There are many options available for people trying to pay off their debt. For-profit debt relief companies and nonprofit debt management agencies offer help that sounds similar on the surface. Which option is best for you? If you aren’t familiar with these types of companies, it can be a little confusing at first. We will explain the benefits of nonprofit debt management and the reasons to be careful of for-profit debt settlement companies.
What is nonprofit debt management?
Nonprofit debt management agencies help consumers pay off their debt by starting with a free credit counseling session. During the credit counseling session, a credit counselor goes through the client’s income, assets, expenses, and liabilities. This gives them an overall picture of their financial situation. The credit counselor then recommends the best options to move forward and deal with the debt. One of the options could be a debt management program. In a debt management program (DMP), the client’s debts are all combined into one monthly payment. Rather than paying multiple creditors every month, the DMP simplifies the client’s finances so it’s easier to keep track and pay on time. From there, the nonprofit debt management agency disburses the payments to the creditors on the client’s behalf. Additionally, they negotiate lower interest rates and waived fees, so the client saves money that would have gone towards high interest rates or other fees.
How do you choose a reputable nonprofit debt management agency?
Generally, there are a few characteristics you should look for to make sure the agency is reliable:
- Have nonprofit status
- Be in business for at least seven years
- Be licensed to do business in your state
- Charge no minimum fees
- Have independently certified credit counselors
- Good rating with the Better Business Bureau
- Should be a member of a credit counseling organization, like the National Foundation for Credit Counseling (NFCC)
What do for-profit debt settlement companies offer?
Debt settlement companies, on the other hand, are for-profit companies. They claim to negotiate with your creditors to settle for less than what you owe. While it sounds like you could be saving thousands of dollars, there is no guarantee that the creditors will accept this offer. Even if they do, the debt settlement companies often charge high fees. Plus, the money that you “save” with a debt settlement company can be counted as income by the IRS, so you may have to pay taxes on it. Debt settlement can also seriously damage your credit score. It shows future lenders that you don’t pay back your debts. When you go to apply for a loan or a new credit card, you may be denied.
Why choose nonprofit debt management?
A DMP keeps your credit intact, and may even improve your credit score as you pay off your debt. Nonprofit debt management agencies also offer free financial education materials. This can help you better understand how to manage your financial life so you don’t fall into the same habits that led to debt in the first place. For-profit debt settlement companies typically do not offer these benefits.
If you struggle to pay off debt, ACCC can help. Sign up for a free credit counseling session with us today!