Government Credit Card Debt Counseling — Is It For You?

Getting government credit card and debt counseling can be an important part of getting your financial troubles under control, especially if you are considering filing for bankruptcy. Under the new bankruptcy rules, anyone filing for bankruptcy and credit card debt relief must get credit counseling from an approved agency, verify completion of that counseling, and if a debt repayment plan is prepared during counseling that plan must be filed with the bankruptcy court. At Judge Law Firm, we can guide you to appropriate sources for credit card debt counseling.

One of the first things you need to know is that this counseling isn't actually done by the government. The counseling is carried out by independent agencies and businesses that are approved by the government and sometimes funded by government grants. Although required by the government to file for bankruptcy, credit card and debt counseling is not actually provided by the government.

Be careful when selecting a counseling agency, because there are many businesses and scam artists out there that want you to believe they are government credit card and debt counseling agencies, when in fact they are motivated more by making a profit than in helping you solve your financial issues. If you are seeking credit card debt relief or help in dealing with other debts by filing for bankruptcy under the new bankruptcy rules, it's fairly easy to find a genuine approved-by-the-government credit card and debt counseling agency in Arizona. You can find a list of approved agencies at the U.S. Bankruptcy Court serving your area or at the U.S. trustee's website: http://www.justice.gov/ust/eo/bapcpa/ccde/cc_approved.htm

What To Look For In A Nongovernment Credit Card And Debt Counseling Agency

If you need to choose a counseling agency who is not on the bankruptcy court list or don't have access to that list, our attorney strongly recommends working with the nonprofit agency Consumer Credit Counseling Services, also called Money Management International. You can contact them or locate a local affiliate at:

http://www.moneymanagement.org/

NFCC nongovernment credit card and debt counseling agencies

If you can't find a local Consumer Credit Counseling Services office in your area, here are some tips to ensure you select a legitimate credit counseling agency when seeking credit card debt relief:

  • Make sure the agency is affiliated with a national body with strict quality, financial and ethical standards, like the National Foundation for Credit Counseling.
  • Make sure the agency offers a wide array of financial counseling services, not just developing debt management plans. Organizations that only do DMPs are often profit motivated.
  • Make sure the agency is open and forthcoming about its fees, if any. Be cautious if the agency says fee payment is voluntary or charges unreasonable amounts. Most fees charged by legitimate agencies are $50 or less. Monthly fees should be closer to $25.
  • Make sure the counselor assigned to you is a Certified Consumer Credit Counselor.
  • Look for agencies that provide classes or workshops to the general public and have a board of directors made up of community members. These are indications that your finances are more important that any profit motivation.
  • Make sure the agency will work with all your creditors, not just those creditors willing to pay them a fee.

Make sure that 90 percent or more of your payments go to the creditors. Legitimate credit counseling agencies charge modest fees. They do not charge large upfront fees. If you're not sure whether a credit counseling agency is right for your situation or want to talk to a lawyer about the possibility of filing for bankruptcy, call Jeffrey P. Judge and the Judge Law Firm at 520-815-0281, or arrange a consultation online. Our office is located in Tucson.

We are a debt relief agency. We help people file for relief under the Bankruptcy Code.