. “If the debt is beyond your means, you might also want to explore bankruptcy or whatever it might take to turn your situation around,” she said. A professional can help you weigh the pros and cons of different options.
On the flip side, the Debt Management Plan is designed to be paid off with regular monthly payments over approximately four years (our clients use an automated payment system so their consolidated debt payments are transferred electronically). These timely payments over the course of years have a very positive impact on the client’s payment history, which is the largest factor in calculating one’s FICO score. (That also means, of course, that if a client is late with their Debt Management Plan payments, there will be significant negative impact on his/her score.)

Bankruptcy is a last-ditch attempt to settle debts. It is a legal proceeding through which you liquidate all assets in order to wipe out debt (Chapter 7) or persuade creditors to approve a repayment plan over a 3-to-5 year time frame to eliminate debt. There are severe consequences for both, including a drop of as much as 200 points in your credit score and the bankruptcy action remaining on your credit report for 7-to-10 years. A debt management program is not a legal proceeding. A notation that you are in a DMP could appear on your credit report, but there should be little impact on your credit score until you complete the program. At that time, you could expect your credit score to improve, sometimes dramatically.
What Does It Cost? First of all, there are no upfront fees and second, we only get paid when your debt is reduced. We only get paid for delivering results. Having said that, the fee varies by debt amount and the state you live, it ranges from 18-25% of the total debt enrolled. You can compare this to the 15-29% average interest charges you pay every year to your credit card companies and see our option can be an affordable option.
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.
Chapter 13 is typically more expensive than Chapter 7 but I can’t give you a specific total cost for either. It will vary. Your best bet is to talk with a consumer bankruptcy attorney. If you can’t afford to file now, the attorney should be able to help you figure out other options. Keep in mind that they are used to seeing consumers who are at the end of their rope financially, so it’s not something you should be embarrassed about.
As a debt junkie for almost ten years, I ran up credit card after credit card living like my salary was about four times its actual size. Stupid things I bought on credit included flying lessons, weekends in Las Vegas, and a brand new pickup truck. Hey, I never said I wasn’t having fun. (Remember, I’m on the other side of 25 now, so I started college pre-recession… during the dot-com boom. Back then, I actually thought I could graduate with a sociology major and find a $75k a year job—because I knew people who did!)
National Debt Relief recently refunded part of the money that was saved in my account before I terminated my agreement with the company. I found this action on their part to be quite surprising and very much appreciated. This leads me to believe that they do have the best interest of their customers at heart. I have chosen to work with another company in becoming debt free and am very thankful for the services provided to me from National Debt Relief.
Credit limitation: Like a balance transfer, a personal debt consolidation loan is usually only a viable solution for consumers who have a good credit score. The higher you score, the lower the interest rate you can qualify for on the loan. APR of 5% is ideal, but anything below 10% may be enough to provide the relief you need. If you can’t qualify for a rate below 10%, look for other options.

If you need help getting out of debt, American Consumer Credit Counseling offers debt management services that can help you find your way out of debt – usually within five years. As a non-profit organization, our professional credit counselors are experts at delivering solutions for individuals and families who need help getting out of debt. Since our founding in 1991, we've helped tens of thousands of people, showing them how to pay off debts, reduce credit card debt and live life debt-free. With the lowest rate structure of any debt management program, our services are affordable and convenient. If you're ready to seek help getting out of debt, contact us today to set an appointment for a free consultation.

Seek the help of a psychologist or another mental health expert if your concerns about debt are negatively impacting your day-to-day life. A licensed health expert can help you confront your anxieties head on and offer strategies for dealing with them effectively. Also, reach out to your personal network and let those close to you know that you could use their support. It helps to know that you’re not in it alone.
ClearPoint Credit Counseling has been in business for 50 years, and their wide range of educational offerings includes “ClearPoint U,” a series of free, on-demand online courses on personal finance topics. The company has 50 branches across the U.S. and is accredited by the BBB, NFCC, and COA. Their website is polished and easy to navigate, but is a bit less transparent about fees and potential reductions in interest rates than their competitors.
Unsecured debt such as credit cards and medical bills are, by far, the most common debts associated with debt management programs. Utilities, rent and cell phone services are other types of unsecured debt that could be part of a DMP. Some installment contracts, such as country club or gym memberships also could be eligible. There is no hard-and-fast rule for how far in debt you must be to get in a program, but most creditors and legitimate credit counseling agencies say your financial situation needs to be severe. In other words, you must owe more money than your income and savings can reasonably handle. Secured debts, such as a mortgage or auto loan, are not eligible for the program.
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