The credit card bills keep coming in, and you’re struggling to make the payments. “I need help with my debt!” is probably your first thought. But where can you find help? How do you know if the company that claims they can help you is even legitimate? These are valid questions, and it can be overwhelming to do the research when you’re just starting out. We have some tips on what to do if you need help with your debt!
How do I know if I need help with my debt?
Debt can be extremely stressful to deal with alone. However, some people are able to pay it off themselves without using an outside agency. Often, people who want to pay off their debt on their own use one of two methods:
- Debt avalanche method: If you use this method of debt payoff, you start aggressively paying off the account with the highest interest first.
- Debt snowball method: With this method, you start by paying off the account with the highest balance first.
For those who are disciplined enough to stick to these methods and don’t have such a high amount of debt that they feel they need help, this can be sufficient. However, if you feel that you have too much debt to deal with and these methods would do little to help you, then you may want to seek outside help. According to a survey by ACCC, households that seek outside budgeting or financial help with their debt have an average of $20,000 in unsecured credit card debt.
Where can I find help?
The best place to start in finding help with your debt would be a nonprofit credit counseling agency. These agencies have certified credit counselors that are trained to help people of all backgrounds with various financial problems. The initial credit counseling session with these agencies should be free. In this session, the counselor will talk to you about your income, expenses, assets, and liabilities. They will help you come up with a budget and a plan to pay off your debt moving forward.
One option they may present to you is a debt management program. In this program, you pay one monthly payment to the credit counseling agency instead of multiple payments to your different creditors. Your payments will be lower than what you would be paying otherwise, because the credit counseling agencies negotiate lower interest rates and fees with the creditors.
How can I tell if it’s legitimate help or a scam?
Unfortunately, not every company that claims they can help you with your debt is honest. You don’t want to fall prey to a scam, so how can you differentiate between the real help and the scams? Here are a few good indicators that a company is legitimate:
- Nonprofit status
- Be in business for at least 7 years
- Have a state license
- Charge no minimum fees
- Have certified credit counselors
- Be a member of the AICCCA or the NFCC
A major red flag to watch out for is if a company is trying to charge fees upfront or not willing to waive fees for hardship. This could be a sign that the company is just trying to make money off of your debt without really helping you.
It’s a good idea to read the reviews on a company before you decide to work with them. Even if they check all the boxes that indicate that they are a legitimate company, it’s helpful to know what real people thought about working with them. Also, if for any reason something doesn’t feel right about a company that you’re calling, don’t feel pressured to work with them. They should be there to help you, not to scam you out of your money.
If you are struggling to pay off debt, ACCC can help. Call 800-796-3571 today to speak to one of our certified credit counselors.