This article was is reproduced from Filing for Bankruptcy: What to Know on the website of the Federal Trade Commission.
Choosing a Credit Counselor
If you’re looking for credit counseling to fulfill the bankruptcy law requirements, make sure you receive services only from approved providers for your judicial district. Check the list of approved credit counseling providers online or at the bankruptcy clerk’s office for the district where you will file. Once you have the list of approved organizations, call several to gather information before you pick one.
Some key questions to ask are:
- What services do you offer?
- Will you help me develop a plan for avoiding problems in the future?
- What are your fees?
- What if I can’t afford your fees?
- What qualifications do your counselors have? Are they accredited or certified by an outside organization? What training do they receive?
- How do you keep information about me (including my address, phone number, and financial information) confidential and secure?
- How are your employees paid? Are they paid more if I sign up for certain services, if I pay a fee, or if I make a contribution to your organization?
A pre-bankruptcy counseling session with an approved credit counseling organization should include an evaluation of your personal financial situation, a discussion of alternatives to bankruptcy, and a personal budget plan. A typical counseling session should last about 60 to 90 minutes, and can take place in person, on the phone, or online. The counseling organization is required to provide the counseling for free for people who can’t afford to pay. If you can’t afford to pay a fee for credit counseling, ask for a fee waiver from the counseling organization before the session begins. Otherwise, you may be charged a fee for the counseling. It will generally is about $50, depending on where you live, and the types of services you receive, among other factors. The counseling organization must discuss any fees with you before you start the counseling session.
Once you complete the required counseling, you must get a certificate as proof. Check the U.S. Trustee’s website to be sure that you receive the certificate from a counseling organization that is approved in the judicial district where you are filing bankruptcy. Credit counseling organizations may not charge an extra fee for the certificate.