In the United States, credit counseling agencies are loosely regulated by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the nation's consumer protection agency, which can sue companies that have deceived consumers about the cost, nature, or benefits of their services.[1] Different states may regulate DMPs individually and attorneys general are empowered to protect state citizens from fraud.[5]
In the United States, Credit counseling agencies are loosely regulated by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the nation’s consumer protection agency, which can sue companies that have deceived consumers about the cost, nature, or benefits of their services.[1] Different states may regulate DMPs individually and Attorneys General are empowered to protect state citizens from fraud.[4] Two professional associations represent Credit counselors: the National Foundation for Credit Counseling and the Association of Independent Consumer Credit Counseling Agencies.[6]

Once you’ve signed up for a debt settlement program, you’ll get access to the client dashboard that allows you to track how much you’ve saved and which accounts have been settled. It also provides you with financial tools such as calculators and budget worksheets. You’ll also be given form letters to send to your creditors, informing them that you’re in financial hardship and requesting that they not contact you to collect.
Kalkowski recommends finding a nonprofit rather than a for-profit agency. Reputable companies may be accredited or certified by one of three organizations: The National Foundation for Credit Counseling, the Financial Counseling Association of America or the Council on Accreditation. Consumers can also check the Better Business Bureau for company ratings and reviews or discuss the matter with trusted friends and family members who may be able to make a recommendation.

While repaying your debt more slowly or at a lower interest rate is better than not paying it at all, a debt management plan can still adversely impact credit scores. Although enrollment in a debt management plan isn't a factor in credit scoring models, it can affect other aspects of your credit that are common factors in many credit scoring models.

If you decide to start a debt management plan, there will likely be a one time set-up charge and a monthly fee for the cost of administering the plan. These fees are determined in part by your state of residence and will be calculated by your counselor during your credit counseling session. If you feel that a fee will be too much of a burden for you to pay, talk to your counselor.  If you qualify under the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services poverty guidelines, you may be eligible to a fee waiver.
Reputable credit counseling organizations have staff counselors who are certified and trained. These counselors can discuss client financial situations to help them develop a personalized plan for their economic issues. An initial counseling session typically lasts an hour, with an offer of follow-up sessions. A reputable credit counseling agency should offer free information about itself and the services it provides without requiring potential clients to release any details about their situation.
Credit counseling organizations are usually non-profit organizations. Typically, their counselors are certified and trained in the areas of consumer credit, money and debt management, and budgeting. Counselors discuss your financial situation with you and help you develop a personalized plan to solve your money problems.  Here are some examples of what credit counselors might do: 
If you've already fallen behind on your monthly payments or can no longer afford your minimum payments, we want to talk to you. If can't see any way to improve your financial situation without taking a drastic step like declaring bankruptcy, we may be able to help. What's more, we have years of experience with clients who face exacerbating circumstances like divorce, death in the family, unemployment, long-term medical issues and other problems.
This really depends on the agency you work with and what they offer. In some cases, a company pairs credit counseling and credit repair. To do this legally, that means that they have both certified credit counselors and state-licensed credit repair attorneys on staff. In this case, they help you eliminate your debt, and then help you dispute any lingering mistakes in your report.
Of course, $800 a month in credit-card bills is a lot to handle, which is where debt management comes in. One of the companies I profile further down, InCharge, can help reduce interest rates by an average of 6% to 9%. Assuming the best scenario (a 9% interest rate drop) and a four-year plan, your monthly payment could shrink to $576 (this includes a monthly fee of $49, which could be lower or dropped completely, depending on your situation) and your total interest paid would shrink to $5,276.
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.
Chapter 13: Most debts are discharged. Some debts that are not dischargeable in a Chapter 7 case have to be paid in full in a Chapter 13 plan. To keep your secured debts like a car loan or mortgage, you have to continue making monthly payments. There are circumstances in which you can add your car into your plan payment. You can also use the plan payment to catch up past due house payments and prevent a foreclosure.
Once you’ve decided that debt settlement is the right option for you, National Debt Relief asks that you stop paying your creditors (if you can still make payments, you’re not in a financial crisis and the program isn’t right for you) and open a new FDIC-insured account that you will begin depositing money into regularly. The funds collected in this account will only get disbursed once terms of a settlement offer are reached between the creditor and borrower.
Debt settlement companies, also sometimes called "debt relief" or "debt adjusting" companies, often claim they can negotiate with your creditors to reduce the amount you owe. Consider all of your options, including working with a nonprofit credit counselor, and negotiating directly with the creditor or debt collector yourself. Before agreeing to work with a debt settlement company, there are risks that you should consider:

If you’re not eligible for any of the above, call up your credit card companies and ask for a reduced interest rate. Be honest, tell them you’re struggling with the payments, but you have a plan to pay off your debts but could use some help in the way of a lower interest rate. Not all of them will agree, but you might get lucky, so it doesn’t hurt to ask.
Imagine, for example, that you have $20,000 in credit card debt and $10,000 in other non-mortgage debt. You might set yourself a goal of paying it all off in two years. (Set a specific time frame, too, lest you keep extending your deadline.) You can set sub-goals, too, such as having a quarter of it and half of it paid off by certain dates. Write down the goals and post them where you'll see them.
Man, I’m in trouble! Just calculated my DTI ratio and it’s not pretty! A year ago I started taking charge of my credit problem and decided to do a debt consolidation. The problem is, now that I had this loan in the exact amount of what I owed in credit card and line of credit I figured I would pay most of it and then keep a little money to get stuff I needed (a new mattress and some furniture). Stupidest move I ever did! Now, a year later, I’ve maxed out my credit card once again (I should have lowered the limit after I had paid it off a year prior…..but I thought I was good), I still owe over $5000 on my line of credit and now, I also have to pay that consolidation loan! Within a year, my debt amount went from $14,500 to $33,500! And the worst part? I don’t even know how I managed that! I don’t think I spend a lot of money on trivial things………but clearly I’m spending somewhere. So according to your calculator, I’m at a 0.62 DTI ratio. I mean I make over 50K a year, if I cut down on…..everything, I should be able to pay this off. My car loan is at 0% interest so I’m not too concern with that one. I do put money away every month in an RRSP (it’s the Canadian equivalent of a 401(K)) which cuts down my income tax payment at the end of the year. I’m also a federal employee so I have a pension plan at work with a lot of good benefits so I’m set on the pension plan side. But I can’t manage to save enough money to cover even one month of my income. I mean I’ll be 30 in 3 months and I’ve always been a pretty smart girl……..but I can’t get a hold on my finances! Anyway, I’ve been going through your site and checking out all your tools. It’s giving me a hope.
I was in touch with National debt relief from past 2 years and trying to decide if I want to go this path or not by talking to few agents . Recently I had bad experience with few agents that I talked with rude attitude thnking that I am not a serious client or wasting the time by not enrolled into their programs. I think as a customer you have a right of thinking and asking or talking to few agents or looking for other options also . One of the agent Richi S. was very rude and offensive in talking to me and said I am totally a waste of time and not serious before even getting into the details of my current situation. Yes of course I had submitted the request few times thinking of enroll but did not take the decision . They cannot force or assume that every one who ask the adivse does not necessary have to enroll l or cannot submit the request again because they are not serious!. Very bad and rude customer skills. please train them to be kind and professional towards clients with their talking.

C.B. I believe what you need is to invest in a financial coach. What you described is not uncommon. Once you find out why you are spending, possibly to fill a void or the ‘I deserve’ mindset, you can stop the unneeded spending. A good coach will also put together a plan to help you get out of debt and reach your financial goals and life goals. If a coach is not something you are willing to look into, please find an accountability partner. Someone who will not accept excuses and will keep you focused. You have the income and the drive to make things happen in your finances… that is HUGE!! Everyone needs a little help now and then. You got this!!!
If you are looking for an alternative to a debt consolidation loan, then Tally may be an option for you (a credit score of 660 will be needed to qualify). Tally helps save consumers money and stress by managing their credit cards and paying down balances faster with a line of credit. Simply link up all of your credit cards in either the iOS or Android app and Tally will do the hard work for you.
If you're unsure of all the accounts you may have open, especially those that might be in collections, you can check your free credit report. It will show what creditors are currently reporting to the credit bureau, including your most-recently reported balances and contact information for the accounts. (Your banks and credit card issuers will have the most up-to-date information.)
To get out of debt quickly, you have to look closely at your assets. Real estate assets that are expensive to maintain, life insurance policies that are no longer necessary but have expensive premiums and investments with returns lower than the interest rate on debt should all be converted into cash right away. Be aware of the tax implications of liquidating assets. Typically, proceeds from a life settlement and money from the sale of a primary home aren’t taxable. Check with a certified public accountant before making any big moves.
In most cases, medical debt has no interest rate attached to it so there really is no gain by including it in a debt consolidation program. Remember the key elements of debt consolidation are: a) a reduced interest rate; and b) lower monthly payment. The one advantage to medical debt consolidation is that it becomes part of your single, monthly payment and could help you pay off the debt faster.
The top benefit is a reduction in both monthly payment and interest rates. There is the convenience of making only one payment for all your debts. You also receive valuable education materials, including financial tips and reminders for payments due. InCharge clients receive a monthly statement that details payments made to each creditor and a progress reports on how much of the debt has been paid.
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