With the right professional by your side, dealing with debt and strengthening your financial situation can become much easier by Credit Counselor. However, it’s also true that entrusting your personal and financial information to an untrustworthy professional can set you back — and make it hard to trust again.
Credit counseling is one such strategy where the professional involved can make a huge difference in the outcome — not to mention your experience throughout the process.
Here’s more on what to expect during a credit counseling appointment and how to go about finding an honest credit counselor with the credentials to maximize success.
What Happens During Credit Counseling?
To understand the importance of finding a legitimate, reputable credit counselor who is a good fit for your needs in terms of communication, it helps to know what you’ll actually be doing during appointments.
Here’s what to expect during an initial appointment, according to the National Foundation for Credit Counseling (NFCC):
- Appointments can range from 30 to 60 minutes.
- Appointments can take place over the phone, online or in-person.
- You will provide information about your income, expenses, current budget, debts and goals.
- Taking all this information into account, your credit counselor can help you explore your options.
Although there are patterns common across all credit counseling appointments, not all sessions or counselors are the same. Don’t be afraid to ask questions before your appointment to make sure you’re comfortable with the counselor and that this individual has experience helping clients with similar goals and preferences. It’s also worth looking into the difference in services between not-for-profit credit counseling agencies vs. debt consolidation organizations to find the best fit for you, depending on your debt levels and your end goals.
Resources for Finding a Trustworthy Credit Counselor
How you go about searching for credit counseling agencies will affect the results you see, which will affect your final choice. So, you want to start right off the bat with reputable resources that can point you in the right direction from the get-go.
Here are some hallmarks of a legitimate credit counseling firm to keep in mind:
- Counselors have third-party accreditation from a professional organization.
- The agency offers counseling without pushing or requiring clients to enter debt management.
- Fees are disclosed up front and in full.
- The agency is free of serious consumer complaints with organizations like the Better Business Bureau or state Attorney General offices.
To start, the U.S. Justice Department offers a search tool to help consumers find approved credit counselors within their judicial districts. This tool is particularly useful for people seeking out credit counseling as a mandatory component of filing for bankruptcy.
The NFCC, mentioned earlier, also offers a list of member agencies that have undergone a third-party audit by the Council of Accreditation (COA) and maintain accreditation. An NFCC certification means the agencies have been vetted in addition to upholding all state/federal laws. As Bankrate notes, agencies accredited by the COA have passed reviews in eight areas like mission and purpose, quality assurance and professional practices — which makes them a solid choice for consumers looking for a trustworthy partner.
Finding an honest credit counselor is a matter of doing your research, taking advantage of accreditation by trusted organizations within the industry and asking questions before even scheduling an appointment. The right person will be able to easily prove their credentials and will be happy to answer your questions and put you at ease before your session. They will also never pressure you to pursue any solutions nor spring any fees on you.