What is a Certified Consumer Debt Specialist?

Certified Consumer Debt Specialist is a professional designation awarded to debt settlement professionals who pass a certification exam. The designation is awarded by the Center for Financial Certifications. Successful applicants earn the right to use the Certified Consumer Debt Specialist designation with their names, which can improve job opportunities, professional reputation and pay. Every two years, specialists must complete 20 hours of continuing education and pay a fee to retain the designation.

Key Takeaways

  • Certified consumer debt specialists are financial professionals who assist consumers with debt negotiation and settlement.
  • Debt settlement is something you can do on your own but there are some advantages to using a certified consumer debt specialist.
  • Consulting a certified consumer debt specialist is something you may consider if you're looking for an alternative to filing bankruptcy.
  • Before working with a certified consumer debt specialist, it's important to understand the costs involved to settle a debt, as well as the credit score implications.

Understanding Certified Consumer Debt Specialists (CCDS)

Certified Consumer Debt Specialist applicants study debt settlement and personal finance management (including budgeting, evaluating debt loads, setting and achieving financial goals, planning to eliminate/avoid debt, investing, retirement and insurance). Also, applicants must develop communication, counseling and negotiation skills to negotiate on behalf of their clients. Specialists should also be familiar with consumer protection laws.

Note

Certified consumer debt specialists receive a different type of education, training and certification than certified credit counselors.

Center for Financial Certifications

The Center for Financial Certifications was established in 2006. Known as Fincert, its stated mission is to provide effective delivery of consumer financial products, services and education through the professional certification of individuals providing these services. In addition to certifying finance professionals as debt specialists, the Center also offers Certifications for Certified Financial Peer Mentors, Certified Personal Finance Counselors and Certified Educators in Personal Finance.

Important

Individuals certified as consumer debt specialists by Fincert must renew their certification every two years by passing a renewal exam.

Consumer Debt Specialists and Debt Settlement

Consumer debt specialists help individuals who are interested in pursuing debt settlement as an alternative to bankruptcy. Debt settlement is the process of negotiating with creditors to reduce overall debts in exchange for a lump-sum payment.

A successful settlement occurs when the creditor agrees to forgive a percentage of the total account balance in exchange for the lump sum. Only unsecured debt can be settled. Such debts include medical bills and credit card debt - not student loans, auto financing and mortgages. Debtors may turn to this option to avoid the court-mandated controls of bankruptcy while still lowering their debt balances, sometimes by more than 50 percent. The creditor wants to avoid the possibility that the debtor may successfully file for bankruptcy protection.

Negotiating with a collection agency or junk debt buyer is somewhat like negotiating with a credit card company or another original creditor. However, many collection agencies will agree to take less of the owed amount than the original creditor because the junk debt buyer has purchased the debt for a fraction of the original balance. As a part of the settlement, the consumer can request that collection is removed from the credit report, which is generally not the case with the original creditor. Even if the removal of the collection account from the consumer credit report has been achieved as a condition of settlement, the negative marks from the original credit card company may still remain.

Note

Debt settlement is typically only an option once a debt because significantly past due, which can mean negative impacts to your credit score.

Benefits of Using a Consumer Debt Settlement Specialist

Using a consumer debt settlement specialist can yield some advantages. A specialist has an understanding of debt collection laws, including when a statute of limitations on a debt has expired, and they have experience negotiating with creditors to help you achieve the best deal possible. While you can settle debts on your own you may not be comfortable talking to your creditors directly or struggle with how to word your request.

Remember that for a debt settlement plan to work, you'll need to have cash readily available to pay your creditors with. A consumer debt settlement specialist can review your financial situation and assets to help you come up with a realistic number to offer when negotiating.

A consumer debt settlement specialist can also help you determine whether negotiating debts is the best option for your financial situation. Again, settling debts is often preferable to filing bankruptcy since that can be extremely detrimental to your credit score. But it's possible that you may be able to get back on track with a regular payment plan if all that's required is some fine-tuning of your monthly budget.

Tip

If you choose to settle debts on your own, get everything in writing and be sure to check your credit report after the fact to ensure that the account is being reported as settled properly.

Debt Settlement Costs

Certified consumer debt specialists can operate on a for-profit or non-profit basis but it's not uncommon to have to pay a fee for their services. This fee is charged in addition to any money you agree to pay your creditors to settle your debts.

Depending on the debt settlement company, this fee may be anywhere from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars. Before paying a steep debt settlement fee, consider what you're getting in exchange for your money.

If you're able to settle your debts at a steep discount, say 50% or more, then paying a higher fee to a debt settlement company could be worth it. On the other hand, if a company is promising settlement relief that seems too good to be true then you may want to take your business elsewhere.

Tip

Take time to research the best debt relief companies to find one that can help you with managing your debts at the most reasonable cost.