CREDIT COUNSELLING IN CANADA
Credit counselling agencies provide a range of services to help consumers who are having difficulties managing their money and handling their debts. Some agencies specifically focus on helping people repay their debts, while others also offer credit counselling and financial education to teach people how to manage their money and credit wisely.
How do I know if a credit counsellor is properly certified?
The terms “credit counsellor,” “debt management consultant,” and others are relatively generic – in some provinces, virtually anyone can use these titles. However, reputable agencies are affiliated with a national or provincial professional association, such as the Canadian Association of Insolvency and Restructuring Professionals or Credit Counselling Canada. When meeting with counsellors/consultants, check their qualifications and memberships in professional bodies.
While most credit counselling organizations are reputable organizations staffed by educated individuals, credit counsellors are not required by law to have any training. Choose a recognized agency whenever possible and always ask the credit counselling agency about its staff’s qualifications, including education, specialized training, and years of experience.
Is there a benefit to using a non-profit credit counselling agency?
Some credit counselling agencies or debt management organizations are non-profit while others are for-profit. This simply represents a difference in the legal structure of the business and how profits are handled. It is important to know that, just because an organization is not-for-profit, does not mean it provides free services.
Every agency, regardless of whether it is for-profit, non-profit, or a Trustee in Bankruptcy firm, charges different fees. These may include application fees, set-up fees, retainers, membership fees, and maintenance fees. Always ask exactly what you will pay before signing a contract.
What does credit counselling cost?
For-profit and most non-profit credit counselling agencies will ask their clients to pay an initial set-up cost and a monthly maintenance fee for debt management programs. These fees can vary greatly between credit counselling agencies. Some may have additional charges, including an application fee, a membership fee, a large up-front fee, or a fee for each creditor.
Some credit counselling agencies will ask you to pay a “fair share” fee of about 10% in addition to the money they are distributing to your creditors. Big creditors (like banks and credit card companies) pay the agency a rebate of about 22% of the money they receive. This fee is often not disclosed and there are no regulations governing how much credit counselling agencies get paid.
It is important to shop around and find out what fees you will be required to pay before entering into a contract. Private credit counsellors will often ask you for an up-front fee, usually between $500 and $1,500. After their initial assessment, they can charge you additional money for services, or may refer you to a Trustee. There are no regulations governing the operations of private agencies or how much they get paid.
Does BDO offer credit counselling services in Hamilton?
As part of the consumer proposal or bankruptcy filing process, our Hamilton office provides two credit counselling sessions. Anyone who files a consumer proposal or files for bankruptcy can also take advantage of many complimentary services and additional credit counselling offered by our New Beginnings program.
Credit counselling checklist
Before you use any credit counselling services from an agency, it is a good idea to do some research:
- Will it provide a proposal in writing as to how they will help you?
- What services does the credit counselling agency provide
- What are the agency’s qualifications and is it properly licensed?
- What are the qualifications of the credit counsellors?
- What are the fees and charges? Will fees be reduced or waived if you cannot afford to pay them?
- Does it provide you with monthly statements of payments?
- What type of support does it give to help you learn better money management?
- Does it belong to the Better Business Bureau (BBB)?
- Is the agency accredited by Credit Counselling Canada or a provincial association?
Ask for a consultation so you can see if there is a good fit. Any reputable credit counselling service will not charge for this. BDO often refers people to credit counsellors across Canada, including Hamilton. If you would like the name of an individual or organization, please contact us.