Looking for assistance in restructuring your debt? The nonprofit organizations listed here can intervene with your creditors on your behalf, lowering your interest rates and allowing you to make a single payment each month to pay off your debt, usually in five years or so.
The credit-counseling agencies listed here make up some of the largest in the United States. That does not imply, however, that they're any better than an agency in your local area — and yours may be much more personalized and convenient. To find an agency in your area, look under Credit Counseling in your Yellow Pages. To use the Internet, search using the words “credit counseling” and the name of your city or area.
Don't forget to ask whether the credit-counseling agency you're thinking of using is a nonprofit organization. If it isn't, go elsewhere!
The AICCCA website provides a link to finding a counseling agency in your area. (They do not offer a toll-free phone number.) This agency was created by credit counselors and exists to ensure that all credit counselors (not just member agencies) maintain professional standards. If you want to know whether a particular agency is on the level, check out AICCCA's website.
The Better Business Bureau offers advice on choosing a credit-counseling agency. You can also call your local BBB at the number in your phone book. The BBB was set up as a nonprofit organization that tracks the way companies do business. They log complaints from consumers (including yours, if you have a business), so that when you call and ask about a particular company's reputation, the BBB can tell you how many and what sort of complaints the company has received. The BBB exists in the vast majority of areas in the United States and is one of the most respected agencies in the country.
Consumer Credit Counseling Services and its parent company, Money Management International, together make up the largest credit-counseling agency in the United States. The website offers tools, articles, and advice, and also allows you to receive their counseling services online. You can also call to receive credit counseling over the phone.
The COA serves as an advocate for families and children. When searching for a credit-counseling agency, look for the COA seal of accreditation, which indicates that an agency meets the highest industry standards. You can also get a list of accredited organizations by checking COA's website — the site is easy to use and simply lists the organizations by state. You can also call toll-free.
The Federal Trade Commission provides helpful information on choosing a credit-counseling agency. Keep in mind that the FTC is pretty unbiased. Although they'd like you to have less debt because it keeps the economy healthier, they also want to nab the unscrupulous credit counselors who have set up shop. Bottom line: You can trust the FTC.
The NFCC is the nation's oldest nonprofit network of credit counselors, offering more than 1,300 offices across the United States. They recommend that you look for the NFCC seal before choosing a credit-counseling agency. The seal signifies high standards, trained counselors, and free or low-cost services. For a referral to a credit-counseling agency in your area, call or visit their website.