How to Get Free Credit Counseling in Ohio

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Written by Eva Bacevice, Esq..  
Updated November 30, 2019

Summary

In this article, we will help you find free credit counseling in Ohio. We will provide you with action steps to help you find the right nonprofit Ohio credit counseling agency including important red flags to avoid, what you can do to research them on your own, what questions to ask to make sure you found the right fit, what to expect when you attend a meeting and likely next steps. 

Tough times have hit all along the Rust Belt and many Ohioans are facing financial struggles. It is no surprise that Ohio’s poverty rate of 14.9% is a bit higher than the average across the United States. For people experiencing financial problems in Ohio, whether that means facing a mountain of debt or struggling to keep current on their monthly obligations, credit counseling may help to highlight the best path towards relief for you. Credit counseling gives people in financial distress a chance to meet with a financial counselor (ideally certified) one-on-one to get an accurate picture of their current financial circumstances and come up with a personalized plan for moving forward toward healthy personal finance. A certified credit counselor is usually trained in three areas: consumer credit, money and debt management, and budgeting. An Ohio credit counselor working for a reputable nonprofit credit counseling agency should be able to assist you as an advocate, a teacher, and a coach when it comes to working on your money management and getting you on the path to debt relief. An Ohio credit counseling agency could offer relief to people who are already behind on their bills as well as those struggling to remain current. There is a catch, however, which is that there are also too many for-profit companies out there as well who may promise quick solutions to your financial troubles that are costly and ineffective since they are focused on their bottom line rather than your best interests. In this article we will show you have to distinguish between the reputable Ohio credit counseling organizations and those out to make a quick buck at your expense, likely leaving you in a bigger mess than where you started. We will also talk about the purpose of credit counseling services, what types of situations could benefit, as well as offer practical steps to follow if this is a remedy you would like to explore.

How to Get Free Credit Counseling in Ohio

In this article, we will help you find free credit counseling in Ohio. We will provide you with action steps to help you find the right nonprofit Ohio credit counseling agency including important red flags to avoid, what you can do to research them on your own, what questions to ask to make sure you found the right fit, what to expect when you attend a meeting and likely next steps. 


Find Ohio Nonprofit Credit Counseling Agencies

You will want to begin by finding an Ohio credit counselor who is a part of a reputable nonprofit credit counseling service in Ohio. There are a lot of options out there and it might feel overwhelming, but following the suggestions below will help you narrow down your list. The first condition you can set to come up with a good list is to limit your search to nonprofit organizations. That alone, however, will not be enough to ensure that you have found a good fit for your Ohio credit counselor. You will also want to learn how to look out for red flags. You should aim for a nonprofit credit counseling organization that offers a wide range of services. Ideally, your Ohio credit counseling agency will offer educational materials, workshops or training, and personalized solutions beyond simply pushing debt settlement, which can be costly and is rarely effective. Another clear line you can draw will be whether the Ohio credit counseling agency will send you free educational or informational materials if you request them, without asking for any money or personal information. You should confirm that the initial meeting is free. You may want to further narrow your list by seeing what your options are for that initial meeting because if meeting in person is important to you there are likely fewer options than consumer credit counseling organizations that only offer online services or over the phone meetings. 

Information to Research Bbefore Talking to an Ohio Credit Counseling Agency

You can also research some important information about the Ohio credit counseling agencies you are considering so that you can feel confident in your choices. For example, knowing that the National Foundation for Credit Counseling (”NFCC”) has a rigorous accreditation standard is very helpful, and you can easily check if a credit counseling organization is NFCC certified. Also checking with the Ohio attorney general to see if there have been any complaints filed against an organization can bring you peace of mind. In particular, you will want to check with the consumer protection agency which in Ohio is a division of the attorney general’s office under services for consumers. You can also check for complaints as well as a company’s overall rating at the Better Business Bureau. Additionally, you can also verify information that an Ohio credit counseling agency posts on their website and by calling in advance of making an appointment. 

Questions to Ask the Ohio Credit Counselor Before Signing Up

When you call an Ohio credit counseling organization before making an appointment you should feel free to ask any questions that will make you comfortable with making your choice. This can and should include asking about fees. As we stated above the initial meeting should always be free and anything otherwise should throw up a red flag. It is possible, however, that based on the personalized recommendation for your next steps that there might be setup fees and/or monthly fees involved with a debt management program. You can ask to have any cost structures put in writing so that you can assess in advance if it appears reasonable. You can also ask how the nonprofit agency will typically react if someone is unable to afford these costs, to see if they have made accommodations that might make it workable for you. It’s also completely within bounds to ask how the credit counselor is compensated for their work. If they receive bonuses or other incentives for signing people up that is another red flag. You can request free materials and again be on the lookout for any costs or requests for personal information or voluntary contributions. You may also want to ask about the logistics of the organization, such as how long will the meeting run and what information can you bring along to get the most accurate picture of your current financial situation. 

What to Expect During Credit Counseling?

You can expect your meeting with an Ohio credit counselor to be one-one-one (whether in person, over the phone, or online) and to last for anywhere from a half-hour to an hour. Your certified credit counselor should be trained in consumer credit, money and debt management and budgeting. Your counselor should go over your information in-depth, with your permission pulling your credit report to get a more accurate picture, as well as going over any documentation you bring in regarding your household income and bills. You can expect to have a conversation about your financial goals, whether that is being debt-free as quickly as possible or whether you hope to get more financial education so that you can effectively manage your personal finances. Your conversation may include debt counseling, money management, or debt relief. You should expect at the end of your appointment for your credit counselor to recommend your next steps as part of a personalized plan. While this may include additional sessions or workshops, it will likely focus on either debt consolidation, a debt management plan or bankruptcy. 

What Happens After Credit Counseling in Ohio?

After you have completed your initial sessions with your Ohio credit counseling agency you will likely be moving forward with an action plan to help you reach your financial goals. There are three likely scenarios that will vary based on your circumstances. We will examine debt consolidation, a debt management plan, and bankruptcy in more detail below. 

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Ohio Debt Consolidation

If your financial troubles stem mostly from credit card debt, then debt consolidation may be a good solution for you. With debt consolidation you pay off your existing consumer credit debts, usually by taking out a new debt at an interest rate lower than the individual credit cards. This will allow you to simplify by making one payment and you will save quite a bit of interest. The downsides are, however, that your ability to take out a new loan is largely impacted by your credit score, you will be adding to your overall debt by taking on more, and this does not do anything to help you avoid this situation again in the future.

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Ohio Debt Management Plan

A debt management plan is a monthly payment plan that you work out with your credit counselor and after you make your payment they pay your creditors on your behalf. Since the plan is personalized for you it can include debts beyond consumer, such as student loans or medical bills as well. This can be effective because your credit counselor can negotiate with your creditors for lower interest rates and to relax late fees, and will base these payments on a budget you work out together. This recommendation may include setup and/or monthly payments for the service, however, if your circumstances change and you miss a payment it could void the entire agreement. 

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Ohio Bankruptcy

If you can’t afford any sort of consolidation or payment plan or even keep up with your regular monthly expenses it may be time to seek bankruptcy counseling. Bankruptcy is a legal remedy that exists to help people or companies in deep financial trouble walk away from some (or all) of their debts and get a fresh start moving forward. You can learn more about Ohio bankruptcy options through Upsolve, a nonprofit designed to help people successfully file and complete their bankruptcy at no cost. Upsolve’s screening tool can help you find out quickly if you qualify for this assistance. 

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About the author

Eva Bacevice, Esq.

Eva G. Bacevice graduated from the University of Michigan Law School in 2001. She practiced law for close to a decade in the area of consumer bankruptcy. She now works in higher education as an Academic Advisor for undergraduate students at the Stephen M. Ross School of Business,... read more

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