Online Credit Counseling
Nowadays, we do everything online. We pay the bills, shop for groceries, and order Chinese food without leaving the comfort of our couch.
Doing things online is just plain easier than in-person, or over the phone. So much so, if a service isn’t accessible online, we struggle to justify it as worth our time, a lesson Blockbuster Video Rentals learned the hard way.
So, if you do most anything online, why should credit counseling be any different?
A lot of people know they need professional help to untangle or make sense of their finances, but they can’t seem to justify braving the commute into town where all the so-called professionals hang out.
The truth is, you can receive online credit counseling without taking a step outside your home.
Who Can Benefit from Online Credit Counseling?
Credit counseling is for anyone who needs help managing money and paying off debts. More people fall into that category than you think.
A study by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) shows more that 55% of consumers are broke at the end of every month. That means a lot of people are living paycheck-to-paycheck and just hoping for the best. In a lot of cases, they have enough income to handle their debts – and maybe even save a little for the rainy day – they just don’t know how to budget their money effectively.
That’s where credit counseling steps in.
Call a nonprofit credit counseling agency like InCharge and you get counselors who specialize in helping people develop an affordable budget that will help eliminate debt. They appropriate percentages of your income to handle food, housing, clothing, transportation and other needs, and show you where you trim non-essentials to create money to pay off debt.
Here are some other signs that you could use credit counseling to balance your budget and improve your financial future:
- Constantly using credit cards for everyday expenses and not paying off the balance at the end of every month.
- No savings account.
- No money in emergency fund.
- Want to buy a home, car or go on vacation, but can’t save enough money to make it happen.
- Don’t have enough money to put into retirement fund.
What those who could benefit from online credit counseling all have in common is this: They can’t come up with clear way out of their financial struggles. That is when you’d be wise to reach out for professional help.
How Does Online Credit Counseling Work
If you’ve gotten this far, the four steps involved in online credit counseling are going to be very easy. Here’s how credit counseling works:
- Provide basic information: The form will ask for your name and email address, then go into specific detail about your financial situation. You jot down how much you make and how much you spend. After listing your income and expenses, you’ll be given recommendations on where you could cut back.
- Highlighting strengths: Whether they know it or not, people do the right thing in some areas and credit counselors will tell them so. For example, if you’re spending under 30% of income on housing, you’ll get a “Good Job!” from the counselor.
- Evaluating weaknesses: This is why you came. What parts of your budget can be improved? Are you overspending on entertainment or is that car loan more than you can handle? Every budget has some elements that can be trimmed to be affordable, not burdensome.
- Determining a solution: After examining monthly income, necessary expenses and amount of debt, counselors will suggest a solution. Typically, the choices are debt management; debt consolidation loan; debt settlement; or, if things are too far off the rails, you can learn about Bankruptcy.
Counselors also do a pull of your credit report to make sure all your debts are accounted for. This will have no negative effects on your credit score.
After plugging in all your information and peaking at your credit report, you’ll have a better idea of the circumstances dragging you into the hole. Whatever it is, credit counseling can provide a plan of action.
This is where the online part has run its course. Online credit counseling is a valuable tool for the busy consumer to get started solving financial problems.
However, if you want all the benefits of credit card consolidation, or a debt management program, you’ll have to speak with a counselor.
If you do online credit counseling with InCharge, a credit counselor will be in touch shortly after receiving your contact info. They can guide you through the online process or you can opt to do it yourself.
Even if you choose to go it alone, they’ll provide you with their contact information, should you run into any snags along the way.
Online Credit Counseling for Bankruptcy
If you’re considering bankruptcy, you may have heard about the credit counseling requirement. Anyone who files bankruptcy must first complete a credit counseling course from an accredited nonprofit credit counseling agency. Courts do not want people filing for bankruptcy lightly, or before exploring every possible alternative.
Credit counseling for bankruptcy comes with a fee, usually around $50. It should take around 60 to 90 minutes, which is a little longer than typical credit counseling. This is a good thing, as you should never be in a rush to file bankruptcy. Upon completion, your counselor may deem your situation not so dire. You may be a better fit for a debt management program, debt settlement or debt consolidation.
Why Choose InCharge?
Credit counseling is a serious investment in your financial future. Credit counselors are financial educators, so think of credit counseling as an invaluable – FREE! — education.
A degree from a university without accreditation is no good. The same goes for credit counseling. You should find a reputable nonprofit credit counseling agency with a history of excellent customer service.
All of InCharge’s counselors are NFCC certified and accredited by the Council on Accreditation.
InCharge specializes in credit card debt and also offers help in figuring out how much you can afford on a mortgage or car loan.
InCharge has over 20 years’ experience steering consumers out of financial hardships. As a nonprofit credit counseling organization, you can rest assured knowing they are more interested in helping you, than helping themselves to your wallet.
About The Author
Joey Johnston has more than 30 years of experience as a journalist with the Tampa Tribune and St. Petersburg Times. He has won a dozen national writing awards and his work has appeared in the New York Times, Washington Post, Sports Illustrated and People Magazine. He started writing for InCharge Debt Solutions in 2016.
- Ortegren, F. (2019, November 6) An Unsettling Look into the History of Credit and Financial Literacy in America. Retrieved from https://www.listwithclever.com/real-estate-blog/history-debt-to-income-ratio/?utm_campaign=personal-finance-bulk-dti-v1
- N.A. (ND) LIST OF CREDIT COUNSELING AGENCIES APPROVED PURSUANT TO 11 U.S.C. § 111. Retrieved from https://www.justice.gov/ust/list-credit-counseling-agencies-approved-pursuant-11-usc-111
- Roll, S, Moulton, S. ND. The Impact of Credit Counseling on Consumer Outcomes: Evidence from a National Demonstration Program. Retrieved from https://www.fdic.gov/news/conferences/consumersymposium/2016/documents/roll_paper.pdf