What Is the NFCC?

The National Foundation for Credit Counseling – NFCC – is a network of nonprofit consumer credit counseling agencies established in 1951 to promote responsible financial behavior among American consumers.

The NFCC has developed extensive tools and training that allow its member organizations to deliver a high level of financial education and counseling to millions of clients nationwide.

“Despite new challenges, our mission remains the same as we focus our resources on helping worried consumers overcome debt difficulties while ensuring that everyone has access to nonprofit financial counseling,” NFCC President and CEO Rebecca Steele said.

The NFCC certifies counselors at its member organizations and renews that certification every two years. The training is focused on delivering high-quality financial information that will serve the client’s best interests when they make decisions about their personal finances.

Member agencies of the NFCC work primarily over-the-phone and online with consumers struggling with debt in its many forms. This vital service called credit counseling is offered by NFCC-sanctioned organizations. It provides an unbiased look at their finances; helps them determine the root cause of debt problems; and suggests steps to eliminate all forms of household debt.

NFCC: Standards Bearer for the Credit Counseling Industry

In the early years, dozens of individual credit counseling agencies sprang up. The NFCC organized the booming industry, setting standards that prevented already-beleaguered consumers from making bad situations worse.

Gaining an NFCC certification seal means a reputable credit counseling organization adheres to the highest ethical practices and policies. Its counselors are financial professionals who’ve completed training programs that are trademarked. One thing they learn is how debtors think.

NFCC Initiatives

More than 3 million consumers each year come to NFCC members looking for help. It is easy to find since there are offices in 50 states and Puerto Rico. If a consumer needs assistance, a counselor will analyze their finances and come up with a budget and repayment plan.

Student loans account for $1.5 trillion in debt. NFCC counselors guide consumers through a myriad of repayment options.

Bankruptcies, mortgages, automobile loans – whatever the financial problem, counselors can tailor a solution. NFCC members are accredited by the Council on Accreditation, and counselors must be re-certified every two years.

NFCC Annual Consumer Financial Literacy Survey

The NFCC annually conducts a Consumer Financial Literacy Survey to track the views of consumers. The 2021 survey found that 62% of American adults say they are worried about their finances, and could benefit from advice and answers to everyday financial questions. About 56% of those surveyed live without a budget.

Key Findings of the 2021 Survey:

  • 47% of Americans believe buying a home is the most affordable housing situation while 29% believe renting is the best option
  • 38% of households carry credit card balances from month to month
  • 22% of Americans pay bills late
  • 71% of Americans say they pay their bills on time and have no debts in collection
  • 12% say they depend on tax refunds to help pay bills
  • 10% of Americans are repaying their own student loans or their children’s student loans
  • 53% of Americans say they would turn to a savings account to pay for a $2,000 emergency. Another 28% said they would use credit cards
  • 63% of Americans are confident they are saving enough for retirement, yet 23% say are not saving anything for retirement

National Protect Your Identity Week

Members also specialize in community-based social service programs. They spearhead initiatives like National Protect Your Identity Week. That annual campaign educates consumers on identity theft and how to recover if they are victimized. Consumers can even bring sensitive documents to NFCC members to be shredded.

Sharpen Your Financial Focus

In 2013, the NFCC started an initiative named Sharpen Your Financial Focus. It’s a three-step program consisting of an on-line financial self-assessment, a one-on-one financial review with a credit counselor and an educational program based on the consumer’s specific requirements.

More than 31,000 people signed up the first year. There were a lot of individual success stories, but the NFCC wanted hard data to judge the impact. A credit counseling study was commissioned.

It asked researchers at Ohio State University to investigate the Sharpen program. Their study helps to answer the question: does credit counseling work? It showed that compared to consumers without counseling, credit counseling clients reduced their revolving debt by $3,600 more than the comparison group during the 18 months following counseling.

Almost 70 percent of clients said Sharpen helped them manage their money better, improved their overall financial confidence and helped them pay debt more consistently.

“The Ohio State University research team has provided the most compelling evidence that nonprofit financial education is a catalyst for specific changes that improve financial capabilities,” NFCC President Susan Keating said.

When Frank McNamara went to dinner without his wallet, nobody foresaw how debt would become a way of life in America. But as long as consumers are getting into it, NFCC members will be there to help get them out of it.

The Birth of Credit Counseling

History does not record the first time a person got into debt. Maybe it was when a caveman needed a wheel and didn’t have enough animal pelts to pay for it.

History does clue us in on what triggered the avalanche of debt that has buried many Americans. In 1949, a businessman named Frank McNamara had a meal at Major’s Cabin Grill in New York City. He reached in his pocket and realized he’d forgotten his wallet. As visions of washing dishes danced in his head, McNamara’s wife paid the tab.

And a light bulb went off in McNamara’s head. There had to be another way to pay.

A year later, he introduced history’s first credit card, the Diner’s Club card. A year after that, the NFCC, the first nonprofit credit counseling agency, was formed.

Coincidence? Hardly.

Household debt owed by U.S. consumers reached a record high $15.24 trillion in 2021.  That’s not all due to credit cards, but those 2-inch-by-3 3/8-inch plastic rectangles McNamara came up with certainly empower consumers. Handling that much financial power can be a problem. Since 1951, the NFCC has helped solve financial problems for millions of people.

Is InCharge Debt Solutions an NFCC member?

Yes, InCharge is a proud NFCC member and all InCharge credit counselors have gone through NFCC training. NFCC-membership is one criteria to consider when choosing a credit counseling agency.

About The Author

George Morris

In his 40-plus-year newspaper career, George Morris has written about just about everything -- Super Bowls, evangelists, World War II veterans and ordinary people with extraordinary tales. His work has received multiple honors from the Society of Professional Journalists, the Louisiana-Mississippi Associated Press and the Louisiana Press Association. He avoids debt when he can and pays it off quickly when he can't, and he's only too happy to suggest how you might do the same.


  1. Huffman, M. (2016, April 12). How Financial Literacy Education Pays Off. Retrieved from https://www.consumeraffairs.com/news/how-financial-literacy-education-pays-off-041216.html