American Consumer Credit Counseling: 2017 Review

Budgeting, Paying Off Debt, Personal Finance
american-consumer-credit-counseling-review
FeatureDescriptionACCC
AccreditationAn outside body ensures standards of practice among counselors and oversight for agencies.Accredited through the National Foundation for Credit Counseling
Online supportCounseling services and educational resources, such as a debt management plan and online webinars, are available on the ACCC website.Yes
Completion rate of debt management plansThe percentage of clients who complete the program after enrolling.59%
AvailabilityThe agency operates in all 50 states.Yes

 

American Consumer Credit CounselingAmerican Consumer Credit Counseling offers credit counseling services in all 50 states, including an array of free educational services. ACCC offers services over the phone, in person and online — but most of its free in-person seminars are available only in New England.

ACCC is a member of the National Foundation for Credit Counseling, the nation’s largest organization of nonprofit credit counseling agencies. This means counselors at ACCC receive a standard of education, and the agency is properly licensed and commits to best practices as enforced by the accrediting body.

In this review:

ACCC’s services and fees

ACCC’s access and resources

ACCC’s debt management plan

ACCC’s services and fees

Credit counseling agencies help consumers manage their finances, from budgeting help to student loan counseling and debt management plans. All NFCC members must meet a standard of educational requirements, so their fees and accessibility of services constitute the main differences among them.

Like other agencies, ACCC offers a free budgeting and intake session where you’ll spend roughly an hour with a counselor, going over everything from your housing and debt load to your financial goals. Or, if you’re looking for a specific service such as bankruptcy counseling, you can ask to focus on that.

Counseling services available at ACCC:

ServiceFee, time commitment
Access
General budgeting and advice
  • Free
  • Generally one hour
  • Over the phone
  • In person in New England
Debt management plan: A counselor creates a plan to consolidate your consumer debts and lower the interest rate, setting up one monthly payment to erase the debt over three to five years.
  • Maximum $39 startup fee. Monthly fee of $5 per account, which is capped at $35. Monthly fee waived for active military.
  • An average of 44 months to complete at ACCC.
  • Over the phone
  • In person in New England
Bankruptcy counseling: A counselor walks you through two court-mandated sessions: one before you file and one before your debts are discharged.
  • Pre-filing: $49
  • Pre-discharge: $39
  • Pre-filing session takes about one hour; pre-discharge session takes a minimum of two hours
  • Pre-file is available online and over the phone; or in person in New England
  • Pre-discharge is available online
Student loans: A counselor outlines your repayment options and may contact your issuer on your behalf for an additional fee.
  • $149 for evaluation and counseling
  • An hour or more depending on your situation
  • Over the phone
  • In person in New England
Housing counseling: Help for home buyers; people struggling with mortgage or rent payments; and homeowners considering a reverse mortgage.
  • Free to $175, depending on the service
  • Time varies by service, from a one-hour workshop to longer courses.
  • Over the phone or online in 50 states
  • In person in Massachusetts

ACCC’s access and resources

Depending on the service, ACCC provides counseling nationally over the phone or online. In-person services are available only in New England, which limits their accessibility nationally, and ACCC’s online services aren’t as extensive as those offered by other credit counseling agencies.

One standout service ACCC offers is an online course called Path to Financial Peace of Mind, where consumers can learn about managing their money.

For those in the New England area, the agency does provide a number of in-person workshops. According to the ACCC, more than 10,000 people are helped at approximately 500 workshops annually.

ACCC’s debt management plan

Debt management plans are a debt relief option to help consumers pay off unsecured debt, usually credit cards, faster and cheaper than they can on their own. It works by consolidating multiple debts into one monthly payment with a slashed interest rate.

In exchange for the interest rate cut, you agree to a monthly payment plan that fits your budget. DMPs usually take three and five years to complete. There is usually little room for slip-ups; any missed payment can terminate the plan, leaving you to pay off the remaining debt on your own without the cut on interest.

DMPs are mostly for credit card debt. Other unsecured debt, like student loans and medical bills, are covered on a case-by-case basis.

About 20% of all clients who contact ACCC enroll in a DMP, according to the company.

When to consider a DMP:

  • You are struggling to make monthly payments on debt
  • Your consumer debt is between 15% and 50% of your annual income
  • You think you can pay it off within five years
  • You don’t qualify for a debt consolidation loan

Before signing onto a DMP, know that other debt relief options might be better for your financial situation. Debt consolidation can help you bundle your debts on your own terms — and can take care of debts beyond those from credit cards. Consider bankruptcy if your consumer debt is greater than 50% of your annual income and you see no way to pay it off within five years.

On average ACCC clients have $16,000 in debt. They pay a startup fee of up to $39, which may be waived for financial need. The agency’s DMPs have a $5 monthly fee per account included, with a max of $35; this fee is waived for active military personnel. The average monthly fee is $19 at ACCC.

ACCC clients get an average interest rate of 10%, down from 22%. The agency’s DMPs are designed to be completed within 60 months, but on average ACCC clients finish the program in 44 months.

A debt management plan can save you time and money over paying off the debt on your own. Here’s an example based on the average ACCC client:

 Debt management plan
DIY debt paydown
Amount of debt
$16,000
$16,000
Interest rate
10%22%
Monthly payment
$459 ($440 to debt, $19 to monthly fee)$440
Time to pay off
42 months
60 months
CostInterest: $3,140.82
*Fees: $837
Interest: $10,607.66

*Figured at the average monthly fee of $19. Includes startup fee of $39.

This is just an example; if you choose debt management, the monthly payment and plan length will be tailored to your needs.

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