Many people wind up in the financial trouble because of credit card debt that has built up over time and gotten out of hand before they realized how bad it really was. When this happens, one option that you have is called consumer credit counseling. I have gotten a ton of emails from newsletter subscribers about how to use consumer credit counseling services. Why? Well, many people have looked into using consumer credit counseling services to help reduce debt, repair credit etc. when they feel they can't take care of it on their own or that it will create the structure and 'willpower' they need.

Many consumer credit counseling services are total scams. BUT, there are some great consumer credit counseling services available if you know where to look. One of the advantages of consumer credit counseling is that it can actually reduce your debt by negotiating for you with each credit card company, reducing the interest you owe in most cases (as well as any penalties and late fees if you've fallen behind on payments).

I HIGHLY recommend that you do look into credit and debt counseling if you have several thousand dollars in credit card debt and simply can't do anything more than the minimum payments on them each month, BUT you must contact several places first. NEVER give your social security to any of them until you choose one organization to work with.

Get all promises and claims in writing. Do not pay any upfront fees until you contact several organizations and have compared their services and made a final decision.

Research MANY different consumer credit counseling services on the Internet and select three or four that you'd like to investigate further, and then contact each one by phone so that you can ask them some questions. Before doing this, check out their websites and make sure each one has an address (a physical location, not just a post office box) in the United States so that you know they are operating within U.S. borders. Next, call each one and explain that you are considering consumer credit counseling and would like a brief idea of how their program works.

Some questions to ask include:

1. How long have you been doing this, and what types of credit card companies do you have agreements with?

2. Are you a for-profit or non-profit organization? If you are for-profit, how much will you charge?

3. How often will I get a statement showing the status of my debt?

4. How much will my interest go down on most of my cards, and when will I know what you've negotiated for me with each creditor?

5. What happens if I can't pay at some point?

6. What happens if you forget to make a payment to a creditor or mis-credit my money?

Ask these questions of each consumer credit counseling service and compare the answers. Also take into consideration the quality of each company's customer service personnel. Shopping around will help you choose the service that is right for you.

In my opinion, the best consumer credit counseling services are listed as non profit.

You should also check the home with the attorney general of the home state of each consumer credit counseling service to see if any complaints have been filed against it. The Better Business Bureau in your state will also have any complaints on file.