There are many attributes you should look for when choosing a credit counseling agency. These include:
Accreditation – To ensure quality and consistency, look for an agency that is accredited by the Council on Accreditation for Children and Family Services (COA). COA is an international, not-for-profit, independent accrediting body that identifies organizations in which consumers can have confidence. Accredited agencies must demonstrate accountability in management of resources. Accreditation ensures the agency is client- focused and covers specific areas such as quality assurance, financial management, governance and service delivery.
National affiliation – Seek an agency that’s a member of the National Foundation for Credit Counseling (NFCC), the oldest and largest nationwide network of non-profit budgeting and credit counseling agencies. All NFCC member agencies adhere to strict standards of professionalism and accreditation for each of our clients.
Local presence – Most credit counseling agencies offer services by phone or internet. You should also have the option to meet face-to-face with your counselor.
Certified Counselors – Your counselor should be certified to NFCC standards for counselor training, which is more rigorous and thorough than those of similar organizations. Your counselor should also have a professional background in money management and the wise use of credit. The training standards are in place to make sure you receive the level of expertise, advice and options that you deserve from a credit counselor.
Comprehensive Budget Counseling – You will benefit most from an agency that provides comprehensive budget counseling. Counseling provides a one-on-one opportunity for an impartial analysis of your financial situation. It also provides you with a forum to ask questions and resolve debt issues. Help should include a comprehensive budget review – income and debt, assets and liabilities, a discussion of options and a program of action. A Debt Management Program should be just one option.
Automation – An important feature to look for in an agency is electronic transmission of financial payments. NFCC pioneered the development of electronic proposals. NFCC members also offer electronic balance verifications and Program closures. The benefits include timely, efficient, customer-focused services and a cost savings for creditors.
Education Programs – Does your agency provide free and low-cost consumer financial literacy education programs? It should.