Non-Profit Credit Counselling Services
When Canadians face challenges with credit card debt, a trained credit counsellor can provide invaluable support. Credit counselling services help people understand options for getting out of debt and assist them in choosing the best solution for their needs. Credit counsellors help consumers make informed choices, so they can eliminate debt in the most efficient way possible. They also oversee debt management plans, which provide a cost-saving way for a consumer to get out of debt faster.
Credit counselling doesn’t have to be so confusing. Here’s a super easy 60-second explanation of how credit counselling works.
you’re facing financial distress because of debt you have a few options when it comes to finding relief. Credit counselling helps you zero in on the right option to use in your situation. That way you can rest easy knowing your debt solution is actually going to work.
You start the process with a free debt evaluation to see where you stand. A trained credit counsellor looks at your debts, budget and credit score to help you decide which solution will work for you.
If the debt management program ends up being your best option, then your credit counsellor can also help you enroll in the program. They can tell you how much you’ll pay on the program and how long it should take vs. what it would typically take on your own.
So if you’re struggling to get ahead of your debt, we can help. Call Consolidated Credit today for a free debt evaluation with a trained credit counsellor. Together, we can find the best solution so that you can finally beat your problems with debt.
What is credit counselling?
Consumer credit counselling services are designed to help consumers develop effective strategies for paying off credit card debt. Non-profit credit counselling is not a debt solution in and of itself. Instead, it’s a service that helps you identify the best solution to use based on your debts, credit, and budget.
Credit counselling is a two-part process that helps consumers find the best way to get out of debt.
|Free Credit Counselling||Debt Management Plan Support|
|Cost||Free||Low monthly administration fee based on the total debt, budget, and individual’s financial situation|
|Time involved||1 or 2 phone sessions, which typically take 30-2 hours total||36 – 60 months|
|Credit impact||Neutral (no effect on credit)||Noted in a credit report for two years from the date a consumer completes the program.|
Free credit counselling
The first part of the process is a free, no-obligation credit counselling session. This informative consultation is recommended for anyone working to pay off credit card debt and other unsecured debt. The session helps you take stock of your finances, develop a practical budget, and get fully informed on your options for relief.
Debt management plan support
The second part of credit counselling helps clients enroll in and complete a debt management plan. This debt relief solution helps an individual pay back everything they owe with reduced interest. It is often the best option for getting out of debt for people who cannot efficiently eliminate debt on their own but want to avoid the credit issues caused by bankruptcy or a consumer proposal.
Credit counselling organizations administer debt management programs. They oversee clients’ programs and act as a go-between with their creditors.
How credit counselling works
Each part of the credit counselling process has two steps.
- Free credit counselling starts with a complimentary debt and budget analysis.
- Then the counsellor offers education about debt relief options and answers any questions you have.
- If a debt management plan is the best option for relief in your unique financial situation, the counsellor helps you enroll.
- During your enrollment, the counselling team provides ongoing support and financial counselling.
Step 1: Receive a complimentary debt and budget analysis
Credit counselling often begins with a free phone call or online inquiry. A trained credit counsellor will ask you for some basic information about your financial situation. They will ask you about your credit card debts and loans, as well as your income and expenses. They will also ask about what led you to get into debt and your financial goals.
The objective of this step is for you and the credit counsellor to develop a clear picture of your finances. This will help determine which debt relief solution is the best option, based on your needs, credit, budget and goals.
The counsellor will also ask you to authorize them to check your credit report. This is a “soft” credit pull, meaning it will not negatively impact your credit. The counsellor simply looks at your report to make sure all your debts are accounted for correctly. In some cases, a consumer may have accounts in collections that they’re unaware of and this helps identify them.
To prepare for this free credit counselling session:
- Have your most recent credit card and loan statements on hand, so you can provide the current balance and interest rate.
- Know how much income you earn per month.
- Review your monthly spending, so you can accurately estimate how much you spend on bills and other expenses.
Step 2: Explore options for debt relief
There is more than one way to get out of credit card debt. The credit counsellor will take time to explain all the options available and help you understand how they compare. Then they will recommend the best option to use given your unique financial circumstances.
The counsellor will help you evaluate the time and cost savings that various debt solutions can provide. They will also detail the potential risks that come with certain solutions, such as how much credit damage you can expect.
During this part of the session, you should discuss all of the various solutions that can make it easier to pay off credit card debt, including:
- Do-it-yourself debt reduction plans
- Balance transfer credit cards
- Personal debt consolidation loans
- Personal line of credit (LOC)
- Home equity line of credit (HELOC)
- Debt management plans
- Debt settlement
- Consumer proposals
By the end of the call, you should be fully informed about your options for relief. You will also have a professional recommendation on which option makes the most sense based on your needs and goals.
Step 3: Customize a debt management plan
While the first two steps of the credit counselling process are for anyone in debt, this last step is not. It is only for those consumers that have the means to pay back everything they owe but need professional support to do it.
A debt management plan is a debt relief option that you can enroll in directly through a non-profit credit counselling organization. It consolidates credit card debt into one affordable repayment plan. You make one payment each month and the credit counselling organization distributes it to your creditors on an agreed upon schedule.
The credit counselling team also works with your creditors to reduce or eliminate interest charges applied to your balances. This allows you to get out of debt in sixty monthly payments or less, even though your total payments will be reduced by 30 to 50 percent, on average.
If a debt management plan is the best option to get out of debt in your circumstances, the credit counsellor will help you enroll. You will work together to find a monthly payment that works for your budget. Then the team will get to work and contact your creditors.
This part of the program requires small monthly fees. The fees are based on your total debt and budget, and financial situation.
Step 4: Receive ongoing financial counselling
The last step in the credit counselling process provides ongoing education as you work through your debt management plan. The credit counselling organization will provide free financial education resources. You can use these resources to build a budget, learn how to improve your credit, and set practical goals for saving. Financial counselling helps ensure that once you get out of debt, you can stay that way.
Consolidated Credit strives to provide free financial education resources to suit every learning style. We have educational videos and webinars, infographics, self-help publications, and an interactive financial education course.
How does credit counselling affect a consumer’s credit?
Free credit counselling has a neutral effect on a consumer’s credit report and score. During the free credit counselling session, the counsellor will ask you to authorize them to pull your credit report. This is a “soft” pull, meaning it does not create a hard inquiry on your credit report. Thus, it will not adversely affect your credit score.
If you decide to enroll in a debt management plan, it will be noted on your credit report. Accounts taken in the program will have an R7 account status, which shows that the revolving account is paid on an adjustable schedule. This notation remains for two years after you complete the program.
This may have a negative impact on your credit score. However, the penalty remains for a shorter time than other solutions, such as a consumer proposal. A consumer proposal carries the same R7 notation, but it remains for three years following discharge instead of two years after program completion.
Fees and costs compared to other debt relief solutions
As a non-profit credit counselling organization, Consolidated Credit strives to keep costs as low as possible for consumers. The initial credit counselling session is provided completely free of charge.
A debt management program has a one-time setup fee, as well as a monthly administration fee. All fees are based on a client’s total debt and budget. These fees are also regulated depending on the province or territory where you reside.
Fees for a debt management program are low considering the cost-savings that clients enjoy while in the program. Creditors agree to reduce or eliminate interest charges and stop late fees and other penalties when a client enrolls. In many cases, the interest rate is reduced to zero, meaning someone can pay off their balance interest-free.
The fees are also low compared to other solutions:
- A consumer proposal costs $1,500 just to file. Then you pay 20% of your future payments.
- Bankruptcy has a $1,800 first-time filing fee and may have additional costs if you have surplus income.
- Debt settlement companies can charge fees based on the total debt a client owes. Fees range from 1-10 percent of the original debt enrolled. These fees don’t stop creditor actions until a settlement is reached.
- A debt consolidation loan may have a loan origination fee equal to 0.5 to 8 percent of the total amount borrowed.
With any debt solution, it’s important to weigh the costs versus the cost savings. Your credit counsellor will explain the fees for your debt management program before you enroll. They can also help you see how much you’ll save with reduced interest and fees on your credit card balances.
Our goal is to be transparent about costs, as well as our services. So, if you have any questions, please ask your credit counsellor.
For-profit versus not-for-profit credit counselling services
Not all credit counselling services are not-for-profit. There are also private, for-profit companies that offer the same type of services. So, what’s the difference between the two?
For-profit credit counselling services tend to have higher fees. They may charge upfront fees for the initial credit counselling session. There may also be additional fees if you enroll in a debt management program, including:
- Application fee
- Membership fee
- Fees for each creditor
Not-for-profit credit counselling organizations exist to serve a consumer’s best interests. As such, a non-profit credit counselling service will only recommend a debt management plan if it is in the consumer’s best interest. If there is a better solution for a consumer, the counsellor will recommend it during the first counselling session.
This is not always true of for-profit companies, which are driven by generating profits.
Frequently asked questions about credit counselling
No. Credit counselling organizations do not provide debt settlement services. A debt management plan will repay the full amounts owed to a creditor at reduced interest. This is different from debt settlement, which only repays a percentage of the amount owed.
These two services should not be confused. Debt settlement costs more and has a greater negative effect on a consumer’s credit.
According to Canada.ca, “counsellors aren’t legally required to have any specialized training. However, many credit counsellors have some training.”
The Canadian government encourages consumers to ask about a counsellor’s qualifications before receiving counselling. This helps ensure you receive counselling from someone with the knowledge and training necessary to effectively assist you.
There are national and provincial credit counselling associations that require member organizations to be accredited. Part of those rigorous standards include providing a set training program for counsellors to achieve certification. Organizations within an association must adhere to these strict business and ethical standards.
This depends on your situation. If you and your spouse hold credit cards jointly, then both partners would be required to enroll together in a debt management plan. However, if you have individual accounts, then you can enroll on your own.
Some debt solutions – consumer proposals and bankruptcy – become part of a permanent public record when consumers use them. This does not happen with credit counselling.
No one will be informed that you contact a credit counselling organization. If you enroll in a debt management plan, only your creditors will know that you are enrolling because the counselling team will reach out to them to include the accounts in your program. But this information is not shared or available to the general public.
No. While the primary purpose of a debt management plan is to address challenges with high-interest rate credit card debt, you may also be able to include:
- collection accounts
- unsecured lines of credit
- unsecured personal loans
You cannot include secured debts, such as mortgages and car loans. You also cannot include student loans or arrears owed to the Canadian Revenue Agency.
No, although it is in your best interest to include all accounts. In certain, rare, circumstances you may be able to keep a credit card out of the program to cover emergencies, expenses related to your employment or ongoing medical requirements. Your counsellor will work with you to create a budget that allows you to save a modest amount to cover emergencies. This enables you to break your reliance on credit cards to cover unexpected expenses.
If you choose to keep a card out of the program, you may enroll it later.
Getting credit counselling and enrolling in a debt management plan is voluntary. A debt management plan is an informal proposal that the credit counsellor makes to your creditors on your behalf.
It is not legally binding for you or your creditors. If at any time you decide to drop out of the program, all payments made will still be applied to your balances. You will not face any penalties from Consolidated Credit. However, your creditors may restore your original interest rates and penalty fees that had been applied to your account prior to your enrollment.
Deciding if credit counselling is right for you
Credit counselling is designed for people who need help developing the best strategy to get out of debt. Often, Canadians are not aware of debt relief solutions until they need them, which can make for a steep learning curve. You may not be aware of debt management, consolidation, or consumer proposals until you are in a financial crisis.
Credit counsellors help you get up-to-speed quickly so you can make informed decisions. They can provide valuable information about each solution you may be considering and help you compare them impartially.
A debt management plan may be for you if you:
- Cannot make headway in paying off your debt on your own
- Are only able to make your minimum payments
- Spend more than 10 percent of your monthly income covering those payments
- Have poor credit or too much debt to qualify for a loan or line of credit to consolidate on your own
- Want to avoid the severe credit damage and costs of debt settlement, consumer proposals, and bankruptcy
How to avoid scams
The Government of Canada warns “consumers to be cautious when looking for a company to help them pay off their debt.”
While there are ethical organizations that legitimately help people get out of debt, there are also companies that prey on people’s desire for a quick fix for their debt problems. Make sure to take your time and thoroughly vet any credit counselling agency before you start working with them.
- Avoid guarantees that a company can solve your debt problems
- Don’t pay any upfront fees prior to receiving counselling
- Don’t work with companies that claim to be part of a government program
You also need to ask the right questions to ensure that the service that you will receive is a debt management plan. Unscrupulous debt settlement companies may try to pass their services off as credit counselling, but the two are very different. These questions can help you get a clear answer:
- Is your organization non-profit? (Debt settlement companies never are.)
- What accreditations does your company have?
- What type of training do your counsellors receive?
- How will my creditors be paid through your program?
- What effect will this have on my credit? (Debt settlement results in a six-year credit report penalty.)
If you encounter a scam or have a complaint about a debt relief service, the government recommends that you contact the consumer affairs office in your province or territory.
Consolidated Credit Canada’s record of credit counselling success
Consolidated Credit Canada has provided non-profit credit counselling services since 2007. We are a registered charitable organization.
Our organization is accredited by and a member of:
- Canadian Association of Credit Counselling Services (CACCS)
- Ontario Association of Credit Counselling Services (OACCS)
- Canadian Centre of Accreditation (CCA)
- Toronto Board of Trade
- Markham Board of Trade (MBT)
- Credit Association of Greater Toronto
Our counsellors receive extensive ongoing training and adhere to a strict code of ethics. We’re proud to maintain an A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau and are highly-rated by independent consumer review platforms.
In 14 years, we’ve provided free credit counselling and educational resources to over half a million Canadians.
Consolidated Credit has offices throughout Canada and provides our services to Canadians in every province and territory. You can click on the links below to find real examples of clients we’ve helped from different provinces, territories, and cities throughout Canada.
Work with a trained credit counsellor to find the best debt relief options for your needs.