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  • You may want to consider a financial or credit counselor to assist with your finances during this challenging time.
  • Do research to determine which organization to contact.
  • Some organizations offer free services. 

We understand that this is a difficult time and that you have lots of questions about your finances. You may want to consider receiving assistance from a financial or credit counseling service. And, you may want to look into this service now rather than later, especially if you lost your job due to the Coronavirus pandemic. 

What is a financial or credit counseling service?

According to the National Association of Certified Credit Counselors, in general, the goals for a financial counselor and credit counselor are similar: to improve your financial health and credit score as well as explore financial alternatives. A financial counselor or financial health counselor can assist with obstacles related to student loans, housing counseling and other issues, and a credit counselor provides guidance on managing your debt. However, there is some crossover. For example, the Financial Counseling Association of America also focuses on debt management and credit card issues. And some counseling services use financial and credit counseling interchangeably.

What to look for in a credit counseling service

There are several things to look for when choosing a credit counseling agency. Consider the following:

  • Accreditations and certifications: This is a great start to verifying that the agency you’re working with is a reputable agency. Most legitimate credit repair agencies are nonprofit, so be wary of any companies that are for-profit and claim to be a credit counseling agency. Most nonprofit agencies are members of either the National Foundation for Credit Counseling or the Financial Counseling Association of America. Both of these groups have certain requirements and standards that ensure a certain level of education among their counselors.
  • Nonprofit may not mean free: While some organizations provide free services, according to the Federal Trade Commission’s website, (FTC), a nonprofit business structure doesn’t mean that the services provided are free. It’s important to research credit counselors and ask the right questions. The FTC site lists the type of questions you should ask such as: What type of services do you offer? What are your fees? Are you licensed to offer your services in my state?
  • Access: Another thing to consider is how you’d like the agency to contact you — would you prefer to receive services over the phone, in person (which, at this time, may not be possible), or online? While many agencies are accredited in all 50 states to provide services over the phone, many only offer in person counseling in select locations (however, due to the current situation with the coronavirus, this may not be possible at this time).

Finding the right credit counseling service

For a list of approved credit counseling agencies by state and judicial district: https://www.justice.gov/ust/list-credit-counseling-agencies-approved-pursuant-11-usc-111  

In the meantime, Credit Sesame can be a free valuable resource to help you monitor your finances during these uncertain times.

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