How to Get Free Credit Counseling in Washington, D.C.

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Written by Kassandra Kuehl.  
Updated December 3, 2019

Summary

If you’re struggling with debt or even if you’re simply having trouble paying all your expenses without feeling like your personal finances are in a precarious position, consider doing some research to find a nonprofit, accredited Washington, D.C. credit counseling agency that provides free credit counseling services. Once you’ve confirmed that the nonprofit credit counseling organization you’d like to work with is reputable, you can prepare for your counseling session and for moving forward with the recommendations you’ll receive.

Living in the District is unquestionably expensive. If you’re finding that your bills are mounting, no matter how hard you work, you’re not alone. Many fiscally responsible and gainfully employed Americans struggle to make their debt payments while simultaneously meeting their monthly household expenses. Thankfully, you can take advantage of a trustworthy, free resource designed to help anyone who could benefit from some informed financial guidance. If you schedule a free credit counseling session with an accredited, nonprofit credit counseling organization, you’ll be given access to personalized recommendations that will help you manage your debt and expenses moving forward. Before your meeting, you’ll gather financial documents that will help your credit counselor understand why your income doesn’t stretch as far as you need it to. After reviewing these documents and asking you questions about your financial goals and challenges, your credit counselor will give you a personalized action plan. This action plan may recommend that you look into debt consolidation, bankruptcy counseling, debt management plans, or additional debt counseling. Both nonprofit and for-profit companies offer credit counseling services, but it’s important to steer clear of for-profit operations. Accredited, nonprofit credit counseling organizations are subjected to oversight that helps to ensure they don’t scam participants. While these agencies may offer you the opportunity to engage in other financial services at a cost after your free counseling session is complete, they will focus your session on your needs – not on “selling” you on the cost-based services they provide. These agencies also generally avoid suggesting that credit counseling session participants explore debt settlement arrangements. Unlike debt consolidation and debt management plans, debt settlement arrangements are unreasonably risky and are often linked to broader scams. If you choose to work with an accredited, nonprofit credit counseling organization in person, over the phone, or online, you’ll be given access to a trustworthy action plan you can follow with confidence.

How to Get Free Credit Counseling in Washington, D.C.

If you’re struggling with debt or even if you’re simply having trouble paying all your expenses without feeling like your personal finances are in a precarious position, consider doing some research to find a nonprofit, accredited Washington, D.C. credit counseling agency that provides free credit counseling services. Once you’ve confirmed that the nonprofit credit counseling organization you’d like to work with is reputable, you can prepare for your counseling session and for moving forward with the recommendations you’ll receive.


Find Washington, D.C. Nonprofit Credit Counseling Agencies

It’s important to partner with a nonprofit consumer credit counseling organization accredited by the National Foundation for Credit Counseling. For-profit companies are not subject to the same kinds of oversight as accredited Washington nonprofit organizations are. By choosing to work with a nonprofit credit counseling agency that is accredited, you can be assured that you can trust the financial guidance you’ll be given during your D.C. credit counseling session. When researching accredited nonprofit agencies, you’ll want to make sure that any organizations that spark your interest employ certified credit counselors, as the opinions that these professionals express are informed by extensive financial education.   

Information to Research Before Talking to a Washington, D.C. Credit Counseling Agency

Once you have identified one or more accredited, nonprofit Washington D.C. credit counseling agencies that intrigue you, you’ll want to do a little more research before committing to a financial counseling session. You’ll want to make sure that the Better Business Bureau and the District’s attorney general have not identified any “red flags” associated with the operation. Too often, people living in the United States seek guidance regarding their personal finances and end up being victimized by scams. By double-checking that the Washington D.C. credit counseling organization you want to work with is reputable, you can protect yourself from becoming similarly victimized.    

Questions to Ask the Washington, D.C. Credit Counselor Before Signing Up

When you call to schedule your Washington D.C. credit counseling session, make sure to ask the organization you’ve chosen to forward you educational materials about their services and about credit counseling. These materials will help you prepare for your session and will give you a stronger sense of how the organization operates. You’ll also want to ask where your session will take place, if there is anything your D.C. credit counselor will need you to do to prepare for your meeting and how long the session will take. Finally, confirm that your consumer credit counseling session will be conducted at no charge, even if the organization offers additional debt relief services and financial education opportunities at a cost to participants.  

What to Expect During Credit Counseling

The goal of your Washington D.C. credit counseling session is to produce a personalized action plan designed to help you make an informed decision about the next steps you’ll need to take on your journey toward financial health and prosperity. Your credit counselor won’t be able to create a personalized action plan unless they have a strong sense of your financial problems, your income, expenses, debts, and goals. As a result, you’ll want to bring financial documents along to your session that will give your credit counselor a complete picture of your current financial situation. For example, you’ll want to request a free copy of your credit report so that your counselor can evaluate your credit score and current debts. It’s also a good idea to bring along recent bank statements, tax returns, pay stubs, and other forms that illustrate your finances in detail. Your credit counselor will evaluate these documents and ask you questions about your finances before preparing your Washington D.C. credit counseling action plan. 

What Happens After Credit Counseling in Washington, D.C.

After your certified credit counselor has provided you with an action plan, you’ll need to decide whether to follow their recommendations. Whether you’ve been advised to pursue additional debt counseling, restructure your financial goals, or explore bankruptcy counseling, your informed next steps are up to you.

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Washington, D.C. Debt Consolidation

Of all the money management tools your District of Columbia credit counselor may recommend, debt consolidation is among the most straightforward. Generally, this process involves securing an interest-free loan that functions as a bank transfer. You’ll use this loan to pay your existing debt. Moving forward, you’ll only need to make a single debt payment each month instead of many payments for individual medical bills, student loans, credit card debts, and other outstanding balances.

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Washington, D.C. Debt Management Plan

Sometimes, creditors are willing to negotiate payment plans (which potentially feature reduced interest rates, waived late fees and even reduced principal) when a debtor’s case is advocated for by a reputable nonprofit credit counseling agency in the District. If you choose to enter into a debt management plan, the credit counseling agency will negotiate payment plans with your creditors on your behalf. After these plans are in place, you won’t pay your creditors directly anymore. Instead, you’ll send a single payment to the agency each month and the D.C. credit counseling organization will distribute payments to your creditors according to the terms of the plan.

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Washington, D.C. Bankruptcy

If your debt has become so overwhelming that neither debt consolidation nor a debt management plan is likely to help you much, your Washington D.C. credit counselor may recommend that you explore the possibility of filing for bankruptcy. Unlike debt consolidation and debt management plans, filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy doesn’t just reorganize eligible debts – it erases them. If you’re not eligible to file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, you may be able to have your eligible debts erased after completing a 3-5 year repayment plan under Chapter 13 bankruptcy. No matter which kind of bankruptcy you file for, this process can give you a fresh start.

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