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Millions of Americans face significant financial disruption as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, whether it’s hours lost at work or being completely punish.

If you do not have sufficient savings Set aside to get through these next few months, the best next step is to understand your options to try and keep your financial obligations on track.

To help you out, the National Foundation for Credit Counseling (NFCC) now offers a portal for people to call and receive free credit counseling from a nonprofit organization. credit counseling.

Counselors are ready to help people make emergency credit card and student loan payments, as well as discuss options for foreclosure prevention.

“Most credit counseling agencies are known for their long-term solutions – that’s not it,” said Bruce McClary, spokesperson for the NFCC. CNBC Select. Instead, the new NFCC portal is designed to give people “some breathing room” with their budgets while we wait for the uncertainty to pass.

Below, we break down exactly what you need to know to access the NFCC’s new free credit counseling portal.

Who is this free credit counseling service for?

There are a few types of people who could benefit from the NFCC’s free credit counseling service.

You should take this into account if any of the following circumstances apply to you:

  • You manage multiple credit accounts and you don’t know what to do.
  • You were in good standing before the coronavirus pandemic and want to benefit from a short-term payment relief plan.
  • You are uncomfortable asking your creditor or lender for help, or you may not know what questions to ask and need advice.

McClary says the new service will help people know their relief options and be better prepared if they have to follow up on a phone call to their creditor.

He also adds that the type of people the NFCC seeks to reach with this service are those who would not normally contact a nonprofit credit counseling agency. “When they think of nonprofit credit counseling agencies, they think of debt management plans that are longer term,” he says.

While this may be the case under normal conditions, this service is specifically intended to discuss short-term solutions for those financially declining from the pandemic.

What Will Credit Counselors Tell You About?

NFCC advisers will walk you through the short-term relief programs that are available during this time.

Callers will be informed of payment deferral programs offered by their specific creditors, where these programs are available and how to activate them.

“In some cases, there is even direct help to activate these programs,” says McClary. If they can’t get you started on a relief program on their own, NFCC counselors prepare you to make phone calls to your specific creditors. The advisers will provide you with step-by-step instructions on how you can then begin activating certain relief programs.

For example, if you have a card from Amex EveryDay® Credit Card or the Freedom Hunt®, you might be interested in learning how you can have your temporarily canceled credit card interest or your increased line of credit.

Callers can also receive help on how to prepare an emergency budget, “and all the things you might need help sorting out your financial priorities,” says McClary.

How to access this free advice?

You can access the NFCC’s free credit counseling service either through their website or by calling 800-388-2227.

Note that the NFCC Coronavirus Support webpage does not specifically call for Student Loan Help, but McClary advises asking the advisor with your student loan questions once logged in and they should be able to help you. to help.

Will there be a long wait time to speak to a counselor?

Unlike the long wait times you may have experienced when trying to call your credit card company or lender, McClary assures you that the wait time to speak to a credit counselor will not be that long.

“We are able to manage the capacity of the volume of calls and counseling sessions – and we are prepared to increase that capacity as demand increases,” he says.

How long will the counseling session last?

A phone call with an NFCC credit counselor typically takes about an hour for most people. McClary notes, however, that some cases can be more complex and take longer.

Because a counseling session involves explaining your situation, budget, and financial obligations to your counselor, it’s best to set aside at least a good hour of your time when you call. This way, you will be able to talk about any temporary relief programs you might be eligible for and ask all your questions.

How to prepare for a free session with a credit counseling?

Before making a call to NFCC, you should be prepared to talk about your overall financial situation and have the following information available:

  • Have a list of all your monthly household expenses (a budget is good) and your debts (think credit cards, auto loans, student loans, mortgages, to rent and utilities). It can also include debts to family or friends.
  • Know the amount of your income or, if you don’t have any, how much savings you have set aside to get through this period.
  • Get ready to talk about any steps you could take to restart your sources of income, such as applying for unemployment or finding a part-time job.

“If you have all of these details, you can go through that part of the conversation,” McClary says. “And that also helps you make the most of that time, because then you can spend more of it talking about solutions.”

The Amex EveryDay® and Chase Freedom® credit card information was independently collected by CNBC and was not reviewed or provided by the card issuer prior to posting.

Editorial note: Any opinions, analysis, criticism or recommendations expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the editorial staff of Select and have not been reviewed, endorsed or otherwise approved by any third party.

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