Frequently Asked Questions
Frequently Asked Questions
Should I pull my credit report every year and how do I do that?
Frequently reviewing your credit report is good advice. There are three major credit bureaus, and you can obtain a single report from each, or a report that merges the information of all three. You can schedule an appointment with a CCCS certified counselor or visit www.annualcreditreport.com to view your credit report.
I don’t understand my credit report?
For help interpreting the information contained in your credit report, schedule a Credit Report Review appointment with a CCCS Counselor.
I have negative information on my credit report, can you help remove it?
The purpose of a credit report is to present an accurate picture of your credit history to anyone with a permissible purpose to view your report. If there is negative information on your report, but it is accurate, it has to stay. If the data is false, then you will need to file a dispute to get it removed. Stay clear of any companies that claim they can “fix” your credit report. Only time and a good pay history can accurately fix your report. A Certified CCCS Counselor can help with false information on your report and can work with you to develop good spending habits.
The debt collectors call me constantly. Can CCCS help?
The Fair Debt Collection Act protects consumers from abusive collection practices. Talk to your CCCS counselor to see if the collectors are crossing the line. The best way to stop collection class is with consistent monthly payments. CCCS will work with your creditors to establish a repayment plan that you can live with. But, even on a debt management plan, you must know that the original contract between you and your creditor is still valid.
My creditor said my account is charged off. Does that mean I still have to pay the debt?
When an account is charged off, it is considered to be a debt that is no longer collectable. All creditors have different policies regarding the timeframe within which they charge off an account, but it is generally between 90-180 days after you become delinquent. Nonetheless, you are still morally and legally responsible for the debt. The creditor often steps up his collection efforts after an account has been charged off. You may be receiving calls from a professional debt collection agency, and if reported to the bureau, your credit report will move into a more negative status.
What is a judgment?
A judgment is a decision issued by the court at the end of a lawsuit. If you are sued and either don’t file the appropriate papers or file papers but eventually lose the case, the person initiating the lawsuit may be awarded a judgment against you. If you choose not to appear in court on the appointed court date, the creditor may be awarded a default judgment. Either way, you may be responsible to pay the judgment, and your credit report will undoubtedly be negatively affected.
I have built up some equity in my home. Should I use it to pay off my creditors?
There are some positive things about a home equity loan. However, you should consider the full picture before committing to using the home equity to pay off your credit card debt. Consider the fact that when you take out a home equity loan you are putting up your most valued possession, your home, as security for a debt that was originally unsecured. You’ve taken out a loan against your house. You’ve turned unsecured debt into secured debt. Then, if you miss what was formerly your credit card payment, you’ve now skipped a mortgage payment and you could risk losing your home.
A debt consolidation loan sounds like it would solve all of my problems. Is this a good idea?
If you can change old habits and not continue to live off of credit, a debt consolidation loan is a good idea. But, old habits die hard and in a year or so, if you are still charging, you are likely to have your bill consolidation loan payment plus more credit card payments. Not only are you back in the same situation, you’re even deeper in debt.
I am recently divorced. The judge split up the debts, but my ex is not paying. Am I responsible for those debts assigned to him?
Unfortunately, we cannot provide legal advice. However, in practice, we have observed that the creditor usually considers the person or persons who signed the original account contract to be responsible for the debt. Even if the divorce decree designates your ex as the responsible party, if you live in a community property state you are likely going to have to pay the money to satisfy this debt or risk having your credit report affected.
What if I don’t have debt, but need help in other financial areas?
CCCS has certified counselors that are extensively trained to provide life events counseling. We have in-depth materials in areas of divorce, identity theft, single parenting, buying a home and job loss.
I’m behind on my mortgage. Can CCCS help?
Yes! CCCS is a HUD-approved counseling agency and works with lenders every day. Our trained counselors are experts in the areas of foreclosure prevention and loss mitigation. A house is normally a person’s largest investment. Take action today. Don’t risk losing yours.
What does CCCS do?
CCCS is a non-profit, community service organization providing financial education to consumers. Confidential financial counseling is offered in-person, online or by phone. A certified counselor works with the consumer to construct a realistic spending plan, and when necessary, a Debt Management Plan (DMP) may be developed to help satisfy monthly debt obligations.
What is a Debt Management Plan?
The DMP is a program used only when the consumer cannot continue to meet debt obligations on his own. Sometimes, due to any number of different circumstances, financial responsibilities can spiral out of hand. That’s when you need the professional help of CCCS. Your counselor will work directly with your creditors to create a repayment plan that often includes a lower monthly payment, stopped or lowered interest, late fees and over-limit fees. The result is an orderly debt reduction plan that you can live with. Once in place, you send the agreed upon amount to CCCS each month, and they disburse the payments to all of your creditors. You normally can continue to receive the statements from your creditors, and CCCS also sends you a statement with each month’s activity outlined. If this sounds like the solution to your debt problems, contact us today.
Do you have any programs for a first-time buyer?
Yes, we offer one-on-one counseling for a first-time homebuyer, or classes in a group setting. Either way, you are walked through the loan process, and taught what to look for in a home purchase all the way from the front curb to the backyard.
If I am in debt, what are the benefits of working with CCCS?
We have 40-plus years experience ready to go to work for you. Our certified counselors will listen to your specific concerns, and then develop solutions to your particular needs. Your situation is analyzed, and you are provided in writing with a new budget and action steps to guide you down the path to becoming debt free. If you can’t manage debt repayment on your own, the CCCS counselor will negotiate directly with your creditors to formulate a new, lower monthly payment. Often, interest, late fees and over limit fees are waived for CCCS clients, bringing the reality of a debt-free life even closer.
Do I have to have a minimum amount of debt to use your services?
No. Some agencies require a certain amount of debt or a minimum number of credit cards to be eligible, but at CCCS we will advise you regardless of your income level or amount of debt.
How is a Debt Management Program different from filing Chapter 13 bankruptcy?
Bankruptcy is a legal matter, and may be right for you. However, bankruptcy should be your last stop, not your first. It can stay on your credit record for up to 10 years, and could make it more difficult to obtain credit in the future.
If I start on a Debt Management Plan, how long until I am debt free?
Most of our clients are debt free in 4-5 years after going on our plan. Contrast that with how long it takes to get out of debt at the rate you’re going now. For instance, the average American household currently has a $9,000 in credit card debt. Assuming you make a minimum monthly payment of 2% balance (which is standard) at an annual interest rate of 18%, you’ll have that $9,000 paid off in 47 years. And that’s if you never charge anything else, and never miss a payment! What’s perhaps even worse is that you’ll have paid $32,994 for that debt, with $23,994 going into your creditor’s pocket. Ouch!
If I go on your Debt Management Plan, will I ever be able to credit again?
Of course! Graduates of our program buy houses and cars every day, not to mention being approved for credit cards. The creditors believe in our financial education, and support your efforts to honor your commitments to them. Naturally, you’ll need to have a steady income to be considered for credit, but that’s no different from any consumer applying for a loan.
I have never had a credit card, but many say it is a necessary part of life. Where do I start?
We do live in a credit culture, no doubt about it. Credit is a convenience you might enjoy, but it is also a responsibility. Many a well-meaning person has had their financial future tarnished through the misuse of credit. When agreeing to extend credit to you, a lender normally considers your ability to repay. Your ability to repay is indicated by your income and stability. They generally like to see you at the same job and the same address for a minimum of two years. Your willingness to repay is demonstrated by how you’ve repaid your past debts. You may have more of a credit history than you realize, as utility companies or landlords could have been reporting your payments to the credit bureau.
Will going on a Debt Management Plan adversely affect my credit report?
No, a Debt Management Plan will assist you on paying your creditors. A credit report is a track record of your previous credit history, among other things. It shows how you’ve repaid your debts in the past, including the good with the bad. If you are struggling to make ends meet, skipping some payments and being late with others, your credit report is already dinged. Nobody should consider going on a debt management plan who can successfully pay his debts on his own. However, if you need a professional to intervene for you, please call CCCS.
I have heard bad things in the news about debt counseling agencies. How is CCCS different?
A true credit counseling agency like CCCS will offer multiple solutions to your financial needs. A debt management program will not be the first, or the only, option available to you. At CCCS, each client is treated as an individual with individual circumstances. We offer the solution that is best for you, whether it be a budget counseling session that allows you to continue to pay your debts on your own, a debt management program where we step in and negotiate a plan with your creditors, or ongoing financial education classes.
How can I be sure CCCS is reputable?
Reputable CCCS agencies have legitimate accreditation with the National Foundation for Credit Counseling (NFCC) and the COA to name a few. You should research any credit counseling agency before agreeing to allow them to counsel you, and certainly before you send them any money. Another place to determine an organization’s reputation is with the Better Business Bureau. However, even very good agencies can have a complaint filed against them, as that is the consumer’s right. What you’ll want to find out is how that complaint was resolved.
How much does it cost to use CCCS services?
Budget counseling is provided at NO CHARGE by a certified and professional credit counselor. If you elect to join the Debt Management Plan program to repay your creditors, there is a one-time set-up fee of $50. The monthly fee that covers the maintenance of your accounts, disbursements to your creditors, monthly statement s and other administrative costs does not exceed $50.
I’m unemployed which means money is tighter than ever. Is there anything you can do for me?
It sounds like job loss counseling would be very helpful for you. An experienced and certified counselor will walk you through the maze of government programs for which you may qualify, writing a resume, retraining, and job search tools. Meanwhile, a new budget will be developed based upon today’s income, a necessity or riding out the storm.
Do both spouses have to agree to attend the counseling session?
Experience has taught us that it is best if both parties participate in the counseling session. However, work schedules and other conflicts sometimes prevent that. The important thing is that you address the problem quickly. So, don’t let confusion over who us available to attend the counseling session delay you taking action.
How does CCCS make money? How are you funded since you’re a non-profit?
Even non-profit organizations make money, as they need to pay employee salaries and keep the lights on. Many individuals, businesses and other organizations believe in the services that CCCS provides, and agree to support our efforts financially. CCCS receives grants from foundations, the government, as well as other community resources. The majority of our funding comes from the creditors who make a voluntary contribution to use. Since creditors have a financial interest in getting paid, most are willing to make a contribution to help fund our agency.
Will all of my accounts be closed if I go on a DMP?
The objective when you go on DMP is to become debt free. That process is interrupted if charging continues. Your counselor will work up a budget where you can live on cash. As odd as that might sound, it’s entirely possible. Most creditors require that the account be closed, but understand that in today’s world of credit may be necessary to leave one major credit card off the program for emergency use. You and your counselor can evaluate if that option is necessary for your lifestyle.