Family Credit Counseling is a non-denominational Christian debt management company whose mission is to help people become debt free as quickly as possible. They offer a number of debt management services to help you reach your goal of being debt free. Let’s look at how they can help you.
Like many other credit management services, Family Credit Counseling will not only help you create a financial plan to help you get out of debt quicker, they will also help you stay that way once you reach your goal. They will also work with your creditors to negotiate lower interest rates, better payment terms and other things that can help you get your debt under control.
FCMS (Family Credit Management Services) manages all payments on your behalf. So instead of making a bunch of payments to each of your credit cards, loans and other debts, you make a single monthly payment to them and they distribute it to your lenders.
Because they have existing relationships with a wide range of creditors, they can often negotiate better terms for your debt than if you were to attempt to do it yourself. This means you can save money by getting a lower interest rate, and possibly even re-aging your debts if they are in arrears. Re-aging means that they are reported as current even if your payments are behind, which will help improve your credit score.
The methods used by FCMS are based on Christian principles. Their main goal is to help you get your debts paid off without resorting to bankruptcy, since this not only has a serious effect on your credit rating but is also avoiding paying debt that was incurred for legitimate – if sometimes unnecessary – reasons.
Bear in mind that you will need to pay fees to FCMS for their services. These fees are not unreasonable, but they will add to your overall costs. You will need to determine whether the savings you may see in interest costs and other areas will be worth the fees you need to pay. This will partly depend on the amount of debt you’re dealing with, since the fees don’t really change if you have more debt.
Whether you’re dealing with FCMS or another debt management service, you should always make sure you get full disclosure on any fees and other charges that you will be required to pay before you sign up for any of their services. If they aren’t up front about those fees, move on to another company.
Debt Busters is one of the largest debt settlement firms in the United States. They offer various services to help you get your debt paid off quicker, with less interest costs. Let’s look at how they work and some of the services they offer.
Debt Busters bills themselves as “America’s #1 Bankruptcy Alternative.” What this means is they offer debt management services that will help you get control of your debt and finances, without having to resort to bankruptcy to get rid of the debt.
Bankruptcy might seem like the easiest solution in a lot of cases, but there are lots of things that go along with it that you probably want to avoid. And bankruptcy isn’t guaranteed to clear all your debts anyway, so you could end up having to pay some of the debt as well as enduring the damage a bankruptcy can cause to your financial history.
Debt Busters offers debt management services that include working with you to create a realistic financial plan for spending and paying off your debts. A large part of their method is to help you learn how to manage your money effectively, so that once you do get your debts paid off you’ll know how to avoid going back into debt again.
One of their biggest advantages over other companies – or versus doing it yourself – is their relationships with creditors. Because they work with so many people, they have established relationships with a large number of creditors across the country. This puts them in a strong position to negotiate with your creditors, to get better deals for you.
This could include negotiating lower interest rates, waived late fees and other service charges and even reducing the principle of your debt. If they’re successful in these negotiations, you could wind up saving a lot of money.
Bear in mind that you will need to pay some fees to Debt Busters, as payment for their services. Whether or not these fees are worth the savings that you’ll get by using their services will depend on your particular situation, especially how much debt you are dealing with.
Make sure you consider the costs carefully before signing up for anything, as you want to ensure that you’re getting a good return on the money you’re paying for their service. There’s no point paying for a service if it doesn’t save you more money through the results they provide.
Springboard is a non-profit agency formed in 1974 by business leaders and credit grantors. According to their website, their mission is to “improve the lives and financial well-being of individuals and families by providing quality financial education and counseling.”
Springboard claims the highest number of accreditations and affiliations of all the sites in our credit counseling reviews. The company has been BBB Business accredited since 1983 and boasts an A rating through the Better Business Bureau.
The organization is affiliated with American Association of Debt Management Organizations, Association of Independent Consumer Credit Counseling Agencies, National Foundation for Credit Counseling and is an approved HUD Housing Counseling Agency and accredited by the National Housing Counseling Association.
Here are some key features of Springboard:
- In business for over 35 years
- Accredited by the Better Business Bureau since 1983
- COA accredited
- Member of American Association of Debt Management Organizations
- Member of Association of Independent Consumer Credit Counseling Agencies
- Member of National Foundation for Credit Counseling
- HUD-Approved Housing Counseling Agency
- Accredited by The National Housing Counseling Association
- Also known as Consumer Credit Counseling Service of Inland Empire
- Extensive educational materials
- Wide variety of financial tools
- Credit counseling & Debt Management counseling
- Housing counseling
- Bankruptcy counseling and certification
- Credit & Debt Education for College Students, Teens and Parents
- Employee Assistance Program
Debt Shield is a debt settlement company that specifically deals with unsecured debt, which includes credit card debt balances.
They have a very clean and informative website which features, among other tools and resources, a “Slide to Financial Ruin” indicator, which shows the different stages of debt and debt relief options based on various financial situations.
Their program is specifically designed for people who have at least $10,000 in unsecured debt such as credit card and medical debt, cannot afford their minimum credit card payments, are experiencing financial hardship, such as divorce, unemployment, medical expenses and death in the family and/or are not residents of states that restrict the operation of debt settlement companies.
Once you sign up and qualify, they will send you a DVD which explains the program and instructs you as to the steps you need to follow. Basically, your debt consultant will help you set up a separate third party savings account. You then make one monthly payment to that account instead of making several payments to your creditors. When sufficient funds have accrued in that account, Debt Shield experts negotiate settlements with your creditors. They claim they are able to negotiate 30-50% of your total debt.
Fees come out of your monthly payments and are billed over the duration of the program. One interesting facet of Debt Shield is their term guarantee. They’ll cut your remaining monthly maintenance fees in half if you aren’t out of debt by the time they project.
However, since most clients tend to spend 12 to 36 months in the program, you should have plenty of time to settle your debts in a timely manner.
The DebtShield website notes that, because you’ll be directing your funds to the debt settlement program instead of making regular monthly payments to your creditors, you’ll fall behind. They advise you to direct any collection calls and letters to Debt Shield while you’re in the program.
When going to a debt settlement company you should be aware of state laws. If you live in one of the following states, you cannot use a debt settlement company and you should not trust any debt settlement company that would try and accept you as a client if you live in one of these areas:
- Delaware, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Kansas, Maine, Minnesota, Mississippi, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Utah, Virginia, District of Columbia, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.
You are, however, still able to get credit counseling and loan consolidation in most places so if debt settlement isn’t an option you can use one of the other companies provided at the beginning of this section or use the techniques you learned in the third section to find your own.
Oak View Law
Oak View Law is a sort of atypical solution for debt settlement. When you sign up with Oak View Law Group you will be paired with an attorney who will personally walk you through the settlement process.
There is something very comforting about having a lawyer in your corner. You can rest assured that your attorney knows the laws and will work within them to get you the best negotiation outcome possible.
Also, attorney-client privileges apply, including the privacy of all conversations.
Oak View offers a wide range of services, including bankruptcy, debt management and debt consolidation. This means their staffers are more able to offer an opinion of the various options that is based on a wide knowledge base and not just motivated by profit. Firms that offer only settlement will of course be quick to name that as the best, or only, option. It is not always the best option.
Virtually all debt negotiation firms will advise you to stop paying your monthly payments for the accounts they are trying to settle. Stopping payments makes creditors mad. It will not have a pleasant effect on your credit scores. Try to avoid doing it as long as possible. If you wanted, or could, qualify for debt management or debt consolidation that would most likely be the best option.
If you are in the market for debt negotiation you likely have enough money coming in to cover (or almost cover) your monthly payments or to put all that money into savings in preparation for settlement – not both.
If you choose to stop making payments and pool your money with a company like Oak View at least you can be reasonably sure they will not squander it. Oak View has proven itself trustworthy. The method of payment with Oak View is logical and fair. It is tailored to each situation and motivates their negotiators to get the lowest possible settlement for you every time.
There is an enrollment fee for most services as well as a $50 monthly maintenance fee. Oak View also collects a 10% “success” fee, meaning the company will collect a cut of what they make happen for you specifically. If you have an initial debt of $8,000 and Oak View settles it for $3,000 they collect $500 (10% of the difference). This is potentially costly; if your debt is closer to $100,000 and they settle for $50,000 you’ll owe them $5,000. Depending on your situation you might very well end up indebted to them instead of your original creditors. This is not necessarily a good solution if you have a massive debt and are simply making far too little money to come close to paying it; it’s geared towards people who come close to affording their payments but want to settle for a lower amount and shorten the lifespan of their debt.