Are Not-For-Profit Credit Counselling Agencies Now Just Debt Collectors? – Debt Free In 30 – A Personal Finance Podcast. A debt collector does just what the name suggests: they collect on unpaid debt. They won’t review all your debt relief options with you or give you a plan that makes debt repayment realistic and affordable. Their only goal is to recover as much debt for the creditor as possible. That’s how their business makes money.
You might be shocked to learn that not-for-profit credit counselling agencies are now operating the same way. In fact, they are formally registered with the Ontario government as debt collection agencies. Credit counselling agencies have changed. Most are no longer registered charities. Credit counselling agencies don’t do a lot of budgeting or actual counselling anymore either. Credit counselling organizations in Canada today are big, national call centers. Now when you call a credit counsellor, you’re sold a debt management plan (DMP), where you repay 100% of the debts you owe, but with a lowered interest rate. Credit counselling companies sell this regardless of whether that’s the right course of action for you because they are sponsored by financial institutions to do so.
We take a deep look at why not-for-profit credit counselling agencies have become nothing more than debt collectors. We also examine the implications for you as a debtor in need of help.
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Transcription: Agencies like Cambridge speak to thousands of people every month, and one of the most common questions we hear is, “Will credit counseling hurt my credit score?” The short answer is no, but that comes with an explanation. “Credit counseling” is the process by which a certified credit counselor will help you create a workable financial plan that reflects your income, expenses, and goals. Your counselor will review your finances with you, give you personalized advice to help you develop a budget, provide valuable resources you can use in that process, and recommend alternative strategies to manage your situation. This type of free consultation has no impact whatsoever on your credit standing. Now, one of the options a counselor may offer is enrollment in a debt management program, or DMP. A debt management program will impact your credit, but probably not in the way you may be thinking.
Your credit scores, or “FICO scores,” are calculated from the data in your credit report at any given moment. That’s why they often change from month to month, as your creditors report your activity. The data is grouped into five categories: Payment History, which represents 35% of your score; Amounts Owed, which is 30% of your score; Length of Credit History – 15%, New Credit, 10%; and Types of Credit Used, which also accounts for 10% of your FICO score. The importance of any one factor depends on the total amount of information in your credit report at that moment. This means that what impacts your score may not impact another person’s score as heavily. Now, on to the good news.
Fair Isaac and Company, developers of the FICO scoring model, considers debt management enrollment as a neutral mark – neither good nor bad, and it carries no weight when calculating your score. This wasn’t always true. In 1989 debt management was considered a negative notation; however, the formula changed in 1998 because people were enrolling in DMPs as a proactive step. Instead of looking for help after they fell behind on their bills, people were reaching out to credit counseling agencies before things got out of hand. So if the creditors you include on your program note that your account is being repaid through a reduced payment and interest program, you won’t lose any points as a result of that notation. However, each of your prospective lenders has its own policies. One may view debt management as a non-issue, while others may interpret it negatively. There’s simply no way to predict that reaction.
Although participation in a debt management program isn’t a factor in FICO’s formula, the process of enrollment will affect your score. In a DMP, your credit counseling agency pays your bills once each month, and many creditors drastically reduce their interest rates and waive their late and overlimit fees. In return for those benefits, they require that the accounts you include in your plan be closed. That’s reasonable. Now, closing those accounts lowers your score because the amount of available credit is reduced, and that’s a part of the Amounts Owed category. The number of points you lose depends on the other information in your credit profile at that time. If you have a good credit history, with a lot of accounts in good standing, you may lose just a few points. If you only have a few accounts, the impact may be greater.
At the time you enroll, the agency will let your creditors know when your payment will be disbursed; however, as you transition into the program, you could experience a late or missed payment. That would impact your score, but the length of the program, generally 3 to 5 years, gives you more than enough time to make up for that initial event. It’s also important to remember that even though participation in a DMP is a neutral mark, it doesn’t “protect” you from incurring a negative notation, either. Just like when you’re managing your bills on your own, if you miss a payment on one of your accounts, your history will be affected. That’s one of the things you’ll learn while you’re working with an agency. You’re not just a number to us – we want to show you how to earn lower interest rates by developing good credit habits. Making payments on time is one of them.
If you pull your own credit report or review your score through a free website like CreditKarma.com, which I highly recommend, you may discover that you have too much debt. For example, if all of the credit limits on your accounts added up to $10,000, and all of the balances on those accounts added up to $5,000, you’d be using 50% of your available credit. On creditkarma.com, you’d see a note like “proportion of balances to credit limits is too high on revolving bank accounts,” which means that your score has already been impacted negatively.
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Using credit counseling to consolidate your bills into one lower monthly payment may be a great way to manage falling behind on finances for some, but others may not qualify or have a steady income to support the payment. Who is CCCS the perfect fit for?
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Michael Bovee started CRN in 2004 with a mission to provide people in need with detailed credit and debt help. The DebtBytes Channel is an extension of the CRN blog, and is dedicated to finding the debt relief option or strategy that works best for you.
How Can Credit Counselling Stop Wage Garnishment? Recent interview series, Part 9, where Avineet Kalsey tells us how using their credit counselling services can put a complete stop to wage garnishment and ease the pressure of debt once and for all.
Debt reduction is front and center on many Canadians’ minds right now with soaring household debt levels – it doesn’t have to be this way – call our experienced credit counselors such as Avineet Kalsey right now. You don’t need to struggle with debt, BSCC can help reduce your debt by over 50%-90% RIGHT NOW – call us today at 1-866-790-8984 – its free!
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Don’t spend another year racking up unnecessary debt and dig yourself deeper into an unrecoverable situation – we can help! You can avoid going into bankruptcy – it’s a negative mark on your credit and can last for 7-10 years – where a neutral credit counseling notation is REMOVED once someone completes the program. You really can turn your financial life around quickly – just call us and receive a free evaluation of your situation with some helpful advice and absolutely no obligation to take any action if you don’t wish to.
Remember – you DO NOT (and in a lot of cases, SHOULD NOT) always have to go into bankruptcy – we can share valuable information about your options that your bank or other credit counseling companies may not be willing to share with you – because it’s not in their best interest! We work on YOUR behalf, and thus ensure that you receive the very best information for your specific situation. Contact us today at BSCC for a free consultation about your finances – 2018 can be your year that you begin on the journey to finally becoming debt free!
For over a decade, the professionals at Business Solutions and Credit Counselling Services (BSCC), a registered, government-approved credit counseling firm, has assisted hundreds of thousands of consumers throughout Canada to avoid declaring bankruptcy, prepare a consumer proposal, rebuild their credit rating, and pay off their excessive charge card debt. These are clients who were once struggling to manage excessive debt and financial obligations. We work with each client individually, designing manageable, realistic programs to relieve their financial burden and stress.
For more information about using effective debt counseling nationwide wherever you live in Canada – and how to avoid bankruptcy and becoming debt free from high credit card debt or even business bankruptcies, please visit us at http://www.bscc.ca or call 1-866-790-8984 today! We have credit counseling offices in Toronto, Vancouver (Surrey), Calgary, Edmonton, and Abbotsford.
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