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Credit Counseling Service 101

How To Choose A Credit Counseling Service

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Red flags: Stay away from companies that do any of the following:

  • Refuse to send you information without first obtaining details about your situation.
  • Pressure you or give you a deadline for returning an application.
  • Ask you to make an up-front "contribution" based on the amount of your debt.
  • Promise to "repair" your credit -- and charge you fees for it.

Background Check: Check with your state Attorney General's office, local consumer protection agency, and the Better Business Bureau ( offsite link) to find out if consumers have filed complaints about the counselor you are considering.

Questions: Once you have located a reputable counseling agency you think you might want to work with, ask about:

  • Fees --
    • What are their fees?
    • What are the fees based on?
    • When do you pay them?
  • Services --
    • What services does the company offer?
    • Do they have educational materials?
    • Are they online?
  • Funding --
    • How is the company funded?
    • Is the service a non-profit organization? (A company's non-profit tax status doesn't guarantee its legitimacy, or necessarily mean lower fees)
  • Counselors --
    • What are their counselors' qualifications?
    • Are the counselors accredited or certified? If not, how are they trained?
  • Confidentiality --
    • What procedures do they have to ensure that your personal information remains confidential?
    • Can the service give you any confidentiality procedures in writing?

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