Select the right credit counseling agency by learning the difference between reputable credit counseling agencies and those that do not always act in consumers' best interests.
Looking for credit counseling agencies that are members of the National Foundation for Credit Counseling (NFCC) is one way to ensure that you are selecting the right credit counseling partner. All members can be identified by the NFCC member seal-given only to agencies that meet a series of high quality and ethical standards.
NFCC requires all agencies to be:
- 501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations
- Individually accredited by the Council on Accreditation for Family and Children Services (COA)
- Compliant with the NFCC's stringent quality credit counseling standards
- Audited every year by an independent certified public accountant (CPA)
- Governed by an independent and community-based board of directors
Founded in 1951, the NFCC is the nation's oldest and largest nonprofit credit counseling organization with more than 110 member agencies and nearly 1,000 offices nationwide. The NFCC sets the national standard for quality credit counseling, debt reduction services, bankruptcy counseling and education, and financial literacy training. For more than five decades, NFCC has played a vital role in providing financial counseling and education to help consumers address important personal financial management problems.
Value of COA Accreditation
The Council on Accreditation for Family and Children Services (COA) is an independent, third-party, not-for-profit, accrediting organization that reviews more than 1,500 social service programs to ensure compliance with industry standards. Before applying for COA accreditation, a credit counseling agency must first demonstrate that it:
- Holds all applicable licenses required by the states and localities in which it operates
- Has been providing services for at least one year
NFCC Certified Credit Counselors
The NFCC operates its own highly-regarded Counselor Certification Program. Each counselor at an NFCC member agency must pass a six-part exam within one year of hire to ensure they have both the knowledge and skills to provide quality personal assistance to individuals struggling with financial challenges. Counselors must be recertified every two years. CCCS of Buffalo, Inc. follows these proce-dures to assure all counselors are NFCC certified.
Standard-Setter for Quality Credit Counseling
In addition to the COA accreditation standards and NFCC Counselor Certification Program, the NFCC also holds its members to stringent Member Quality Standards that address how agencies conduct business and provide counseling services. In general, the standards:
- Prescribe how credit counselors are trained and certified
- Establish guidelines for the types of money management and financial literacy programs that must be offered
- Outline the process that should be used during counseling sessions
- Define when debt management plans (DMPs) can be offered to consumers
- Require member agencies to disclose their funding sources to consumers
- Require member agencies to have an annual financial audit
- Set guidelines on fees that can be charged to consumers
- Require that agencies provide services for free if a consumer cannot afford to pay for them