Will working with a credit counseling service hurt my credit?

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Question:

I am attempting to follow the steps to credit repair described on your website. But how will working with the Consumer Credit Counseling Agency affect my credit report in the future? I have heard that a negative mark -- a hidden code seven -- will be added to my credit report. Also, is it worthwhile to use the online services that offer to consolidate your credit report from all three credit bureaus?

Answer:

A brush with bad credit will not always leave a mark on that Permanent Record we all fear will follow us about through life. Some creditors report those who are using a debt counseling agency; others do not find the information reportable.

In general, however, creditors are simply regular human beings -- who, by happenstance, happen to hold your unpaid bills in their hands. As humans, most of these creditor types like to see others doing something to repay their bills, rather than defaulting or filing for bankruptcy. So making use of a counseling agency probably will not hurt you -- especially if you manage to repay your debts. Most will applaud you for rising up out of the flames like a phoenix, rather then just sitting around, allowing yourself to become roasted.

Since you asked, you're probably best off shying away from the online services that offer to consolidate your credit reports. They usually charge more than you would pay to get your reports yourself -- a special insult when you are feeling tapped out in the wallet.

To get an annual free copy of each credit report, go to www.annualcreditreport.com or call 877-322-8228. To learn more about getting your credit report, see Nolo's article Credit Report Basics.

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