A: I get this question so very often. If there is nothing else we have learned from the recession it’s that far too many people got into far too much credit card debt. The good news is many of these people, like you, are desperate to get out of debt. The bad news is many people want an easy way out.
What you really need is not consolidation, but a debt repayment plan. I’m assuming that’s what you mean. Because consolidating the debt with one lender, as opposed to several credit card companies, often just grows the debt. Yes, you may have lower monthly payments, but the price for that convenience of writing one lower check is spending more years digging your way out of debt.
So, you are right. Look for a legitimate nonprofit credit counseling agency. The key word is nonprofit. A good nonprofit agency will assess the amount of debt you have and, if possible, put you in a debt management plan. Again, if possible, they can help negotiate with your credit card companies to cut interest rates or lower fees or eliminate certain penalties or all of the aforementioned. You will then write one check, send it to the agency, and they will distribute the money to your various creditors. Typically, such a plan takes three to five years, depending on how much debt you have.
So, where do you find the nonprofit? Go to the Web site of the National Foundation for Credit Counseling.