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Your conversation with a credit counselor

If you struggle with debt, a credit counselor could be a big help. But they’re not all the same. Learn how they work and how to find one that’s right for you.

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Your conversation with a credit counselor

Whether you’re struggling to pay the bills each month, juggling multiple debts, or simply have questions and need some financial guidance, meeting with a certified credit counselor might help you get back on track.

Credit counseling services are typically offered by non-profit organizations that offer free or low-cost counseling and workshops to help people reduce their debt, rebuild their credit and negotiate with creditors. Counseling sessions can take place either in person, online or by phone.

To find a reputable credit counselor in your area, you can look at the Federal Trade Commission’s website for tips. Also, the National Foundation for Credit Counseling lists legitimate credit counseling agencies through their website.

Once you’ve found a reputable agency or counselor, take a little time to prepare before your initial meeting so you can get the most out of your conversation.

You’ll want your counselor to have a clear picture of your financial situation, so be sure to gather and organize all your financial documents and paperwork to bring with you.

This includes up-to-date information about your income and savings, like recent pay stubs and savings or investment account statements; information about your debts-- like loan agreements, and credit card statements; and any notices from collections agencies.

One of the first things a credit counselor will probably ask is what you want to get out of the meeting. So take some time to think about your goals beforehand.

Common goals might be figuring out which of your debts to pay down first; finding out how to handle a creditor that’s putting pressure on you to make payments; or creating a budget that works for you.

Knowing clearly what you want help with ahead of time can help your meeting with your counselor be focused and goal-oriented.

Prior to the meeting, your counselor may ask permission to look up your credit report in order to review it with you. If you give permission, you will be asked for your social security number. This is not unusual and reputable, certified credit counselors will never share your private information. Just be sure that you’ve checked out the credit counselor and the counseling service before your meeting.

Again, a good place to find a reputable counselor is on the National Foundation for Credit Counseling’s website.

It’s also important to be honest with your counselor. While it can be uncomfortable to reveal your financial situation to a stranger, leaving out important details about your finances—like an old debt that has gone to collections—means the counselor won’t be able to help you as effectively.  Being up front about every aspect of your situation will help your counselor best address your problems.

Depending on your situation, your counselor may suggest specific options for you to consider about how to manage your money and debt. The solutions they offer might require a lot of work, time and patience. But being open to your counselor’s suggestions can help you start to get through your financial challenges.

A credit counselor won’t tell you that they can make your money problems go away overnight—but they can help you make a plan that can help put your mind at ease and get you back on track to paying off your debts.

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The material provided on this website is for informational use only and is not intended for financial or investment advice. Bank of America and/or its partners assume no liability for any loss or damage resulting from one's reliance on the material provided. Please also note that such material is not updated regularly and that some of the information may not therefore be current. Consult with your own financial professional when making decisions regarding your financial or investment management.

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