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Consumer Credit Counseling

Authored By: Northwest Justice Project
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What will I learn from reading this?

If you are struggling with debt, a consumer credit counselor may be able to help you. Learn what a consumer credit counselor can do and how you can find one.

 
*BEWARE OF SCAMS:  Do not pay anyone to consolidate or settle your debts!  Some companies claim they can help you deal with your debt or repair your credit. They may charge you a lot of money and not deliver on their promises.

 

What can a credit counselor do?

A credit counselor can give you a free consultation. The counselor will review your finances and help you understand what options you have for getting out of debt as quickly as possible.

A credit counselor can help you:

  • Get rid of late fees and over-limit charges.

  • Stop collection calls.

  • Lower interest rates no matter what your credit score is.

  • Consolidate your bills into one smaller monthly payment.

  • Pay off your debt faster.

  • Improve your money habits.

 

How to find a credit counselor.

The U.S. Department of Justice has a list of government-approved credit counseling agencies on its website, https://www.justice.gov/ust/credit-counseling-debtor-education-information.

The National Foundation for Consumer Counseling has a list of member agencies online at www.nfcc.org, or call 1-800-388-2227.
Think carefully before paying for credit counseling or a debt management program. Shop around. Compare a few services and get a feel for how they operate.  The credit counselor should spend at least 20 to 30 minutes with you to get a full picture of your finances. An organization may say it is “nonprofit,” but that does not mean its services are free or affordable. Read the FTC’s Choosing a Credit Counselor to learn more.  

 

Should I use a consumer credit counselor?

If your income and personal property are protected from garnishment, you may not need to repay your debts. Read Money that Cannot be Taken from You (“Garnished”) to pay off a Debt, available at WashingtonLawHelp.org.

 

Should I file for bankruptcy?

It depends. Bankruptcy should be your last resort to deal with your debt. Under federal law, you must get credit counseling from a government-approved organization within 6 months before you can file for any bankruptcy relief. You may find out you have other options from a credit counselor.

 

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Last Review and Update: Nov 23, 2020