Digging out of debt: How to find trustworthy credit counseling help

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As those holiday bills start coming in you may find yourself overwhelmed. Now is the perfect time to tackle your debt and develop a plan to pay it off.

And you don’t have to go it alone. In fact, getting free and low cost help can reduce your stress and overall payments, saving you money and headaches in the long run.

We looked into ways to find effective and dependable counseling in this 7 News Consumer Watch.

The average credit card debt per household is more than $16,000 according to a recent Nerd Wallet study.

Add student loans, and that number soars.

A few years back, Kayla Hutley in Greenville was far behind on several student loans until she sought the help of a Credit Union.

“It was just really stressful and overwhelming,” said Hutley.

“We can helped them, and give them one loan and one payment and consolidate all those loans into one loan and one payment at a lower interest rate,” said Coy Stone, a Branch Manager with SC Telco Federal Credit Union in Greenville.

SC Telco Federal Credit Union offers free online help to everyone on creating a budget and managing debt. But it also offers in-person counseling to members.

Another non-profit, Clearpoint, can create a debt management plan for a minimal monthly cost, and ask your creditors to waive fees and lower rates.

“We usually lower interest rates by about half with their creditors and total monthly payments by about 20%. And it also results in a consolidated payment. So think of it much like a consolidated loan, only there is no credit check, there is no new loan being established,” said Thomas Nitzsche with Clearpoint.

To be safe, stay away from companies that only offer debt reduction. Instead, seek out overall credit counseling including help with a budget, from a non-profit.

The National Foundation for Credit Counseling and The Association of Independent Consumer Credit Counseling Agencies can both help you find trustworthy non-profits near you.

Hutley has already paid down $30,000 in loans in four years.

“It was awesome, it was a blessing, it was a blessing to have that counseling,” she said.

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