Frequently Asked Questions
We answer hundreds of questions on a daily basis about personal finances, credit, debt, and our organization. The questions we most commonly encounter are answered and found below. If you have a question you'd like answered that isn't listed here, or would like a bit more information, feel free to call us at 1-888-527-8999 or chat with us online. We'd be happy to answer any question you might have - even if you're asking for someone else.
Some of the most common reasons why people experience financial difficulty are as follows:
- Using credit for living expenses
- Unemployment / Underemployment
- No budget / Lack of financial education
- Injury / Illness
- Divorce / Separation
- High student loan debt / Education expenses
- High housing costs
There definitely are warning signs to watch out for. These warning signs can include:
- Difficulty paying bills on time
- Receiving collection calls or past due notices
- Living in your overdraft or line of credit
- Losing sleep worrying about debts
- Spending more than your income allows
- Not paying credit cards in full each month
- Impulsive spending due to financial worries
- Hiding spending or debts from your partner
- Allowing bills to stack up because you can’t pay them
- Being declined by your financial institution to consolidate your debts
- No budget or spending plan in place
- Feelings of hopelessness that you’ll never get out of debt
Generally speaking, Canadians have many options to choose from to resolve debt and financial problems, but it's good to bear in mind that the longer someone waits to deal with their situation – and the worse things get – the fewer options they’ll have as time moves on. However, the good news is that when most people see nothing but a dead-end, we specialize in helping them find options and put together a realistic plan to get back on track. Some of the options we may look at with someone can include:
- A Consolidation Loan
- A Debt Management Program
- An Orderly Payment of Debts program (in Alberta only)
- A Debt Settlement
- A Consumer Proposal
Many times, though, we’re able to help people identify ways to resolve their financial challenges without any of these programs. Often we find that just providing someone with a fresh perspective, some knowledge, new insights, an optimized budget, and an action plan enables them to tackle their financial challenges on their own without additional help.
No, talking with us is completely confidential and free of charge. No one will ever know that you spoke with the Credit Counselling Society for an information consultation.
If you believe that bankruptcy is the only option left for you, we are the right people to talk to. Between financial difficulty and bankruptcy are a lot of options that have far less severe impacts to your credit and future employment and living prospects. We specialize in helping people explore the pros and cons of all the options available. We’ll help you take an objective look at your whole financial situation, and if bankruptcy is the best option for you, we’ll refer you to a reputable trustee to help you with that.
There are many differences but one of the big ones is that we don’t pay our staff commission. This means that our staff are paid the same regardless of what option you choose to deal with your debt situation. They don’t have a financial motive compelling them to steer you in a certain direction and sign you up for a specific product or service. Instead, they can have an objective conversation with you about all your options without sugar-coating anything.
Another big difference is that all of our Counsellors are professionally trained and accredited by the AFCPE, and our organization is accredited by Credit Counselling Canada. We are also accountable to the Canada Revenue Agency as a registered charity, and we're accountable to the National Foundation for Credit Counselling. No other credit counselling or debt relief organization in Canada has submitted themselves to this level of accountability, opened themselves up to this level of transparency, or has received this level of professional accreditation.
Another huge difference is that we help around 95% of the people who contact us entirely for free. Only around 5% of the people we help choose to go onto one of our programs that requires them to pay something (however, we do reduce or waive these costs if we believe that someone can’t afford them). It would be extremely difficult for a for-profit business to stay in business if they were to help 95% of people for free. This is why we were created as a non-profit that is supported by donations from the financial community – and the reason why so many businesses, government agencies, community groups, and individuals refer so many people to us every day.
On top of all this, our demonstrated commitment to excellence is unparalleled in our industry. We win more Consumer Choice Awards every year in cities across Canada than all other organizations in our field combined. 98% of our clients surveyed last year report they would recommend our service to others (we surveyed over 20,000). On Google, Facebook, Yelp, and other websites, you’ll find over 800 reviews that also reflect our commitment to excellence and always doing what’s in the best interest of everyone we help.
While we don’t loan money, we are effectively able to accomplish the same thing for someone’s finances in a number of other ways. This may sound strange, but here’s two ways that we accomplish this:
- We have a Debt Management Program that consolidates all of your unsecured debts into one affordable monthly payment that fits your budget. You then make one payment to us, and we then disburse payments to your various creditors on your behalf. So this program ends up consolidating your payments without a loan. You can learn more about it here.
- If we sit down with you – either in person or over the phone – we’ll help you put together a realistic budget. We find out what your current financial challenges are and what your goals are for the future. We then help you structure your budget and find solutions to help you resolve the challenges and make meaningful progress toward your goals in a reasonable length of time. In the end, we help people make ends meet and accomplish their financial goals without borrowing money. This may seem hard to believe, but we do it every day. Before you get a loan, make an appointment to speak with one of our Credit Counsellors, see what you can learn, and see if they can help you put together a reasonable plan that doesn’t involve going deeper into debt.
Over 70% of our funding comes from donations from the credit granting community.
Creditors help fund our services and programs because:
- They value the impartial information, advice, and counselling consumers receive free of charge.
- They recognize and benefit from the success of our services and programs.
- They recognize that their customers, who find themselves in financial difficulty, may be more comfortable receiving advice from an objective credit counselling service.
- We educate consumers on financial literacy topics such as budgeting and the wise use of credit through workshops and webinars – often free of charge.
We can help you with any size of personal debt whether it’s $2,000, $20,000 or $200,000. The amount doesn’t matter. Helping you is what matters. There are solutions and strategies to deal with every size of debt.
There are 2 main credit bureau companies in Canada, Equifax and TransUnion, and each will send you a copy of your own report once a year for free if you request it by mail or phone. Click here for instructions on how to get a free copy of your credit report and check your credit score (these are often two separate things).
Consumer Relations: 1-877-323-2598
Touch tone request: 1-800-465-7166
Consumer Relations: 1-866-525-0262
Touch tone request: 1-800-663-9980
Having trouble with your debts?
We can help. Give us a call at 1-888-527-8999 or send us a quick note to call you back and we'll be in touch to answer any questions you may have about debt. We'll help you find a solution that works best for you.