Can I Negotiate Credit Card Debt?

Many of us have been there… our credit card debt is mounting. The increased interest rates aren’t helping matters, and we are starting to feel like we need a plan.

When you are first starting out on your path to become debt free, it can be very overwhelming. After internet searches, and reading some articles, you see that debt management and debt settlement come up often. But what is the difference and how do you know what is right for you?

Debt Management Plan (DMP)

Debt Management Plans (DMP) are typically offered by non-profit credit counseling agencies (like Parachute!) It’s a plan between you and the credit counseling agency designed to repay your unsecured debts in full within 5 years or less. The agency will negotiate with your creditors to lower your interest rates, lower monthly payments, and stop fees.  One monthly deposit is made to the credit counseling agency, then your funds are distributed to your creditors every month. You don’t have to be behind on your debt to enroll, and since the companies offering DMPs are typically non-profit, the fees for service are low. You will review your finances, credit and goals with a certified credit counselor who can help you understand your options.

Debt Settlement

Debt Settlement is when your debt is settled for less than the full amount you currently owe, typically in one lump sum payment. You usually cannot settle your debts without being significantly past due, or in default. Any amount of debt forgiven over $600 is considered taxable income by the IRS. For example, if owe $8,000 on a debt, and the creditor agrees to a settlement amount of $5,000, you will owe taxes on the $3,000 forgiven by the creditor. You can negotiate a debt settlement yourself, but there are for-profit companies that you pay to hold your money to save up enough to settle the debt, and to help with negotiations. Fees can be high, and you risk further damaging your credit and lawsuits from creditors that are not willing to settle or wait until you’ve saved enough money to pay the settlement.

What is the difference between a DMP through a credit counseling agency and a Debt Settlement Company?

Credit Counseling Agencies that offer Debt Management PlansDebt settlement companies
Usually non-profit organizationsUsually are for-profit companies that charge a fee for their services. Generally, these companies cannot charge you until after they perform services
Advise you on managing your money and debts and help you budget your paymentsOffer to arrange settlements of your debts with creditors or debt collectors
Reach agreed upon payment plans or agreements with your creditors to ensure that the creditors will not pursue collection efforts or charge late fees while on the planOften have no up-front agreements with creditors. Some creditors will not negotiate with debt settlement companies
Usually do not negotiate any reduction in the amounts you owe – instead, they can lower your overall monthly paymentTypically offer to pay off your debts with a lump sum payment that you save up in an independent account that you control
Do not advise you to stop paying your debt, but may help negotiate your monthly paymentsUsually advise that you stop paying your creditors until a debt settlement is negotiated with creditors, which may damage your credit and result in your being sued
Payment plans do not usually have tax implicationsDebt settlement may involve debt forgiveness, which may have tax implications

As always, your financial situation is unique to YOU! There is no one-size-fits-all solution to resolve debt. In fact, these are only two options that we’ve highlighted here.

In order to start your debt free journey, we encourage you to speak one-on-one with a Certified Financial Counselor who will thoroughly review your income and expenses, explain your credit report and score, analyze your debts, and provide you with expert action steps to resolve your debt. Parachute is here to help! Contact us to start your debt free journey! 716-712-2060 or

Dare to be Debt Free!

Parachute Celebrates National Consumer Protection Week

Looking to protect yourself from fraud, identity theft, and scams? Wondering about the best way to improve your credit, shop for a used car, or how to maximize your security online?

Parachute has information for you during National Consumer Protection Week (NCPW) — March 5 – 11, 2023 — and any time of the year. NCPW is a time when government agencies, consumer protection groups, and organizations like ours work together to share information about consumer rights and help people learn to spot, report, and avoid scams.

Go to  for more information. Also, visit to learn how to get free consumer education materials and read the latest from consumer protection experts.

As always you can reach out to us directly at 716-712-2060 or  for your help and education on all things credit, budget and personal debt!

While Long Awaited Student Loan Forgiveness is Blocked By Lawsuit, Parachute Credit Counseling Offers Encouragement and FREE Student Loan Counseling

While Long Awaited Student Loan Forgiveness is Blocked By Lawsuit, Parachute Credit Counseling Offers Encouragement and FREE Student Loan Counseling

The Supreme Court will hear arguments for and against this loan cancellation plan on February 28, 2023

The financial futures of nearly 43 million borrowers across the country are in limbo as the Supreme Court considers the legality of President Biden’s student debt forgiveness program.

President Biden’s student loan forgiveness plan, announced in 2022–which provides up to $20,000 in relief to millions of borrowers–faces legal challenges. While many Americans were happy with the new loan forgiveness plan, there is concern that without the root causes of the student debt crisis addressed, there will be no fundamental changes made to a system in great need of repair. Most people on all sides of the issue agree that the present system is broken and will need legislation to fix it. Even without further and far reaching actions at this point, if allowed, student loan forgiveness will still make a big impact among borrowers who are low-income or didn’t finish college and are stuck paying off a loan.

Parachute Credit Counseling—formerly known as Consumer Credit Counseling Service of Buffalo (CCCS)—announced that it is now offering free Student Loan Counseling throughout the eight counties of Western New York along with expert strategies for attaining financial stability. Although payments on federal student loans have been suspended since March 2020, with interest-free relief, they will resume later this year so it is time for all to plan. Despite the current uncertainty, other relief options and changes to existing programs will be available to help borrowers reduce or eliminate their debt. Now is the time for borrowers to seek free and unbiased counseling to understand their options.

Parachute has operated the only Student Loan Counseling Program in Western New York for the past ten years. Right now, the national total student loan debt, including federal and private loans, sits at $1.75 trillion.

About 1 in 6 adults in America holds federal student loan debt. A typical undergraduate finishes school with nearly $25,000 of debt and a monthly payment of $460, which takes an average of 20 years to pay back while accruing $26,000 just in interest. Tuition fees have nearly tripled since 1980, outpacing inflation and wage growth. Student loan repayment is a critical issue that needs much direction.

The situation at this time is: millions of borrowers have already been approved for loan forgiveness, but the government is powerless to act because two federal courts issued nationwide injunctions prohibiting any debt relief under the plan. Most legal analysts expect the Supreme Court’s conservative supermajority to side against the administration, preventing the government from forgiving a cent of student loan debt. There is a real chance, however, that a majority may instead find that the plaintiffs—a group of red states and two disgruntled borrowers—lack standing to sue, which would allow the program to move forward. SHIRIN ALI, FEB 26, 2023—SLATE

While we wait for an answer…Parachute encourages residents to join our FREE Student Loan Counseling Program, staffed by experienced, certified financial counselors.  Call 716-712-2060 or visit  for more information on our program and other financial services we provide.

Is credit counseling a good idea?

Credit counseling involves meeting on-on-one with a certified credit counselor employed by a non-profit consumer credit counseling agency, and can be extremely beneficial if you are struggling with or overwhelmed by debt.  Part of a credit counselor’s job is to help you evaluate your specific financial situation, and to offer personalized guidance on budgeting, credit, and debt repayment options.  Some potential benefits of debt repayment through a credit counseling agency can include rebuilding your credit, reducing interest costs and monthly payment amounts, and having a concrete action plan to follow to work toward achieving your financial goals.

Credit counseling can be a great option if you:

  • Are struggling with monthly minimum payments for multiple unsecured accounts, and a reduced payment amount can be afforded within your budget
  • Have high interest rates and your creditors will not work with you directly to reduce them
  • Want to resolve your debt issues in a limited and fairly short term timeframe (5 years or less)
  • Are looking to understand how to better manage your finances
  • Need some additional guidance toward taking the best steps to achieve your financial goals
  • Are considering bankruptcy but want to discuss alternative options first

Debt repayment through credit counseling may NOT be the best option for you if:

  • Most of your debt is secured or otherwise ineligible – ex. student loans, mortgages, auto loans, home equity loans/lines of credit, etc.
  • Your debt amount is relatively small and can be paid off directly in a short period of time
  • You have the ability to make larger than minimum monthly payments
  • You still cannot afford household and living expenses even with a lower monthly debt payment

Whether or not you choose to repay your debt through a repayment plan with a consumer credit counseling agency, meeting with a credit counselor is a great recommendation for anyone struggling with debt, because an expert can take a look at the entire financial situation and help come up with an action plan on how to move forward.  Many credit counseling services, including initial consultations, are free, so there is no harm in at least hearing what a certified credit expert may recommend.  Do your research, and remember that there are no quick fixes or shortcuts when it comes to your finances.  It’s a process, but one that can really be worth it!

Consumer Credit Counseling Service of Buffalo is Now Parachute Credit Counseling

Parachute Credit Counseling provides services to help clients “dare to be debt free”

BUFFALO, NY (December 7, 2022) – Consumer Credit Counseling Service of Buffalo announced it has changed its name to Parachute Credit Counseling to illustrate the agency’s commitment toward being a guide on their client’s journey to “dare to be debt free.”  Clients will still get the same quality service they have relied on for more than 50 years, but now with a new look.

“We wanted to change our name and logo to reflect our mission of making our clients feel empowered and not embarrassed about their debt,” said Parachute President & CEO Noelle Carter. “It takes courage to make that leap and we are here to be a parachute – a guide – on the journey to financial stability and becoming debt free.” 

Parachute Credit Counseling mission is to be the most trusted guide on an individual’s journey to becoming debt free. With the right tools and a strategically mapped out plan, clients can make a smooth soft landing on the other side of debt.

Parachute Credit Counseling is a nonprofit agency offering financial counseling, debt management, student loan counseling, financial coaching, credit report review, reverse mortgage counseling, pre-purchase homebuyer counseling, delinquency housing counseling, and small business credit counseling. The agency offers services in 18 states and the District of Columbia.

For more information about upcoming workshops and the services Parachute offers, visit the website at (insert new website here) or call 716-712-2060 to set up an appointment at any of the locations.

ABOUT PARACHUTE Parachute Credit Counseling, formerly, Consumer Credit Counseling Service of Buffalo, Inc. is a nonprofit agency established in 1965 to provide the best strategies to help people master their credit. Parachute is a member of the of the National Foundation for Credit Counseling and an A+ member of the Better Business Bureau. It is also a certified HUD counseling agency, licensed budget planner through the NYS Department of Financial Services, Executive Office of the U.S. Trustees approved for certified bankruptcy counseling sessions and accredited by Council on Accreditation of Services for Families & Children (COA), Inc. Parachute is based in Buffalo, NY, but offers services in Arkansas, Alaska, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Louisiana, Massachusetts, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Tennessee, West Virginia, Washington, & Wyoming.

CCCS Launches New, FREE Student Loan Counseling Program; Joins the Education Debt Consumer Assistance Program (EDCAP) Network

CCCS Launches New, FREE Student Loan Counseling Program; Joins the Education Debt Consumer Assistance Program (EDCAP) Network

Will Help Local Borrowers Access Loan Forgiveness & Navigate Complex Student Loan Repayment System

Shortly after the federal government kicked off their student loan forgiveness application process, Consumer Credit Counseling Service (CCCS) announced their newly redesigned, cost free Student Loan Counseling Program to assist local borrowers. While the government’s process is meant to be simple, the complexities of student loans often cause uncertainty, anxiety and frustration.

For the past ten years, CCCS has operated the only Student Loan Counseling Program in Western New York, helping thousands of besieged borrowers tackle what many felt was insurmountable debt. Student loan repayment has long been an obstacle for a significant percentage of the population, particularly for younger people. 45% of 18-35 year olds  currently have student loan debt in New York State. Right now, 2.4 million New York State residents have outstanding loans; a total cumulative debt of over $90 billion.  

In October, the Education Debt Consumer Assistance Program (EDCAP) invited CCCS to join their statewide network after the New York State Legislature increased their funding specifically designated for New York State residents with higher education debt. EDCAP–a program of the Community Service Society of New York (CSS)—and CSS work to make New York State more livable for people facing economic insecurity. CSS created EDCAP as an initiative to help New Yorkers struggling with student debt to navigate the student loan repayment system and regain financial health. In addition to CCCS, EDCAP selected nine other partner organizations throughout the state to serve all of its geographic areas. Seven of these organizations focus on legal services and the other organization is a United Way, indicating that CCCS offers unique and highly regarded services.

CCCS’ collaboration with EDCAP provides CCCS with much needed funding to deliver all student loan counseling services free of charge to WNY residents. EDCAP, in turn, gets a greater and more direct geographic reach into a targeted area. The NYS Department of Financial Services will oversee this project which comes at “a critical time as borrowers navigate the complex student loan repayment system, try to benefit from the latest relief available, and prepare for payment resumption.” EDCAP

A slew of information—including announcements of major, sweeping, long awaited changes to student loan forgiveness that require specific, precise action steps–has steadily flowed recently. We designed our Student Loan Counseling Program to guide borrowers through the complicated process that is frequently intricate and quite possibly thorny. Experienced, Certified Financial Counselors understand that many of those coming for help feel overwhelmed, are confused or just plain over it…and are ready to help all. Our new partnership with EDCAP will allow us to serve even more people. We urge everyone to take positive action that will promote financial stability…Contact us at 716-712-2060 or for help with student loans or for any type of financial issues. 

Details of President Biden’s New Student Loan Forgiveness Program; Announces Final Extension to Student Loan Repayment Program

Millions of Americans have waited eagerly over these past two and a half years for student loan forgiveness.

This week, President Biden issued the first of his student loan forgiveness plans. For those earning less than $125,000 a year—or couples with incomes under $250,000–up to $10,000 in federal student loan debt will be forgiven. If individuals used Pell grants to attend college (which are reserved for students with greatest financial need), up to $20,000 in federal student loan debt will be forgiven.  

President Biden also this week officially extended the “student loan payment pause” until December 31st, 2022. Interest rates will remain at 0% until repayments start in January 2023. Biden states that this will be the last extension for student loan payments.

 Mandatory student loan payments as well as interest accrual have been “on pause” since March 13, 2020, the beginning of the pandemic. 98.8% of borrowers did not make payments during this time period but those who did can receive refunds for their payments by calling their loan servicers directly. About 37 million student loan borrowers skipped nearly $200 million in payments during the pause, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.

Immediately after President Biden’s announcement, Consumer Credit Counseling Service (CCCS) encouraged area residents to contact them at 716-712-2060 or for help with student loans or for any type of financial issues.  With just about 70% of college graduates leaving school with student loan debt, it is certain that student loans will continue to be part of the landscape for much of the WNY community. Last year, the average per person debt was $35,397 and the typical monthly payment–$393 per month. At current time, nearly 2.4 million New Yorkers have outstanding student loans totaling more than $90 billion combined.

 CCCS operates the only Student Loan Counseling Program in all of Western New York and designed its program to specifically meet the needs of the growing population segment of student loan borrowers. CCCS Certified Financial Counselors understand that many of those coming for help feel overwhelmed with anxiety and fear and often see individuals who have fallen prey to the abundance of unscrupulous companies claiming to help. CCCS urges everyone to take positive action that will promote financial stability: For those interested in any type of help–call 716-712-2060 or visit  

A New Approach to Tackling Debt is Needed

At Consumer Credit Counseling Service of Buffalo (CCCS), we are encouraged to see recent media attention highlighting the dubious and predatory practices of local debt collection companies. The New York State Attorney General herself visited Western New York last month to call for increased regulation of the debt collection industry. It is extremely heartening to see how she is standing up for New York residents who are often victimized (sometimes repeatedly) by dodgy businesses with underhanded motives.

CCCS has sought reform for many years — and heard hundreds of tragic horror stories — yet as critical as it is, we have been unable to attract the proper attention or receive the necessary support for this issue until now.

Debt collection companies are commonly problematic — in certain need of increased control — but the issue is much larger than just that. The average person has little understanding of the world of debt, credit and credit repair. It is no wonder that an entire world of debt consolidation and debt settlement has emerged to “help” consumers manage their debt.

If you are having problems with credit and debt, it is usually a tumultuous time in your life. You may be backed into a corner — desperate — and not sure what to do. If you google “How can I get out of credit card debt in Buffalo?” you will find nearly 30 for profit companies willing to help you “settle your debt.”

It is time for a new approach.

Debt has long been a huge problem for Americans. Currently 35% of Americans carry credit card debt from month to month with $15,561 as the average credit card debt per household. Debt is not simply a financial problem; it impacts emotional health and regularly leads to frustration, depression, embarrassment and the pervasive feeling of being completely overwhelmed.

At the same time, lack of credit similarly causes stress for countless individuals. 47% of Americans presently have low or no credit meaning they are locked out of access to safe credit, driving them into the hands of an alternate economy filled with usurious payday lenders. Without good credit, consumers pay higher interest rates on everything from credit cards to car loans to mortgages. Credit scores also play a leading role in setting home and auto insurance premiums.

In Western New York, approximately 40% of residents have either low credit or no credit. Having no credit can be as bad as having poor credit, possibly even worse because there are extremely limited resources available to help individuals establish credit. The general public is poorly educated in this area. People with poor credit, no credit or debt are worried, scared…and just want the problem to go away. They easily fall prey to the seductive messaging of settlement companies with unlimited advertising budgets.

Financial experts across the world unilaterally agree that best method to systematically pay down outstanding debt is through a Debt Management Program offered by an accredited nonprofit Credit Counseling agency, like CCCS, where certified credit counselors work in cooperation with creditors. Sadly, countless people suffer because too many people are attracted to the companies that peddle illusions. Better, safer and far more helpful options like debt management programs, run by nonprofit organizations with no advertising budgets, remain under the radar. We must make the general public aware that there are options; that there is hope…all they need to do is call us at 716-712-2060.

We truly appreciate New York State’s recent push to hold debt collection companies accountable and hope that it is just the beginning of wider efforts to help the public navigate the challenging financial world around them. CCCS is here to help all those who need us.

-Originally published in the Niagara Gazette

Loan Cancellation for Student Loan Borrowers Who Attended Corinthian Colleges

Today, the U.S. Department of Education announced the cancellation of $5.8 billion in federal student loans for 560,000 individuals who borrowed to attend schools owned by Corinthian Colleges, the for-profit college conglomerate that is now defunct.

Corinthian was a notorious repeat offender that defrauded its students and the public over many years.

This loan cancellation would not have been possible without the tenacity of so many individual student loan borrowers harmed by Corinthian’s tactics. Many of them came forward to law enforcement agencies and regulators to detail systemic abuses. Others even had the courage to make their stories public to urge government authorities to act, rather than sitting on the sidelines. Over the last decade, I had the opportunity to speak with many of them to learn about Corinthian’s conduct.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and state attorney general actively pursued Corinthian for its misconduct. The CFPB filed a lawsuit in 2014, obtained a default judgement and secured $480 million in private student loan cancellation in 2015, and won another $183 million in loan cancellation in 2017. In 2016, then-California Attorney General Kamala Harris won a $1.1 billion judgement against Corinthian. Many other state attorneys general across the country also took actions to hold the company accountable for its wrongdoing.

The decision to automatically cancel these loans will be a lifeline to so many Americans whose financial lives were ruined by Corinthian Colleges. While they will never get back the time they lost, they will receive the relief under the law that they have long been owed.


Most Medical Debt to Be Removed from Credit Reports; Student Loan Repayments Extended Until August 31st

CCCS Announces that Most Medical Debt to Be Removed from Credit Reports; Student Loan Repayments Extended Until August 31st

In a recent and welcomed policy shift, Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion announced that nearly 70% of current medical debt will be removed from credit reports, beginning this summer.

Millions of Americans are saddled with medical debt and the problem continues to grow. Studies from 2021 found that 37% of Americans had medical debt, while 23% did not currently have medical debt but had it in the past. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) estimates that at this moment, some $88 billion in medical bills sits on 43 million credit reports. Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion Medical maintain reports on more than 200 million people in the U.S. Often, medical bills can be exorbitant and end up on credit reports, ruining credit scores and preventing people from accessing mortgages, car loans and even employment. Many of these people have paid their bills on time for their entire lives until forced into medical debt.

Expanding on their new policies, the three credit reporting firms have further stated that debt that was paid after it was sent to collections will be removed beginning this July. At the present time, even if these debts are paid off, they may remain on a consumer’s credit report for up to seven years. Under the companies’ new guidelines, new unpaid medical debts won’t get added to credit reports for a full year after being sent to collections—and unpaid medical debts of less than $500 will be removed in the first half of 2023. It is expected that the $500 threshold may rise.

These significant changes in the reporting of medical debt are likely due to the ongoing pressure exerted by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), which earlier in March publicized that it would begin to hold credit reporting firms accountable for reporting erroneous medical debts.

The CFPB has also released research that indicates medical debt is less predictive of a person’s ability to repay than other kinds of loans.

The U.S. credit reporting system—including Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion—plays an inordinate role in determining who gets credit and who doesn’t. This is exacerbated by the fact that consumers have very little control over what is added to their credit reports which rely on information submitted by lenders, collections firms and others.

The CFPB said consumers submit more complaints to the agency about credit-report errors than any other problem and seldom receive any relief. They have made changes in the credit reporting system a major priority and the impact will be felt by consumers as early as this summer.

And while student loan forgiveness is still up in the air, the pause on student loan repayment has been extended through August 2022. Borrowers will not be asked to make payments until after Aug. 31 and interest rates are expected to remain at 0% during that period.

Anxiety was rising for many until the April 5th announcement of the extension of student loan repayments. Prior to the announcement, payments were planned to resume on May 1, 2022. For the past two years, most student loan borrowers have not been required to make payments on their balances and their interest rate has been frozen.


White House officials have repeatedly stressed that they would like to resolve the student loan forgiveness issue prior to the resumption of repayments, but discussions are still ongoing.

In a recent survey by the Student Debt Crisis Center, 92% of fully-employed borrowers are concerned about being able to afford their payments due to rising inflation. One in three borrowers claimed they’ve reduced spending on necessities like food, rent and healthcare in preparation for payments to resume.

With about 70% of college graduates leaving school with student loan debt, it is certain that student loans will continue to be part of the landscape for much of the WNY community. Last year, the average per person debt was $35,397 and the typical monthly payment–$393 per month. At current time, nearly 2.4 million New Yorkers have outstanding student loans totaling more than $90 billion combined.

Consumer Credit Counseling Service (CCCS) encourages anyone interested in reviewing or repairing their credit or looking for help navigating student loan repayments to contact them at 712-2060 or visit CCCS is the only provider of student loan counseling in the region and has worked with hundreds of area residents struggling with all kinds of debt over the past several years.


Many individuals with credit card debt and/or student loans feel overwhelmed with anxiety and fear as they try to set up payment plans, with some falling prey to the abundance of unscrupulous companies claiming to help. CCCS specifically designed its program to meet the needs of this ever growing population segment.


CCCS can help with all financial issues and urges everyone to take positive action that will promote financial stability: For those interested in any type of help–call 712-2060 or visit