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Tips for choosing a reputable credit counseling agency

Posted on May 08, 2012

Sugar Land, TX (May 8, 2012) -- Now that the economy appears to show signs of improvement, consumers have started to reach for their credit cards. In fact, both Visa and MasterCard report significant first quarter profits of more than 20 percent resulting from increased credit card usage. In March alone, revolving debt rose by $5.1 billion to $798.5 billion – a 7.8 percent increase, according to the Federal Reserve.

“The increase in consumer spending is great for the economy,” said Jo Kerstetter, vice president of financial education for Money Management International. “However, it is important for individuals and families to remember their personal economies and the far reaching impact of debt.”

Finding yourself deep in debt can happen quickly without a plan, so before considering any credit card purchases, sign up for a free budget and debt counseling session with a reputable nonprofit credit counseling agency. Nonprofit credit counselors’ work with consumers to establish a realistic budget, set financial priorities, and create a plan to pay off uncontrolled debt. Having a plan may help to keep debt and credit issues at bay.

How to choose a reputable credit counseling agency

Special care should be taken when considering a credit counseling agency. After all – you are entrusting them with your personal financial information and your money. Do the research and make sure their counselors are certified and trained in the area of consumer credit, budgeting, debt and money management.

Trustworthy agencies will offer free or low-cost financial education and detailed information about all the services they provide. Their counselors will discuss your entire financial situation and help you develop a plan based on the best option for your personal financial needs.

Other things to consider when choosing a reputable credit counseling agency include the organizations history, which should consist of at least ten years of service, and third-party accreditation. Consider organizations who receive third-party certification by organizations such as the Council on Accreditation (COA) or the International Standards Organization (ISO). Check to make sure the accreditation is current, with no lapse. Counselors should also be certified by an independent organization such as the National Foundation for Credit Counseling (NFCC).

In addition, try to remember that dealing with overwhelming amounts of debt is rarely an easy task. If your financial obligations become overwhelming and you find yourself losing control, don’t do it alone. Even if you choose not to use a credit counseling agency, find help. Your human resource department or employee services may also be able to help with available options.

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About Money Management International
Money Management International (MMI) is a nonprofit, full-service credit-counseling agency, providing confidential financial guidance, financial education, counseling and debt management assistance to consumers since 1958. MMI helps consumers trim their expenses, develop a spending plan and repay debts. Counseling is available by appointment in branch offices and 24/7 by telephone and Internet. Services are available in English or Spanish. To learn more, call 866.531.0511 or visit MoneyManagement.org.