Debt relief is a topic on a lot of consumers’ minds these days, and with good reason. American credit card debt in 2001 was $692 billion, triple the amount from 1989. In that same time period, the average credit card increase for a middle-class family was 75%. The amounts were even higher for low-income families and senior citizens. At one time, such a high amount of credit card debt would seem frivolous as buyers spent money they didn’t have on luxury items such as electronics or jewelry. Today, however, in less stable economic times and a poor job market, more people are turning to credit cards as a way to extend their income. More and more debt is being rung up for everyday items such as groceries and medical bills. How can people get real help with debt relief?
Credit counseling services were originally established by credit card companies who wanted to get at least some of their money back before a client decided to declare bankruptcy. While that may seem shady to some people, for others it is a legitimate way to pay the debt they owe.
When seeking debt relief, however, be wary and be an informed consumer. Do your research before signing on with any one service. Here are some questions to ask:
* How much does it cost? Many less-than-reputable services charge hundreds of dollars to start up, money that doesn’t go to any of your creditors.
* Does the service notify credit bureaus about your enrollment in their program? Some do and some don’t. Creditors may still elect to put a bad mark on your credit report, but the agency you are looking at for debt relief shouldn’t.
* What services are offered? Do they offer a range of solutions from trouble-shooting before finances are a big problem to debt management. Beware of companies promising too quick a solution or promising to “fix” your credit report.
* What are the benefits of belonging to one particular group over another? For example, some services offer newsletters and budgeting tips, all to help you become more stable when your debt is paid off.
* Are they a member of the Better Business Bureau? If that is not advertised, check them out with BBB first.
With time, patience and diligence, you can become debt free.