What is a Debt Management Plan?
A DMP is a payment plan that helps you repay your debts. Under the plan, you deposit funds with us each month, which we disburse to your creditors. We also handle calls from your creditors to ensure everything is going smoothly. The vast majority of our payment processing is electronic, so funds are transferred directly to the creditors without delay.
Creditors may also offer to reduce or waive fees, finances charges, or interest rates to help lower your DMP payments and ensure your success on the plan.
Will a DMP affect my credit?
Participation in a DMP has no direct impact on your credit score, but being enrolled in a DMP may change some aspects of your credit report that may have a negative impact. A particular creditor may look at a DMP as a minus when reviewing your credit.
Also, some creditors may indicate that you are “not paying as agreed” while you are on the DMP, even though they are accepting the reduced payments. A certified counselor can talk to you about the effect on your credit based on your unique mix of creditors.
Ultimately, a DMP helps to improve your personal financial situation by helping you to repay your debts in full. This can only have a positive impact on your credit in the long run.
In my DMP, can I just include the bills I’m having problems with?
No. We must include all of your debts in the plan, and we treat them all equally, even if some are more manageable than others.
Can I keep some of my credit cards while I am on the DMP?
No. All of your lines of credit must be closed while you are on the DMP. Only very rarely are exceptions made; in these cases, some clients may be able to keep one credit card account open for business purposes.
Typically, creditors are ready to open new accounts for our clients as soon as they complete the DMP, especially if their payment history was solid while they were on the plan.
Will being enrolled in a DMP stop interest from being charged on all accounts?
Most creditors do not stop charging interest, but many will lower the interest rate. A Certified Consumer Credit Counselor can tell you what concessions your creditors will be likely to make.
Does credit.org really work for the creditors?
No. We do accept voluntary contributions from creditors to fund our operations, and we prefer this to charging high fees of our clients. When it comes to the education we offer to consumers, our focus is on them, not the creditors they are indebted to.
The creditors with whom we negotiate are willing to contribute to us because the Debt Management Plans we offer help them recover funds owed to them. However, this is not the primary objective of the DMP. The DMP’s purpose is to help our clients get out of debt. The fact that the creditors benefit from the DMP is a bonus that helps us get funding to continue our educational efforts.
If DMPs help you get funding, don’t you try to put all of your clients into a Debt Management Plan?
No. We’re a non-profit organization; our primary function is to educate consumers on the wise use of credit. Debt Management Plans are a small part of what we do: fewer than one-quarter of the clients we counsel enroll in a DMP.
When we counsel consumers, we present a lot of options for resolving their debts, and try to help them find the solution that works best for them. For most of our clients, that involves budget counseling and education alone. For some clients, it is bankruptcy. Some of our clients are a good fit for a DMP.
When we do enroll clients in a Debt Management Plan, it is very important to us that they succeed. We do not want to see a large percentage of our DMP clients to fail to overcome their debts. One way we try to achieve this success is to identify only the few clients who can truly benefit from a DMP. It does us no good to enroll a lot of clients in a Plan if they are destined for failure.
If a creditor doesn’t contribute to the agency, will you still handle their debts?
Yes, we will work with any creditor to reduce your payments, regardless of whether they contribute to our nonprofit organization.
Will my creditors still send me credit card statements?
Yes, and it is vitally important that you read every monthly statement you get from your creditors and make sure the payments you make through us are being properly credited to your account. You also want to ensure that the concessions your creditors offer to DMP clients are in effect. Compare your creditor statements to the monthly progress report you receive from us and if anything doesn’t match, call us right away.
How does a DMP program differ from Chapter 13 bankruptcy?
A Debt Management Plan is voluntary, while Chapter 13 bankruptcy is court-ordered. That means all of your creditors may not offer concessions in a DMP. In a bankruptcy filing, your creditors have to accept the court’s ruling. However, bankruptcy has serious lasting consequences for your credit record, while a DMP allows you to rebuild your credit much faster when you complete the plan. The Bankruptcy filing is a matter of public record that can stay on your credit report for up to 10 years, while a DMP is removed from your credit file when you complete the plan.
A debt management plan isn’t for everyone; most of our credit counseling clients benefit from counseling and education alone. But for those clients who need it, a DMP can really help by lowering fees & interest rates, consolidating monthly debt payments into a new, more management payment, and providing the consumer with expert advice and debt management assistance.
Because our counseling is free, confidential, and carries no obligation, the best course of action for anyone interested in a Debt Management Plan is to call and talk to a counselor. Besides the budgeting assistance, counseling and education provided, the counseling session will establish if a DMP is the right solution.
How is counseling available?
Traditionally, we offered counseling and education services face-to-face in our local offices. This in-person counseling is still available in all of our branch offices. However, we’ve found that many clients are more comfortable seeking counseling by phone, so we offer a national toll-free hotline (1-800-431-8157) to serve any client who needs help anywhere in the U.S.A.
We also offer online counseling. Starting your counseling online allows you to enter your personal financial information which speeds up the counseling process and helps us ensure that your information is accurate.
Will credit counseling stop legal action and creditor phone calls?
We can usually work with creditors to stop collection efforts and minimize legal actions, but the best way to stop creditor calls is to make full, on-time payments. Our debt management plan can help you do that.
What does a credit counselor do during my counseling session?
Our counseling sessions are entirely confidential; a counselor will go over your personal finances and offer expert advice that is tailored to your unique situation. We will help you create a spending plan to cover all of your payments to your creditors, as well as your regular living expenses.
If I need legal advice, can a credit counselor help?
No. We do not offer legal advice of any kind. We recommend seeing a qualified attorney for help with legal issues.
What do you charge for counseling services?
Counseling is provided free of charge. The majority of our other assistance is provided at no or low cost to clients.
Why will credit card companies and creditors reduce payments through you instead of working directly with me?
The creditors don’t have the time or manpower to negotiate with every one of their customers individually. They work with credit counseling agencies like us to create a set of standard concessions that we may offer to clients when appropriate. The creditors also understand that we provide counseling and education, which makes our clients more likely to succeed in repaying their debts.
Are credit counselors certified?
Our counselors are certified by the NFCC. If you need counseling regarding your mortgage, we also have HUD-certified housing counselors available. Certification means the counselor has been tested on his/her financial knowledge.
Is counseling confidential?
All of our counseling is completely confidential. Our records are kept securely to protect our clients’ privacy and we do not share information about our clients with anyone.
Since credit counseling is free of charge and carries no negative consequences to one’s credit, it’s the best place to start when working toward financial freedom.
You can receive counseling by phone or in-person by appointment at our local office locations, so you can feel comfortable and in control while our counselor helps you create a plan to repay your debts and better manage your personal finances.
All of our counseling is confidential, non-judgmental, and tailored to address your specific situation. Your counselor will help you weigh all of your options and answer any questions you have.