Get help immediately
If you have asked the credit card companies to lower the rates, and you have tried to transfer the balances to lower-rate cards, and you were unsuccessful or are still unable to make the payments, then it's time to get some professional help. You can contact the National Foundation for Credit Counseling (NFCC) (800-388-2227) or the Association of Independent Consumer Credit Counseling Agencies (800-450-1794). These organizations often persuade lenders to eliminate late fees, extend payment terms or cut interest rates, and they can hook you up with other agencies in your area. One of the best known is Consumer Credit Counseling Services (CCCS) which has offices all over the country, and offers excellent, reliable services in the areas of budget counseling, educational programs, debt management and assistance, as well as housing counseling.
It's important to know that these agencies are primarily funded by credit card companies, so it's in their best interest (and not necessarily yours) to have clients devote as much money as possible to their credit card bills. Don't expect them to advocate bankruptcy, but they're still basically on your side. They will help you renegotiate your debts so that you can avoid bankruptcy and better afford your payments. If your situation prevents them from helping, then bankruptcy may be your only solution.
The fees for these agencies can vary a lot. NFCC agencies generally charge a $75 set-up fee and $10 to $25 a month for their debt-management programs in which you hand over a lump sum every month and they distribute the funds to your creditors.
If the potential conflict of interest bothers you, but the fees don't, consider a credit-counseling agency that isn't subsidized by lenders. However, you want to be very careful in choosing an agency, as many you may see advertised can charge huge fees and deliver minimal results. Once agency that we do recommend is MyVesta (previously Debt Counselors of America) (800-698-3782). They can negotiate with creditors, help you create a budget, and provide financial advice. They also offer a great website with a live chat room open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. that is staffed with debt counselors who can answer questions and dispense advice. Their fees may be higher than CCCS, depending on the program that you select, so again consider carefully your final choice. You should have them outine a plan, explain in detail the various options and the costs, and ask them to refer some current clients so that you can interview them.
If these services prove to be inadequate, or are unavailable, please contact us and we will try to help you. Understand that we will first ask you to complete all of the steps outlined previously in this section. In the future, you will be able to use our online tools to build and monitor your debt elimination plan, and to speak with one of our advisors concerning your specific situation.