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Credit counselling

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 financial education to help them learn how to use 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 and/or provincial professional association, such as the Canadian Association of Insolvency and Restructuring Professionals or Credit Counselling Canada. When meeting with counsellors or consultants, check their qualifications and memberships in professional bodies.

While most 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 agency about its staff members’ 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 or not-for-profit, while others are for-profit. This simply represents a difference in the legal structure of the business and how profits are handled. Just because an organization is non-profit or not-for-profit, it does not mean it provides free services.

Every agency 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  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 charge additional fees for application or membership, a large upfront fee or a fee for dealing with each creditor.

Some agencies will ask you to pay a “fair share” fee of about 10% in addition to the money they are distributing to your creditors. Furthermore, the big creditors (like banks and credit card companies) pay the agency a rebate of about 22% of the money they receive. This fee is frequently 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 for an upfront fee – usually between $500 and $1,500. After their initial assessment, they can charge you additional money for services, or refer you to a Trustee. There are no regulations governing the operations of private agencies.

Does BDO offer credit counselling services?

As part of the consumer proposal or bankruptcy filing process, BDO provides two sessions. For those who do not need to file a consumer proposal or file for bankruptcy, but simply need some extra help with budgeting and money management, BDO can refer you to our trusted partner organizations who offer these services.

Credit counselling checklist

Before you use their services, it is a good idea to ask them some questions:

  • Will they 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 are they 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?
  • Do they provide you with monthly statements of payments?
  • What type of support do they give to help you learn better money management?
  • Do they belong to the Better Business Bureau?
  • Is the agency accredited by Credit Counselling Canada or a provincial association?

 

Ask for a consultation to see if there is a good fit - and decide if the agency is right for you. Any reputable agency will not charge for this. BDO often refers people to credit counsellors across Canada. If you would like the name of an individual or organization, please contact us.

 

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