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How to Get Free Credit Counseling in Washington

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In a Nutshell

There are three steps to obtaining free credit counseling in Washington: a) locating a Washington non-profit credit counseling agency; b) researching the agency you choose to go; and c) preparing some questions to ask your Washington credit counselor at your initial credit counseling session. Let’s take a look at each step!

Written by the Upsolve Team
Updated December 20, 2023

Not being able to pay your bills when they become due is a terrible feeling. And even when unexpected circumstances have dramatically changed your personal finances and financial ability to pay your bills, like a medical illness, divorce or natural disaster, none of us like to admit that we can no longer pay the bills we have. But if you are struggling to pay your bills each month as they come due, or you are unable to meet your day to day living expenses after you do, credit counseling through a nonprofit organization may be what you’re looking for. Consumer credit counseling is a one-on-one session with a trained and certified non-profit counselor that lasts 45 - 60 minutes. The purpose of Washington credit counseling is to assess your current financial situation, develop a realistic spending plan for you, establish achievable financial goals, and create a personal action plan for success. If you wish, your Washington credit counselor will even pull a free copy of your credit report and review it with you. If you are outside of your budget then recommendations are usually either a debt management program, debt consolidation, or bankruptcy. But you are under no obligation to pursue any option. And the entire counseling session is free and confidential.

Because it is free, there is little or no risk in simply taking part in a free credit counseling session. Since legitimate credit counseling is usually provided by an accredited non-profit credit counseling agency in Washington, the biggest risk of credit counseling is choosing a non-reputable private credit counseling agency that provides you with bad advice or tries to force you into a debt relief option you are not comfortable with or that won’t work for your situation. In the article that follows we will explain a little more about how credit counseling works and how to choose a reputable non-profit credit counseling agency to help you.

How to Get Free Credit Counseling in Washington

There are three steps to obtaining free credit counseling in Washington: a) locating a Washington non-profit credit counseling agency; b) researching the agency you choose to go; and c) preparing some questions to ask your Washington credit counselor at your initial credit counseling session. Let’s take a look at each step!

Find a Washington Non Profit Credit Counseling Agency

The most important step in obtaining credit counseling in Washington is finding a reputable, accredited non-profit credit counseling agency. Reputable non-profit credit counseling agencies are certified and accredited by the National Foundation of Credit Counseling. Foundations like the NFCC and FCAA ensure that the credit counseling organizations they certify abide by industry standards. For example, your initial credit counseling session should always be free. If you are ever asked to pay upfront for an initial credit counseling session, whether online or in-person, that is a red flag that you may not be dealing with a reputable credit counseling agency.

If you can’t locate a reputable credit counseling agency locally, there are several national non-profit credit counseling agencies such as Money Management International, CESI or GreenPath that offer their credit counseling services throughout the United States. To get a list of others, you can try the Financial Counseling Association of America or the National Foundation for Credit Counseling.

Information to Research Before Talking to a Washington Credit Counseling Agency

No matter what agency you choose to go with, you can do some basic research on the credit counseling agency before you meet with them to ensure it has a good track record with helping other consumers in your state. First, check to see if any complaints have been filed against them with your local consumer protection agencies like the Washington Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division or the national Better Business Bureau. If you find anything that makes you feel uncomfortable about dealing with that credit counseling agency, choose another one and do the same research on it as well until you find one that you’re satisfied is trustworthy and reputable.

Questions to Ask the Washington Credit Counselor Before Signing Up

Once you have chosen the credit counseling agency you intend to meet with, you will get more out of your initial credit counseling session if you put together a list of prepared questions to ask your Washington credit counselor. Some of the questions you might want to ask or some areas you might have questions about including the following:

  • Is there any cost for the initial session? What costs will I incur if I decide to follow your recommendations? Ask upfront if the credit counseling agency charges anything for the initial credit counseling session. This answer should always be no. Then ask what cost you will incur if you decide to follow any of the counselor’s recommendations. The counselor may not be able to give you the exact amount of each cost, but they should be able to tell what costs you will incur, like a one-time set-up fee and the monthly cost of administering your debt relief plan.

  • Ask for specific details on the counseling session itself like how long it will last. Most initial counseling sessions last 45 minutes to one hour but yours may be shorter or longer. Ask where it will take place. Many credit counseling agencies offer sessions in-person, online or over the telephone. Ask how the session will be conducted. Will you be meeting with a live person, completing the session online, at a computer terminal or conducting the session over-the-phone? Many credit counseling agencies offer all three, but you may need to schedule an appointment for an in-person session.

What to Expect During Credit Counseling

During your initial credit counseling sessions, you will meet with a trained and certified Washington credit counselor. Your counselor is a combination of “educator, advocate, and coach.” They help you review your finances from top to bottom in order to determine what’s not working and what needs to change. Your Washington credit counselor’s objective when meeting with you is to get the best and most accurate picture of your current financial situation. The more they know about your financial situation and what challenges you are dealing with the more options they can give you. As a result, some typical questions you may be asked include: What is your household income? What are your monthly expenses? Do you have a budget? What credit cards, student loans, medical bills or other debts do you have? Together, you and your Washington credit counselor will come up with a plan to help you overcome your financial challenges and reach your goals. They will usually also provide you with free educational materials on how to manage your money and become debt-free. The length of each session is tailored to your specific situation, but typically will last from forty-five to sixty minutes.

What Happens After Credit Counseling in Washington

Seeking out and taking advantage of free no-risk credit counseling in Washington is a big first step in overcoming crippling debt or addressing a growing problem with being unable to pay all your bills. After your initial credit counseling session, depending on what you decide is best for you, the non-profit credit counseling agency you chose to work with will help you put the debt relief plan of your choice into action.

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Washington Debt Consolidation

One of the options that will be available to you when you have completed your initial credit counseling is Washington debt consolidation. Debt consolidation combines all of your unsecured debt and all of your payments on that debt into one debt and one monthly payment. Consolidating your debt can be a great way to simplify your finances and bring your month-to-month spending under control. 

Washington Debt Management Plan

 A Washington debt management plan is a widely used form of debt consolidation that can help you get out of debt and regain control of your monthly finances. A debt management plan combines all of the monthly payments you make on your unsecured debt into one monthly payment. Often with a lower interest rate on the total debt and a lower overall monthly payment. A debt management plan works by setting up a voluntary agreement between you and your creditors to centralize your payments to all of them through your chosen credit counseling agency. When you sign up for a debt management plan, you make one lump sum payment each month to the credit counseling agency who then sends those funds directly to your creditors.

Washington Bankruptcy

As worthwhile a resource as credit counseling and debt consolidation are, they are not the answer to every financial hardship. In some instances, a Washington bankruptcy may be your only choice for obtaining true, long term debt relief. For example, if you do not have any income or have insufficient income to pay your day to day living expenses and still pay your bills, even if they were consolidated, then a Washington bankruptcy may be your best option. In addition to debt counseling, most accredited credit counseling agencies also provide free bankruptcy counseling.

Written By:

The Upsolve Team

Upsolve is fortunate to have a remarkable team of bankruptcy attorneys, as well as finance and consumer rights professionals, as contributing writers to help us keep our content up to date, informative, and helpful to everyone.

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