Credit counselor gives advice in tough economy

Lawton_A recent report says that now is a very bad time to owe credit card companies, and most of them are hoping the cardholders will help get them out of debt.  The report says credit card interest rates are rising as a result.  For example, Chase has tacked on a $10 monthly fee to cardholders who have carried a high balance for several months.  So, how do you clime out of debt without ruining your credit in the process?

Consumer Credit Counselor Kristi Chavez says to stay away from debt settlement agencies that can take a long time to work while they take your money and leave you in debt.  She says she gets calls every day from folks who have problems with their credit.  "I spoke with a lady today that was going on a year trying to get into debt settlement agency, and the agency was taking the money for themselves," she said.

Chavez says that instead of using debt agencies, consumers should use established counselors who will get them on a debt management plan.  A debt management plan could reduce monthly payments.  She says cutting up credit cards and watching spending at the grocery store also will help.  "The hardest thing is credit cards are so very convenient to use," she said.

She says she teaches people how to spend differently.  "It could simply be not knowing how to budget or manage," she said.  Chavez says knowledge is power, and advices folks to check their credit scores every four months.  She says she also advises clients who have dug their way out of deep debt to wait at least seven years before making a major purchase such as a car.