Debt relief companies help people experiencing financial hardships negotiate settlements with creditors less than the amount owed on their debts. Credit counseling and debt management plans are better for those who want to repay everything they owe and protect their credit.
The best debt relief companies offer transparent pricing, good customer service options, and free financial education. They’re also accredited by leading professional associations, which can help ensure the company and its debt counselors are well-versed in the laws and regulations governing the debt relief industry.
The 6 Best Debt Relief Companies of 2021
- Best Overall: Freedom Debt Relief
- Runner-Up, Best Overall: New Era Debt Solutions
- Best for Transparent Qualifications: National Debt Relief
- Best for IRS Debt and Back Taxes: CuraDebt
- Best for Quick Debt Relief: Accredited Debt Relief
- Best for Credit Card Debt: Century Support Services
- Best for Credit Counseling: GreenPath
Best Overall : Freedom Debt Relief
Freedom Debt Relief’s transparent pricing, credit counseling referrals, Spanish language resources, daily customer service availability, and financial education resources make it stand out over the competition.
Credit counseling referrals often provided
Spanish support and resources
Customer service available daily
No live chat
Minimum debt of $7,500 required
2017 CFPB lawsuit (settled in 2019)
Freedom Debt Relief was founded in 2002 and is accredited by the American Fair Credit Council (AFCC) and the International Association of Professional Debt Arbitrators (IAPDA), two of the most well-known professional associations serving the debt relief industry. Although it focuses on debt settlement, its website includes many free financial education tools and resources for Spanish speakers.
Not only is Freedom Debt Relief’s pricing transparent (typical fees are 15% to 25% of the total enrolled debt), but it can negotiate settlements on many types of unsecured consumer and business debt including credit cards, medical bills, and some private student loans. Keep in mind you’ll need at least $7,500 in unsecured debt to qualify.
As with all debt settlement companies, before enrolling with Freedom Debt Relief, you’ll get a free debt consultation. Consultations are available daily during the company’s normal business hours. Freedom Debt Relief also makes referrals to non-profit credit counselors before enrolling potential clients, making it stand out from the competition. This is good since debt settlement should only be pursued after exhausting all other options.
Freedom Debt Relief was sued by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) for issues with its debt relief product and services in 2017, but the lawsuit was settled in 2019.
Read the full Freedom Debt Relief review.
Runner-Up, Best Overall : New Era Debt Solutions
Not only does New Era Debt Solutions charge fees slightly better than industry norms, but it also offers better customer resources than many of its competitors, including online chat, appointments after hours, free interactive educational tools and materials, and services in Spanish.
Transparent pricing better than competition
Spanish services and resources
Live online chat
Minimum debt not disclosed
No weekend customer support
Recent legal action
New Era Debt Solutions was founded in 1999 and is accredited by both the AFCC and the IAPDA. The company offers slightly lower fees than the industry average (14% to 23% of total enrolled debt), provides customer support via live chat, has an extensive library of finance tools and resources, and even offers support for Spanish speakers.
Although New Era doesn’t disclose whether it has any minimum debt requirements, individuals experiencing financial hardships such as divorce or job loss can get help settling unsecured consumer debts like credit cards or personal loans.
Before you enroll, a debt advisor will provide you with a free debt consultation to review your options. Appointments are available every day except Sunday, and you can get an after-hours appointment if needed.
Of note is a legal action filed by the state of Oregon in April 2021 against New Era related to its practices in the state. However, according to New Era’s website, it no longer does business in Oregon and much of the $50,000 penalty will be waived if the company complies with the cease and desist order in the next three years.
Read the full New Era Debt Solutions review.
Best for Transparent Qualifications : National Debt Relief
National Debt Relief is more transparent about the types of debt eligible for its services and what it takes to qualify than much of the competition.
Transparent pricing within industry standards
Detailed listing of eligible debt types
Free finance eBooks and tools
Debt consultations unavailable on Sundays
Must be experiencing a financial hardship
No support for back taxes
National Debt Relief was founded in 2009 and is accredited by both the AFCC and the IAPDA. It stands out from the competition because of the transparency of its qualifications. National Debt Relief’s website contains a detailed list of the debts it can and cannot negotiate, along with what it takes to qualify (financial hardship, such as a recent divorce, is required).
As with most debt settlement companies, National Debt Relief primarily works with unsecured consumer and business debts, but you might be able to get help with some unusual debts like veterinarian bills and abandoned timeshares. Some of the debts it can’t work with include secured loans (e.g., mortgages), lawsuits, and taxes, but these exclusions are typical. You can expect to pay industry-average fees ranging from 15% to 25% of the total enrolled debt.
Before enrolling, you’ll meet with a debt advisor to discuss your finances and relief options. Consultations take place by phone during the company’s normal business operations every day of the week but Sunday and is free.
Read the full National Debt Relief review.
Best for IRS Debt and Back Taxes : CuraDebt
CuraDebt provides a debt settlement option for people who need help settling IRS debt and back taxes, two types of debt that most debt relief companies don’t support.
IRS debt and back taxes are eligible
Low minimum debt requirement of $5,000
Support can be requested via an online ticket
Normal fee range not disclosed
Consultations unavailable on Sundays
Limited online financial education resources
CuraDebt was founded in 2000 and is accredited by both the AFCC and the IAPDA. Unlike most debt relief companies, CuraDebt can negotiate settlements on IRS debt and back taxes. While CuraDebt doesn’t disclose its normal fee range, you can expect to pay 20% of total enrolled debt on average. This fits within the middle of the typical fee range of 15% to 25%.
As with all debt settlement companies, before enrolling with CuraDebt, you’ll be provided with a free debt consultation. This consultation is available every day of the week except Sunday, and you can also get an in-person consultation if you live in Miami or Hollywood, Florida.
If you need help outside of CuraDebt’s normal business hours, you can submit an online ticket and get a response when the customer service team returns (response time isn’t published). The company’s normal hours of operation are Monday through Friday between 9:00 a.m. and 8:00 p.m. ET and on Saturdays from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. ET.
A drawback to CuraDebt is that its website offers limited financial education resources.
Read the full CuraDebt review.
Best for Quick Debt Relief : Accredited Debt Relief
Not only can Accredited Debt Relief help you negotiate settlements on your unsecured debt, but it can potentially get you out of debt in as little as 12 months, which is almost a year quicker than most of the competition.
Program can take as little as 12 months
Many free financial education resources
Customer support available by phone daily
High minimum debt requirement of $10,000
Financial hardship required
No live chat
Accredited Debt Relief was founded in 2011 and is accredited by both the AFCC and the IAPDA. Although its minimum debt requirement is amongst the highest of the companies we reviewed (you’ll need at least $10,000 in unsecured debt and a financial hardship to qualify), its program is potentially one of the quickest.
Depending on your situation (e.g., you have plenty of income to put towards paying down your debt and your creditors quickly agree to settle), it can take as few as 12 months to complete Accredited Debt Relief’s program. Plus, you’ll pay an industry-average fee of 15% to 25% of the total enrolled debt.
To get started with Accredited Debt Relief, a debt advisor will review your financial situation with you for free and help you put together a debt relief plan. You can get a phone consultation any day of the week, including Sunday. Note that live chat isn’t offered.
Read the full Accredited Debt Relief review.
Best for Credit Card Debt : Century Support Services
Century Support Services specializes in credit card debt, making it a good choice for individuals who need help settling at least $10,000 in debt. Plus, it offers live chat, a feature that’s usually unavailable.
Live chat is available
Free online educational tools and resources
Extensive FAQ lists available on its website
Requires $10,000 or more in credit card debt
Fee disclosure isn’t fully transparent
No weekend customer support
Century Support Services was founded in 2012 and is accredited by the AFCC and the IAPDA. While most debt settlement companies can help settle a wide variety of unsecured consumer debts, Century Support Services specializes in credit card debt. This may be helpful for people needing to resolve large credit card balances (its minimum is $10,000 in credit card debt).
Although Century Support Services isn’t as transparent as some of the competition about its pricing, you can expect to pay average interest fees of 18% to 25% of the total enrolled debt. This expectation is based on the company’s disclosure that clients finishing its program typically pay 50% of the balance enrolled in the program before fees and 68% to 75% after fees. This leads to an estimate that fees are 18% to 25% of the total enrolled debt.
Before enrolling in Century Support Services’ program, you’ll get a free consultation with a debt advisor who will evaluate your situation and help develop a plan. Unfortunately, you can’t get a debt consultation on the weekends. However, Century Support Services offers live chat, which you can access on the website. The company doesn’t publish information about when agents are available for live chat.
Read the full Century Support Services review.
Best for Credit Counseling : GreenPath
- Debt Management Plans: Yes
- Debt Settlement: No
- Fee: One-time setup fee of $0 to $50 and monthly fee of $0 to $75
A non-profit debt relief company, GreenPath’s pricing is transparent and its website contains many educational resources. Plus, depending on where you live, you may be able to meet with a counselor in person.
Free-to-low cost debt management plans
In-person sessions available in some states
Extensive financial education resources
Support unavailable on Sunday
Monthly fees and setup costs may be required
GreenPath is a non-profit company founded in 1961 and accredited by the National Foundation for Credit Counseling (NFCC), a professional association serving the credit counseling industry. Unlike the other companies on our list, GreenPath provides its clients with credit counseling and debt management plans. These debt relief services are less harmful to your credit than debt settlement since you’ll repay everything you owe at a potentially reduced interest rate.
Debt management plans from GreenPath carry a low setup cost of $0 to $50 and a monthly fee of $0 to $75, depending on your local laws. Credit counseling is always free. In addition, the company’s website contains a vast library of free educational resources. Plus, services are available in Spanish.
Support is available in every state and GreenPath offers in-person counseling in about 20 states. Credit counseling takes place during the company’s normal business hours or by appointment at a time that's convenient for you.
Your credit counselor will review your credit situation in detail and work with you to develop a customized debt relief plan. Although you can expect the session to take 30-minutes, it could take more or less time depending on the complexity of your situation.
Although all of the debt relief companies on our list are a good choice, Freedom Debt Relief stands out as the overall best debt relief company. Not only is Freedom Debt Relief transparent about its pricing, but it also has great customer service resources including daily customer service availability and Spanish resources.
Plus, Freedom Debt Relief often refers potential clients to non-profit credit counselors instead of signing them up for debt settlement services. This is an excellent practice since debt settlement can negatively impact your credit and should only be used as a last resort.
Compare the Best Debt Relief Companies
|Company||Minimum Debt||Average Repayment Period||Fees||Types of Debt Relief|
|Freedom Debt Relief
|$7,500||24 to 48 months||15% to 25% of total enrolled debt||Debt settlement on credit cards, medical debt, unsecured personal loans, department store credit cards|
|New Era Debt Solutions
Runner-Up, Best Overall
|Not disclosed||27.7 months (up to 48 months)||14% to 23% of total enrolled debt||Debt settlement on unsecured consumer loans (e.g., credit cards, personal loans)|
|National Debt Relief
Best for Transparent Qualifications
|$7,500||24 to 48 months||15% to 25% of total enrolled debt||Debt settlement on unsecured debt like credit cards, payday loans, and some private student loans|
Best for IRS Debt and Back Taxes
|$5,000||24 to 48 months||20% of total enrolled debt on average||Debt settlement on unsecured consumer debt, business debt, IRS debt, and back taxes|
|Accredited Debt Relief
Best for Quick Debt Relief
|$10,000||12 to 48 months||15% to 25% of total enrolled debt||Debt settlement on unsecured consumer debt (e.g., credit cards, medical bills)|
|Century Support Services
Best for Credit Card Debt
|$10,000||24 to 48 months||18% to 25% of total enrolled debt||Debt settlement on credit cards|
Best for Credit Counseling
|None||Not applicable||One-time setup fee of $0 to $50 and monthly fee of $0 to $75||Credit counseling and debt management|
Guide to Choosing the Best Debt Relief Company
Types of Debt Relief
For individuals needing help resolving issues with unsecured debt such as credit cards, medical bills, personal loans, there are four primary types of debt relief:
- Credit counseling: A professional credit counselor will review your finances, help you build a plan to resolve debt issues, and provide financial education (e.g., budgeting).
- Debt management plans (DMP): Credit counselors work with your creditors to negotiate payment plans with potentially lower interest rates. You’ll pay a single payment to the credit counseling agency until your debt issues are resolved.
- Debt consolidation loans: Multiple debts can be refinanced into a single loan. This can be good if you want to refinance higher-interest rate debts or make one payment instead of many monthly payments.
- Debt settlement: The provider works with your creditors to negotiate settlements in an amount less than you owe. This can be risky, as there is no guarantee your creditors will agree to settle and it can ruin your credit.
How to Choose a Debt Relief Company
Debt relief companies help people deal with their outstanding debts by negotiating or consolidating balances, working out payment plans, or even helping them file for bankruptcy in exchange for a fee. People find themselves in need of debt relief companies when they can’t pay their bills, credit cards, or other loans on time, are receiving calls or notices from debt collectors, and don’t know how to handle the situation on their own.
Before enrolling with a debt relief company, it’s important to understand the costs, services you’ll get, impact on your credit, and any potential tax implications. Some of the factors to consider include:
- Costs: Debt relief providers can’t charge upfront fees, so credit and debt counseling are always free. Depending on where you live, debt management plans could cost $0 to $50 to enroll and $0 to $75 a month. Fees typically range from 15% to 25% of total enrolled debt for debt settlement plans.
- Services: Credit counselors will help you put together a financial plan and may sign you up for a debt management plan where you’ll repay everything at a reduced rate. Debt settlement companies will try to negotiate settlements less than you owe.
- Credit impact: Credit counseling has the lowest credit impact, assuming you keep everything current. The goal of debt settlement is to pay less than you owe, so your credit might be ruined, meaning it should be seen as a last resort option.
- Tax implications: With a debt settlement plan, you might end up owing taxes on any debt that’s forgiven. Keep this in mind and consult with an accountant if needed, so you don’t have any surprises come tax season.
Start the Debt Relief Process
Before enrolling, it’s a good idea to have someone thoroughly review your finances and help you develop a plan. A non-profit credit counseling agency is a good place to do this since the service is offered for free. Debt settlement companies will also provide free consultations, but it might not be as extensive as what you’ll get from a non-profit credit counselor.
Don’t pay any upfront fees (these are illegal) and ensure fees are disclosed. Keep in mind that debt relief plans can take several years to complete. Plus, if your provider has negotiated a settlement and you’ve started to make the payments, you’ll owe the fees even if you quit.
If you’ve decided to pursue a debt management plan or debt settlement, make sure you’re willing and able to see it through to completion before enrolling.
Debt Relief vs. Debt Settlement
It's important to understand the difference between debt relief and debt settlement. Simply stated, debt settlement is a type of debt relief you can use to get help resolving issues with unsecured debt (e.g., credit cards, medical bills, personal loans). Other common types of debt relief include credit counseling, debt management plans, and debt consolidation loans.
The goal with debt settlement is to negotiate settlements with your creditors in amounts less than you owe, potentially negatively impacting your credit and possibly resulting in taxes on the forgiven debt. With the other types of debt relief, you’ll repay everything you owe but you might get a reduced interest rate. Other methods won’t impact your credit as severely and should be considered before turning to debt settlement.
Frequently Asked Questions
Should I Use a Debt Relief Service?
Debt settlement should generally only be considered after you’ve first evaluated other debt relief solutions. One option is to work with a nonprofit credit counseling agency, which may provide a counselor who reviews your budget and helps you develop debt relief strategies such as a debt management plan or even a debt consolidation loan.
Keep in mind that in addition to the impact on your credit score, you may also have to pay taxes on any forgiven debt.
The cost of debt relief depends on the type of relief and the provider you choose. If you decide to pursue debt settlement, you’ll typically be charged a percentage of the total amount of the debt the provider settles. Avoid debt settlement companies that try to charge you a fee before your debts are settled.
No matter the company you choose, make sure it discloses its fees to you upfront.
Does Debt Relief Really Work?
There are a variety of debt relief methods you can use that actually work. Some common strategies include doing it yourself through careful budgeting and by negotiating plans with your creditors, working with a nonprofit credit counselor, getting a debt consolidation loan, using a debt management program, working with a debt settlement company, and even filing for bankruptcy.
Some of these strategies, such as debt settlement and bankruptcy, may have significant adverse financial consequences, so it’s necessary to carefully weigh your options before signing up for a debt relief program.
How Do You Avoid Debt Relief Scams?
If you’re in need of debt relief, it’s important to be on the lookout for scams. One of the critical things to look for is if a debt relief company requires you to pay a hefty upfront fee to settle your debt. It’s illegal for debt relief companies that sell services via telephone to charge you an upfront debt settlement fee, making this a huge red flag.
Here are some other potential warnings signs:
- You’re provided with a “guarantee” that your debts will be forgiven by your creditor.
- The company won’t give you information about its fees or services in writing or what you’re being told sounds like it’s too good to be true.
- When you do your homework (e.g., checking out what your state attorney general or consumer protection agency says about the provider, reviewing the company’s stats with the Better Business Bureau), you find a significant history of issues or complaints.
- You’re advised to no longer communicate with your creditors.
We looked at nearly two dozen debt relief companies for this review. The companies at the top of our list are accredited by the AFCC and IAPDA or the NFCC, offer transparent pricing and qualifications, and provide free financial education resources. Plus, they’re stable businesses with a long history of operations.
You can read our full methodology for a complete description of how we reviewed each company.