Frequently Asked Questions

General 

Who is CredAbility?

CredAbility is a national nonprofit agency founded in 1964. CredAbility is headquarters for the CredAbility Network, a network of agencies with offices located throughout north Georgia, south Florida, middle Mississippi and east Tennessee. In addition, we serve clients in all 50 states via Internet and telephone.

Our mission is to help financially distressed people move from crisis to control by providing compassionate service and innovative and practical solutions. We see ourselves as a financial emergency room, creating hope and inspiring lasting change. CredAbility provides confidential budget counseling, comprehensive housing counseling, preventive money management education programs and debt management to consumers across the nation and from all walks of life. All our services are available in English and Spanish and, through a contracted arrangement for translation services with Language Line Services, in more than 170 other languages.

CredAbility is accredited by the Council on Accreditation and is a member of the Better Business Bureau and the National Foundation for Credit Counseling (NFCC). Governed by a community-based Board of Directors, CredAbility is funded by creditors, clients, individual contributors and grants from corporations, foundations and government agencies.

What can CredAbility do for me?

We can:
Empower you with knowledge that can help you build a brighter financial future. Please visit our home page at www.CredAbility.org for more information.

We can't:
  • Repair your credit. You are the only person who can take steps to improve your credit.
  • Settle your debts for pennies on the dollar.

How do I know if my situation warrants getting CredAbility involved?

If you are reading this, you are concerned about your finances. We understand and we can help. Call us at 800.251.2227 to schedule a free budget counseling session. The counseling session should help you decide how much assistance you need.

How do I schedule an appointment to speak with a counselor?

To schedule an appointment with a counselor, please call us now to speak with one of our representatives at 800.251.2227. Counseling appointments are available seven days a week. Please note appointment times may vary due to counseling type and availability.

What does a CredAbility counseling session involve?

It is simple. Call 800.251.2227 any day of the week and schedule a free telephone or in-person counseling session. Or you can check in with our online counseling service at CredAbility.org. We can get you started today. CredAbility will review your finances, income, monthly expenses and debts. Then we will help you create a plan to achieve your financial goals.

Can CredAbility fix my credit report or clean it up?
No, only you can fix your credit report. If negative comments on your credit report are correct, they can remain in your file for up to seven years from the date of the last activity. Bankruptcy, though, can remain for up to 10 years. Avoid organizations that offer "credit repair." After completing your Debt Management Plan, we suggest that you get a copy of your credit report to ensure it is accurate. Under Federal Law you can receive one free credit report every 12 months from each of the nationwide comsumer credit reporting companies — Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. Visit www.annualcreditreport.com for more information. In addition to those who are eligible for a free credit report through the Annual Credit Report Request Service, people in CO, GA, ME, MD, MA, NJ and VT are eligible for a free credit report under state law.

For your convenience, CredAbility has credit report request forms available at all branch offices, or by calling us. CredAbility Client Services representatives are available M-F 7 a.m. - 11 p.m.; Sat. 8 a.m.-8 p.m.

If you believe there are errors in your credit report, notify the credit bureau in writing. The bureau will follow up your request with the creditor. If the creditor agrees with your assessment, your report will be changed.
How is CredAbility funded?
CredAbility has diversified income sources including service fees, grants and community contributions from a wide variety of funders. In 2007, bankruptcy counseling and education fees accounted for 39% of our agency's revenue. Grants from foundations, corporations and government agencies, service contracts and community contributions made up 20% of the agency's funding sources. Other sources of income include donated services and investment income, as well as client and creditor contribution in partnership with Debt Management Plans. Grants and donation allowed us to provide free services to more than 125,000 consumers in 2007. To learn more, see our current contributors list.
Will my credit rating be protected by using CredAbility?

Calling us for a free counseling session will not affect your credit score or credit report. Even if you enter a CredAbility Debt Management Plan (DMP), we do not report your participation to credit bureaus. However, each creditor deals with CredAbility clients differently. Some may report that your account is included on a DMP. Some creditors may report your account as current when they receive our proposal, while others wait until they have received three consecutive payments through CredAbility. They appreciate that you are honoring your debts rather than filing bankruptcy.

After seeing a consistent payment history on your account, creditors may identify you as a better credit risk. Other creditors, however, will consider your account delinquent and will continue to report these delinquencies even though you are working with us. They will accept payments and stop calling you, but they may still report negative information to credit bureaus. It is up to the individual creditor to make changes in the History of Payment column on your credit report.

CredAbility cannot remove information from your credit report, but we can assist you in contacting creditors for a review of your account.

Why did you change your name?

In 2010, we changed our name from CCCS to CredAbility. We did this to help people avoid confusing us with other organizations with similar-sounding names—and find our services more easily.

Our new name, CredAbility, makes it easier for people everywhere to identify us and find the help they need. But our name is the only thing we changed. We will continue to provide the same dedicated service we have been known for since 1964.

Bankruptcy 

What is the cost of the bankruptcy pre-filing and debtor education sessions?

Our bankruptcy counseling fees vary by State and by delivery method and range between $20 and $50 per two person household.

How do I find a good bankruptcy attorney?

We provide a Bankruptcy Services Referral Program for clients filing in Georgia, Florida, Tennessee or Mississippi. We refer attorneys with whom we have established referral relationships. Clients who live in other states can call their State Bar for attorney referrals.

Can my spouse and I complete the bankruptcy requirements together?

You and your spouse can complete the credit counseling session together.

How long does it take to complete the sessions?

If you come prepared, telephone sessions for credit counseling generally take anywhere from 30-45 minutes. Internet sessions are self-paced.

How do I pay for this?

You can pay for your session via a draft to your bank account, a charge to your debit card or by a Western Union Quick Collect payment.

What are the guidelines to apply for a fee waiver?

To be considered for a fee waiver, you must meet the following requirements. Either you receive income from social security disability, you are receiving pro bono services from an attorney—or your total household income is less than or equal to 100% of the Federal Poverty level guidelines.

How will I receive my certificate?

Your certificate will be delivered to the email address you provide in your session and/or to your home address. If an attorney provides you with a four-digit firm code and you include it in your session, they will also receive a copy of the certificate. If you did not provide us with an email address, we will mail you the certificate.

Is there an expiration date for my certificate?

Credit counseling certificates expire after 180 days. Debtor education certificates do not expire.

Does "per household" refer only to spouses in the same household?

No. "Per household" refers to any two adults residing in a household.

Should I file a chapter 7 or chapter 13?

You should seek the advice of your attorney to determine if you should file chapter 7 or 13.

Budget and Credit Counseling 

How much does Budget and Credit Counseling cost?

There is no charge for budget counseling. If you choose to enter a Debt Management Plan (DMP), you will be charged a monthly fee and/or file set-up fee, depending on your state of residence. Debt repayment plans serve the dual role of helping you repay your debts and helping creditors receive the money owed them.

Can CredAbility fix my credit report or clean it up?

No, only you can fix your credit report. If negative comments on your credit report are correct, they can remain in your file for up to seven years from the date of the last activity. Bankruptcy, though, can remain for up to 10 years. Avoid organizations that offer "credit repair."

Under Federal Law you can receive one free credit report every 12 months from each of the nationwide consumer credit reporting companies — Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. Visit www.annualcreditreport.com for more information. In addition to those who are eligible for a free credit report through the Annual Credit Report Request Service, people in CO, GA, ME, MD, MA, NJ and VT are eligible for a free credit report under state law.

For your convenience, CredAbility has credit report request forms available at all branch offices, or by calling us. CredAbility Client Services representatives are available online 24/7.

If you believe there are errors in your credit report, notify the credit bureau in writing. The bureau will follow up your request with the creditor. If the creditor agrees with your assessment, your report will be changed.

Will working with CredAbility affect my credit?

Calling us for a free counseling session will not affect your credit score or credit report. Even if you enter a CredAbility Debt Management Plan (DMP), we do not report your participation to credit bureaus. However, each creditor deals with CredAbility clients differently. Some may report that your account is included on a DMP. Some creditors may report your account as current when they receive our proposal, while others wait until they have received three consecutive payments through CredAbility. They appreciate that you are honoring your debts rather than filing bankruptcy.

After seeing a consistent payment history on your account, creditors may identify you as a better credit risk. Other creditors, however, will consider your account delinquent and will continue to report these delinquencies even though you are working with us. They will accept payments and stop calling you, but they may still report negative information to credit bureaus. It is up to the individual creditor to make changes in the History of Payment column on your credit report.

CredAbility cannot remove information from your credit report, but we can assist you in contacting creditors for a review of your account. 

Will my credit rating be protected by using CredAbility?

Calling us for a free counseling session will not affect your credit score or credit report. Even if you enter a CredAbility Debt Management Plan (DMP), we do not report your participation to credit bureaus. However, each creditor deals with CredAbility clients differently. Some may report that your account is included on a DMP. Some creditors may report your account as current when they receive our proposal, while others wait until they have received three consecutive payments through CredAbility. They appreciate that you are honoring your debts rather than filing bankruptcy.

After seeing a consistent payment history on your account, creditors may identify you as a better credit risk. Other creditors, however, will consider your account delinquent and will continue to report these delinquencies even though you are working with us. They will accept payments and stop calling you, but they may still report negative information to credit bureaus. It is up to the individual creditor to make changes in the History of Payment column on your credit report.

CredAbility cannot remove information from your credit report, but we can assist you in contacting creditors for a review of your account.

Debt Management 

Will CredAbility stop the annoying phone calls from collectors?

Yes. In most cases, creditors will stop calling after you enter a debt management plan with CredAbility.

Will my creditors still contact me?

Once creditors begin to receive regular payments through CredAbility, they should stop calling you. If they continue to call after you are enrolled in the DMP, do not refuse to talk to them. Instead, encourage them to contact us at 404.527.7630. Some creditor representatives may tell you that they do not accept CredAbility payments or that they have never heard of us. Do not be intimidated. We can verify whether a creditor does or does not accept our plan. Most creditors will work with us; some will accept payments from us, but will not confirm an accepted proposal. Call us for confirmation. You may continue to receive routine collection letters from your creditors during your first three months on a DMP. Do not worry. Most of these letters are computer generated. However, if you get letters concerning legal action or the transfer of your account from one creditor to another, contact us. We can help you verify that your payments are posted correctly.

If I am working with CredAbility, will my creditors stop finance charges on my accounts?

Many creditors agree to stop or reduce finance charges, but not all. Also, creditors who agree to stop or reduce finance charges or late fees may resume the charges if you miss payments. If your CredAbility due date does not coincide with your creditors due dates, then contact the creditors and request a change in due date. Some creditors will do so only at the request of the client.

How much does a Debt Management Plan (DMP) cost?

There is no charge for budget counseling. If you choose to enter a DMP, you will be charged a monthly fee and/or file set-up fee depending on your state of residence. Debt repayment plans serve the dual role of helping you repay your debts and helping creditors receive the money owed them.

Will working with CredAbility affect my credit?

Calling us for a free counseling session will not affect your credit score or credit report. Even if you enter a CredAbility Debt Management Plan (DMP), we do not report your participation to credit bureaus. However, each creditor deals with CredAbility clients differently. Some may report that your account is included on a DMP. Some creditors may report your account as current when they receive our proposal, while others wait until they have received three consecutive payments through CredAbility. They appreciate that you are honoring your debts rather than filing bankruptcy.

After seeing a consistent payment history on your account, creditors may identify you as a better credit risk. Other creditors, however, will consider your account delinquent and will continue to report these delinquencies even though you are working with us. They will accept payments and stop calling you, but they may still report negative information to credit bureaus. It is up to the individual creditor to make changes in the History of Payment column on your credit report.

CredAbility cannot remove information from your credit report, but we can assist you in contacting creditors for a review of your account.

Will CredAbility stop the annoying phone calls from collectors?

Yes. In most cases, creditors will stop making telephone calls after a consumer enters a debt repayment plan with CredAbility.

Will CredAbility contact my creditors in the Debt Management Plan?

CredAbility sends a proposal letter to each of your creditors after you have entered the plan, submitted all of the documents requested by your counselor, and made your first payment to us. This letter advises each creditor that you have sought debt repayment assistance through CredAbility and requests the creditor's support. The proposal letter will identify the following for each creditor:

  • Your account number
  • Your total debt owed
  • Your net income
  • Your living expenses
  • The names of creditors in your plan
  • The amount owed to each creditor in your plan
  • Your proposed repayment amount for each creditor
  • The date the creditor may expect a payment
  • The reason for your plan

Why must all of my creditors be included in my Debt Management Plan (DMP)?

Creditors work with CredAbility because they know they will be treated fairly and equitably. In most cases, all unsecured debts that you owe must be included in the Debt Management Plan.

What if a creditor does not accept the plan?

In the event that one of your creditors is unwilling to accept the proposed payment, our DMP Services Department will contact you to see if you can adjust your budget to meet the creditor's requirements.

Will my creditors still contact me?

Once creditors begin to receive regular payments through CredAbility, they should stop calling you. If they continue to call after you are enrolled in the Debt Managment Plan (DMP), do not refuse to talk to them. Instead, encourage them to contact us at 404.527.7630. Some creditor representatives may tell you that they do not accept CredAbility payments or that they have never heard of us. Do not be intimidated. We can verify whether a creditor does or does not accept our plan. Most creditors will work with us; some will accept payments from us, but will not confirm an accepted proposal. Call us for confirmation. You may continue to receive routine collection letters from your creditors during your first three months on a DMP. Do not worry. Most of these letters are computer generated. However, if you get letters concerning legal action or the transfer of your account from one creditor to another, contact us. We can help you verify that your payments are posted correctly.

Will my creditors stop finance charges on my accounts now that I am working with CredAbility?

Many creditors agree to stop or reduce finance charges, but not all. Also, creditors who agree to stop or reduce finance charges or late fees may resume the charges if you miss payments. If your CredAbility due date does not coincide with your creditors due dates, then contact the creditors and request a change in due date. Some creditors will do so only at the request of the client.

Will creditors help me re-establish credit?

An increasing number of creditors have indicated that they may consider granting credit to CredAbility graduates who have successfully completed their Debt Management Plans. After completing your plan, ask us for names of creditors who may be willing to help you re-establish your credit.

Will I receive a record of my payments to CredAbility?

Each month you will receive a CredAbility statement showing your payments to us, payments we have issued to your creditors and a summary of your accounts. The statement is composed of two sections. If you are mailing your payment to us, enclose the top section with your payment in the return envelope provided. Be sure our address is visible through the window of the return envelope.

The top sections contain the following information:
  • Date the statement was issued
  • Your CredAbility client number
  • Due date of your next payment
  • Amount of your next payment
  • A box to enter the amount deposited

The bottom section of the statement is a record of your account:

  • Name of creditors
  • Creditor account numbers
  • Original balance of each account
  • Amount of payment disbursed to each creditor
  • Total payment made over the life of the plan
  • Current estimated balance of each account

Keep in mind that the balances shown on your CredAbility statement are only estimates and may vary from the balances on your creditor statements. When you entered our debt management plan, you submitted to your counselor the balance owed to each creditor. This established the beginning or original balance of your plan. Since some creditors continue to add finance charges while their customers are paying through CredAbility, balances for these creditors may be larger than what is shown on your CredAbility statement.

If there are major differences between the balance on your creditor statements and what we display, or if you have any questions concerning your CredAbility statement, please contact us at 404.527.7630.

What if I need to speak with my counselor?

While counselors are always prepared to answer your questions, they have scheduled appointments throughout the business day. Our representatives are trained to answer most questions regarding your Debt Management Plan. In the event our representatives cannot help you, they will contact a DMP Specialist for assistance. If you are in need of additional counseling, an appointment will be scheduled with your counselor.

Will I receive statements from my creditors?
Unless a creditor has written off your account, you will usually continue to receive monthly statements. When you receive your monthly statements from CredAbility, please compare them to the monthly statements from your creditors. It is essential to monitor your creditor statements monthly to ensure interest and late fee concessions are obtained, balances are within $50 of those reflected on your CredAbility statement, and payments are posted correctly.

We suggest you mail a copy of each of these monthly statements every six months to: CredAbility, 270 Peachtree Street NW, Suite 1800 (DMP Account Management) Atlanta, GA 30303 or fax to 404.260.3319.

Advise Client Services immediately if any of your creditors' and CredAbility's statements differ by more than $50. CredAbility attempts to verify balances only as an account is nearing payoff. The balance on your CredAbility statement can then be updated to include any finance charges or late fees added by your creditors.
What payment options are available?

CredAbility offers several convenient ways to make your Debt Management Plan (DMP) payments:

  • ACH (Automated Clearing House)
    ACH is by far the easiest, most reliable method of making payments to CredAbility. ACH automatically pays out of your checking or savings account on the same date(s) each month. If you didn't receive an enrollment form after your counseling session, you can print out the ACH Enrollment Form here.

    Because ACH transactions are not guaranteed funds, they should be scheduled at least one week prior to your due date. A $25 NSF (Non-Sufficient Funds) fee will apply on overdrafts.
  • QuickPay
    If you like the convenience of online bill payment, QuickPay may be perfect for you. QuickPay is an electronic payment system accessible through this site. To begin, simply type in your client number and Social Security number. You will then be prompted to enter the amount of the payment, account type (either checking or savings), the routing and account numbers (as listed at the bottom of a paper check), and your email address. QuickPay costs $2.50 per transaction, and a $25 NSF (Non-Sufficient Funds) fee will apply on overdrafts.

    This option is ideal if you get paid on an irregular schedule, or your income fluctuates from month to month. You decide when your account gets drafted, as opposed to an Automated Clearing House (ACH), which drafts on the same date or dates each month. Because QuickPay transactions are not guaranteed funds, they should be scheduled at least one week prior to your due date.

    Please note that QuickPay is not a same day service. If you post before 2:30 p.m. ET, it will be processed on the next business day. If you enter your payment after 2:30 p.m. ET, it will be processed on the second business day. We always recommend that you verify with your bank or credit union that the money was drafted.
     
  • Mailing to our lockbox
    You may also mail deposits to our lockbox. Use the following addresses if sending through U.S. Mail:

    New York Residents: CredAbility
    PO Box 404806
    Atlanta, GA 30384-4806
    California Residents: CredAbility
    PO Box 404830
    Atlanta, GA 30384-4830
    Pennsylvania Residents: CredAbility
    270 Peachtree Street NW, 1800-PA
    Atlanta, GA 30303
    All other states: CredAbility
    PO Box 198945
    Atlanta, GA 30384-8945

    CredAbility Cannot Accept Cash or Personal Checks.
    We accept only electronic payments, money orders, cashier's checks or certified checks. Your name and client number must be written clearly on the money order, cashier's check or certified check. If you are mailing your payment, enclose the top portion of the statement with your payment and be sure that our address is visible through the CredAbility window envelope.

When is my payment due?
You will work with a counselor to choose your due date. Your funds will be paid to the creditors approximately one week after your account has been debited. Funds drafted from your checking or savings account after the 23rd of the month may not be disbursed to your creditor until the following month. However, if you mail your payment, it must be received in our office by the due date shown on your statement. Always mail your payment in the envelope provided by CredAbility. Note: Auto-Deposit is the easiest way to ensure timely payments to CredAbility and you don't have to worry about mailing anything.
Can I increase my monthly payment to CredAbility?

Of course! Remember, your objective is to get out of debt as soon as possible. Whenever you have the good fortune of having extra money for CredAbility to send to your creditors, you should do so. Extra funds will be distributed equitably to your creditors. This should reduce the amount of time estimated for the completion of your Debt Management Plan.

What happens if I want to pay off my account early?

When circumstances allow for an early payoff, contact your creditors for an estimate of the final payment amount. Then contact us to update balances to ensure funds are paid properly. Please make these final payments through CredAbility, not to the creditor directly. Contact us for instructions on stopping your Auto-Deposit if you are paying your accounts in full.

What if my payment is late?

You can eliminate late deposits by enrolling in Auto-Deposit, you can eliminate late payments. Late payments will be distributed to creditors as soon as the funds are available. If you miss a payment, expect a call from your creditors. They will want an explanation and have questions about additional interest, finance charges or late fees on your creditor statements. A CredAbility representative may also contact you to offer support and assistance.

What if I miss a payment?

You must make every effort to keep your agreement to make your full payments on time each month. If you miss two consecutive payments or three payments within a 6-month period, CredAbility will consider your file inactive and may drop you from the Debt Management Plan (DMP). We advise all creditors on your plan when you have been dropped from the plan. In addition, creditors may drop you from the DMP and resume charging finance charges or late fees and may report this delinquency to credit reporting agencies. If you are having a problem making a deposit, please call us immediately. By keeping us informed, we are better able to work with your creditors to ensure the success of your DMP.

What if I lose my job while I'm enrolled on a DMP?

If circumstances cause you to miss two consecutive payments, it may be necessary to close your debt management plan. Please contact us so that we can discuss the possibility of a review appointment to assist you until you have income again.

Can my creditors take legal action against me while I'm enrolled in the Debt Management Plan (DMP)?

Most creditors prefer to receive payments through CredAbility rather than go to court. Many stop legal action or hold judgments in suspension if they are receiving regular payments through CredAbility. However, some creditors may elect to take legal action. If you receive a summons to court, follow all instructions of the court or your attorney. Contact CredAbility immediately so we can assist you in determining if you need a follow-up appointment with your counselor. You may wish to provide the judge or mediator with a copy of your CredAbility paperwork as evidence of your good faith effort to repay your debt. Please remember that CredAbility does not provide legal advice and that you are responsible for engaging personal legal services if needed.

Will creditors help me re-establish credit?

An increasing number of creditors will consider granting credit to CredAbility graduates who have successfully completed their debt management plans. Upon satisfactory completion of your plan, ask us for names of creditors who may be willing to help you re-establish your credit.

What if I have to borrow money while on my Debt Management Plan (DMP)?

The agreement you signed at the beginning of your DMP requests that you not seek any additional credit while you are a CredAbility client. Should an emergency arise, please call us before you apply for any additional credit. Although CredAbility cannot serve as a credit reference for you, we can provide you with a letter attesting to your payment record with us. Please allow five to seven days for processing this request.

What if I want to withdraw from the Debt Management Plan (DMP)?

Your DMP is a voluntary plan on your part, our part and your creditors' part. If you choose to withdraw, please notify CredAbility and we will send you a reply confirming your withdrawal. We will notify your creditors that you have withdrawn from the DMP; however, you are responsible for making new payment arrangements.

How long will my Debt Management Plan (DMP) take to complete?

Clients enrolling in a DMP receive an estimate of the length of time it will take to complete it. This written estimate, or pay-out forecast, identifies all debts that are included in your plan, the total estimated debt owed to each of your creditors, the proposed payment to each creditor, and the anticipated number of months necessary to eliminate the debt, assuming all payments are made on time and in full. As your plan progresses you may request an updated version of this forecast by contacting us at 800.251.2227.

What can I do to ensure success in my Debt Management Plan (DMP)?

1. Make your payments on time. Auto-Deposit provides the most timely, convenient and dependable method of payment. It deducts your monthly payment from your checking or savings account. You may send cashier's checks or money orders. We do not accept personal checks or cash.

2. Closely monitor your creditors' statements. It is up to you to monitor your monthly statements to ensure creditors have reduced interest rates or stopped late fees, if applicable, and CredAbility payments are being properly credited. If your specific creditors reduce interest and fees, it can take up to three months before these reductions are noted on your statements. CredAbility does not see your monthly statements from creditors so we do not know what they say. Keep all statements in a folder or binder in case you need them for future reference. Also, keep us informed if any accounts are turned over to collection agencies or if any creditor notifies you of an account number or address change.

3. Stay in touch. Contact us immediately if any problems arise. If you do not understand something about your creditors' statements or mailings, do not panic. Call or email us. We have been dealing successfully with concerned creditors and clients since 1964.

4. Do not make any payments directly to your creditors unless you have discussed this with us. Send all payments, including any late or extra payments you might be able to make, directly to CredAbility.

5. Do not apply for additional credit without first talking with your counselor. If you do, your DMP will be in jeopardy.

6. Update personal information. Contact us immediately with any change in your name, address, telephone number or email address.

7. Do not miss payments or make late payments to CredAbility for any reason. If you do, your creditors may resume their regular collection activities or reinstate regular interest rates and fees.

What if I need to speak with my counselor?

While counselors are always prepared to answer your questions, they have scheduled appointments throughout the business day. Our representatives are trained to answer most questions regarding your DMP. If our representatives cannot help you, they will contact a DMP Specialist for assistance. If you need additional counseling, an appointment can be scheduled with your counselor.

Education 

How long are the education workshops?

CredAbility offers educational programs in a wide variety of formats to fit your schedule, anywhere or anytime. While many programs deliver longer, detailed training, others offer quick tips to improve your financial knowledge.

For example, our comprehensive Housing Pre-Purchase Education program takes six hours to complete, while our on-demand course "How Do I Get Out of Debt" takes only seven minutes to view. We strive to provide the best financial education possible—regardless of whether you have a few hours or only a few minutes during your day.

Will all financial institutions accept my CheckWise certificate?

Click here to view a comprehensive list of financial institutions that partner with us: Participating Financial Institutions. If you are interested in opening a checking account with a financial institution that is not on our list, you must contact them directly to learn what their policy is, and whether or not they will accept your CheckWise certificate.

Once I complete a course, how can I view my certificate?
After you have finished a class, go to www.CredAbility.org, login and click My Account. Then, go to My Certificates to verify receipt of all certificates for programs you completed. If it does not appear, or you cannot view or download your certificate, contact us by Live Chat or calling 800.251.2227.
Can CredAbility help me open a bank account?

Yes. We offer a two-hour course through CheckWise, an Internet-based education program on the proper use of checking accounts. Once you take the course online, we will post your certificate of completion from CheckWise to your CredAbility account.

Many reputable financial institutions may consider opening an account for a consumer who has a certificate of completion from CheckWise. Part of your responsibility is making restitution for any past mistakes that may still be reporting on ChexSystems.

Call your financial institution to determine their policy before you take this course, or click here for a list of our Participating Financial Institutions

What is CheckWise?

CheckWise is a stand-alone Internet based education program on the proper use of checking accounts. The two-hour course educates people on the basics of checking account management, online bill pay and other banking fundamentals. CheckWise can be used by those who have no banking experience or who have negative (but paid) banking activity on their ChexSystems report. Once you take the online CheckWise course you will receive a certificate of completion, which can be printed and taken to a participating financial institution.

How do I access CheckWise course?

You may begin your online course by going to Checkwise.org. You may also return to the link or CheckWise website to complete a course that has been previously started.

Do I have to complete the two-hour course all at once?

No. You can logout and return as often as necessary to complete the course and then print your certificate. You must keep your Username and ID to use when logging back into the system at Checkwise.org.

What is the fee to take the CheckWise course?

The fee for taking the online CheckWise course and receiving a certificate is $25. The fee is paid online when you register for the course. Acceptable forms of payment include a major credit card, a Visa/MasterCard debit card or pre-paid card with a Visa/MasterCard. If you need to obtain a pre-paid Visa/MasterCard debit card they are sold at many major retailers.

Does completing the course guarantee that the financial institution will open a checking account for me?

No. Completing the CheckWise course does not guarantee a financial institution will open a checking account. However, many reputable financial institutions may consider opening an account for a consumer who has a certificate of completion from CheckWise. Part of your responsibility is making restitution for any past mistakes that may still be reporting on ChexSystems.

Call your financial institution to determine their policy before you take this course, or click here for a list of our participating financial institutions

Does my CheckWise certificate expire?

No. Your certificate does not expire.

Can my spouse and I take the course together?

No. Each individual must complete a course on their own.

When am I able to print my certificate?

After you have spent the required two hours completing the course and have completed all of the chapter activities, along with the pre- and post tests. Then you will be able to print your Certificate of Completion.

Housing Counseling 

Can CredAbility help me purchase a home?

Yes. We offer the education and counseling programs that will help you navigate successfully through all aspects of the purchasing process. Plus, they will prepare you to manage the responsibilities of homeownership.

These programs are valuable for anyone considering a home purchase. And they may be required for those participating in a down payment assistance program, neighborhood stabilization program or other home purchase programs

Could I really lose my home?

If you are falling behind on your mortgage payments, your lender may choose to foreclose. That is why it is important to contact your lender before your home enters the foreclosure process. Our certified foreclosure prevention counselors can provide you with a comprehensive debt profile. Then, we will help with a plan of action that meets your needs.

Can CredAbility help me with foreclosure issues?

If you are past due on your mortgage payments, our certified counselors can help. CredAbility is a Housing and Urban Development (HUD)-approved housing counseling agency. We can help you explore ways to save your home in a confidential counseling session. Let us help you through this stressful time. Contact CredAbility anytime to speak with one of our counselors.

How can your agency help with my housing problems?

CredAbility offers confidential counseling with innovative programs and practical solutions to your financial situation. Our housing education and counseling services include:

Should I try to negotiate with my creditor(s)?

You can certainly try, but you should be well prepared before beginning such a process. An experienced CredAbility counselor can help you understand your financial issues and give you the guidance on how to best address them.

What happens if I lose my home?
The loss of a home is devastating, but CredAbility is here to help you explore all of your options, including preventing foreclosure. Our counselors offer free education and budgeting assistance to help get you back on track—and on the road to a lifetime of financial freedom. Contact CredAbility anytime to speak with one of our counselors.

Reverse Mortgage 

What is a reverse mortgage?

A Home Equity Conversion Mortgage (HECM) is a loan that allows homeowners who are age 62 or older to convert their home's equity into available cash. An HECM is a reverse mortgage, which works much like a traditional mortgage, only in reverse. Reverse mortgages are "rising debt, falling-equity" loans, because as debt increases, home equity falls.

How is it different from a traditional mortgage?

Rather than making a payment to the lender each month, the lender can send you a loan advance each month if you choose. Unlike a conventional home equity loan, a reverse mortgage does not require any repayment of principal, interest or servicing fees as long as you live in your home. You may use the cash you obtain from a reverse mortgage for any purpose.

With most home loans, if you fail to make your monthly repayments, you could lose your home. But with a reverse mortgage, you do not have any monthly repayments to make. So you cannot lose your home by failing to make them.

How can I qualify for a reverse mortgage?

There are no income or credit requirements for a reverse mortgage. In order to qualify for a reverse mortgage, all owners and co-owners of the home must be age 62 or older and at least one homeowner must reside in the home as their primary residence at least six months out of the year.

If you have any debt against your home, you must either pay it off before getting a reverse mortgage or use an immediate cash advance from the reverse mortgage to pay it off. If you do not pay off the debt beforehand, or do not qualify for a large enough immediate cash advance to do so, you cannot get a reverse mortgage.

Who can get a reverse mortgage?

You must own your home and all owners must be at least 62 years old.

Your home generally must be your "principal residence" - which means you must live in it more than half the year.

For a federally insured HECM, your home must be a single-family property, a two- to four-unit building, or a federally approved condominium or Planned-Unit Development (PUD). For Fannie Mae's "HomeKeeper" mortgage, it must be a single family home, PUD or condominium.

Reverse mortgage programs do not lend on cooperative apartments or mobile homes, although some "manufactured" homes may qualify if they are built on a permanent foundation, classed and taxed as real estate and meet other requirements.

If you have any debt against your home, you must either pay it off before getting a reverse mortgage or use an immediate cash advance from the reverse mortgage to pay it off. If you do not pay off the debt beforehand, or do not qualify for a large enough immediate cash advance to do so, you cannot get a reverse mortgage.

How much cash can I get?

The amount of cash available to you depends on the age(s) of the owner(s), the value (and in some cases the location) of the home, current interest rates and the specific reverse mortgage program you choose. In general, the most cash goes to the oldest borrowers living in the homes of greatest value at a time when interest rates are low. On the other hand, the least cash goes to the youngest borrowers living in the homes of lowest value at a time when interest rates are high.

How is it paid to you?

It is your choice and depends on the specific program you choose.

You may accept an immediate cash advance at closing; that is, a lump sum of cash paid to you on the first day of the loan.

You may also choose a credit line account that lets you take cash advances whenever you choose during the life of the loan— until you use it all up.

You may choose to take a monthly cash advance for a specific number of years that you select or for as long as you live in the house.

Or you can choose any combination of immediate cash advance, credit line account and monthly cash advance.

Use our Calculator to estimate how much cash you could get from a reverse mortgage.

Reverse mortgage loan advances are not taxable and generally do not affect Social Security or Medicare benefits. However, you must be careful that any loan proceeds you retain do not exceed the monthly liquid resource limits for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Medicaid.

You have the option of changing your payment plan type at any time for a fee not to exceed $20.00. You should ask your lender about the procedures for changing your payment plan in the future.

How about paying off an existing mortgage?

A Home Equity Conversion Mortgage (HECM, or reverse mortgage) must be a first mortgage. If you have an existing mortgage, it must be paid off before closing or paid off at closing with funds you receive from the HECM. Any additional lien against your property must be either be paid off or subordinate to the HECM.

What are the costs?

HECMs typically involve four types of costs: an origination fee, closing and other third-party costs, servicing fees and the mortgage insurance premium. With the exception of the mortgage insurance premium, many of these fees can vary from lender to lender. These costs are generally financed into your reverse mortgage loan at closing. Your lender must provide you with a Total Annual Loan Cost (TALC) disclosure prior to your loan closing.

How much interest will be charged?

Interest is charged on all money that you receive and on all loan costs that have been financed. You may select an interest rate that is fixed or that adjusts monthly or annually, although all lenders do not offer all options. Your lender must provide you with the index, the margin and the periodic and lifetime caps for adjustable interest rates.

If I change my mind, can I cancel the mortgage?

After closing a HECM, you, as the borrower, have 3 days to cancel the mortgage if you choose. This is also known as the "rescission period", an important measure implemented to protect the consumer.

Do I have to repay the loan?

When the loan becomes due and payable, you or your estate must pay back all of the cash advances, any fees or costs financed as part of the loan, and all interest that has been charged to date.

HECMs do not have to be repaid until the last surviving borrower has been unable to occupy the home for more than 12 consecutive months, dies, sells the home or permanently moves from the home. You may partially or fully repay the loan balance at any time. There are no prepayment penalties for a HECM.

If your home is sold to pay off the loan, you or your estate will not have to pay back more than the amount received from the sale of the home. However, if your heirs or your estate choose to keep the home, they must pay the entire loan balance even if it is greater than the value of the home. This may occur if the home's value depreciates, if interest rates go up, or if the total payments made during the life of the loan exceed the value of the home.

What are my responsibilities once I receive the reverse mortgage?

A homeowner with a reverse mortgage has 3 main ongoing responsibilities.

You are required to make timely payments on your property taxes.

Failure to do so could result in the loss of your home.

You are required to make timely payments of premiums towards your homeowner’s insurance. Flood insurance is also required if the property is located in a flood zone. Failure to do so could result in the loss of your home.

Your property must be maintained in at least the condition that it was in when the reverse mortgage was taken out. Lenders may perform “drive-by” inspections. If problems are identified, you will be required to remedy them.

Be sure to ask your lender about other responsibilities you have once you have received your reverse mortgage.