Contest: Win $10,000 to pay off your credit cards

It's a gimmick to gain attention for their company, but if you're the one who wins, who cares? On Monday, April 5, InCharge Debt Solutions, a nonprofit credit counseling and debt solutions company, is launching a contest in honor of Financial Literacy Month to help one of the more impoverished of us: The winner will get up to $10,000 of their credit card debt paid off.

But this isn't a "Send us your email address, and you're entered" sort of contest. To enter, you've got to jump through a few hoops.

First, you have to complete a free, e-learning, personal finance literacy course called "Mind Your Finances." And this isn't some four-question survey.

"It can take over an hour," Jacquie Tremblay, InCharge's communications manager, told me. "But you can go on the Web site at different times and pick up where you left off. It tests what you know, how you plan your goals, and at the end, you receive a certificate of completion."

They're also asking all entrants to film a video -- no longer than two minutes and 30 seconds -- and discuss what they've learned from the course.

"I know that's going to be tricky for some people. You have to be a little technologically savvy," says Mark Hoewig, InCharge's content and creative manager. "But it's not like you need to have a video camera. You can do it on your cell phone."

The course must be completed and the video submitted no later than April 30, 2010. All the videos will then be reviewed and approved and put online, where the public will be able to watch all of them and choose the winner. The contest winner will be announced on May 31, 2010.

So what are your odds of winning? Hard to say. Depends on how many people enter the contest. "This is the first time we've done anything like this," says Tremblay. "We don't know what to expect."

In any case, I applaud the idea of making people take a personal finance course to be eligible to win. Hopefully, it'll weed out those who aren't really serious about trying to get out of debt, and give all participants more information about just how to do it.

That's how Hoewig sees it, too. "We're a nonprofit, and our mission is personal finance education. We want as many people as possible to take the "Mind Your Finances" course."

So if you're buried in debt and are up for taking a free, online, personal finance education course and have a modicum of filming ability, this may be the contest you've been waiting for. And if it's not? Guess you could try tossing another dollar at your state's lottery. Your odds of winning the jackpot won't be as good, but there's no homework to complete either.

Geoff Williams is a frequent contributor to WalletPop. He is also the co-author of the new book Living Well with Bad Credit.
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