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. Debt settlement is what people often think of when they hear the term debt relief, but that can negatively affect your credit score and should therefore only be used as a last resort. As such, it’s also important to consider other debt-relief options, like debt consolidation or debt management.
According to the Federal Reserve, about 4.6% of outstanding debt was delinquent as of March 31, 2020. To help those experiencing financial difficulties find debt relief, we reviewed over a dozen providers and ranked the best based on having a long history of business operations, transparent pricing, and a good reputation.
The 6 Best Debt Relief Companies of 2021
Best Overall: Cambridge Credit Counseling Corporation
Cambridge Credit Counseling Corporation is a nonprofit debt relief company formed in 1996. The company offers credit counseling and debt management services nationally, along with various other services, such as financial education and guidance on housing, reverse mortgages, student loans, and even bankruptcy. Cambridge is a member of the Financial Counseling Association of America (FCAA), which is known for being a trusted credit counseling organization.
We chose Cambridge as our best overall debt relief company based on its solid reputation, long business standing, and relatively transparent pricing.
The company received an A+ rating and 5-star customer reviews from the Better Business Bureau and is an accredited BBB business. Cambridge Credit Counseling Corporation provides credit counseling services at no cost. Its debt management plan carries average initial fees of $40 and average monthly fees of $30 (capped at the amount allowed by the state in which you live). On average, your debts will be repaid under the company’s debt management plan in no more than 48 months.
Runner-Up, Best Overall: Credit.org
Credit.org (aka, Consumer Credit Counseling Services) is a nonprofit debt relief company formed in 1974 and a member of the well-regarded National Foundation for Credit Counseling (NFCC). The company provides credit counseling services, along with debt consolidation and debt management plans, with a particular focus on credit card debt. Plus, Credit.org offers financial education programs, credit report reviews, and guidance on topics like student loans, housing, and bankruptcy. The company is authorized to do business nationally. We chose Credit.org as our runner-up for the best overall debt relief company based on its long history in operation, relatively transparent pricing, and good reputation.
Accredited with the Better Business Bureau, Credit.org has received an A+ rating and four-star customer reviews. Services are usually provided for free, although the company may charge a modest fee for some counseling services. It charges nominal enrollment and monthly service fees for its debt management plans that vary based on the state in which you live. You can contact a counselor every weekday from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. PT.
Best User Experience: Money Management International
Money Management International is a nonprofit debt relief company formed in 1958 and a member of the NFCC. The company provides a wide range of debt relief services, including credit counseling, debt management plans, and assistance with foreclosures, bankruptcy, student loans, home buying, and more. Money Management International offers help online or over the phone 24 hours a day, 7 days a week nationally, with in-person guidance available in 25 states. We ranked Money Management International as the debt relief company offering the best user experience based largely on its 24/7 availability and solid reputation.
In addition to providing easy access to guidance services, the company received an A+ rating and 4.75-star customer reviews from the Better Business Bureau.
Many of the BBB customer reviews noted a prompt, friendly, and helpful customer service experience. The company charges no fee for its counseling services. Should you decide to sign up for a debt management plan, you’ll most likely pay an initial setup fee and a monthly service charge, with the fees based on the state in which you live.
Best Quick Relief: InCharge Debt Solutions
InCharge Debt Solutions is a nonprofit debt relief company that’s been in operation since 1997 and is a member of the NFCC. Its debt relief services include credit counseling and debt management programs (with a focus on credit cards), along with financial literacy education and help with housing and bankruptcy. You can begin the debt relief process online, making getting relief even quicker than waiting for an appointment to start the process. The company’s customer service team confirmed its programs are offered nationally. We chose InCharge Debt Solutions as the debt relief company offering the best quick relief because its stated average repayment terms were some of the shortest of the companies we reviewed.
As a BBB accredited business, InCharge Debt Solutions has an A+ rating and just over three-star customer reviews with the Better Business Bureau.
Some negative BBB customer reviews expressed confusion over the terms of the company’s debt management program. You can expect to repay your credit card debt within three to five years using the company’s debt management plan, with an average monthly fee of $33 and a one-time setup fee of $75 (fees may vary depending on where you live).
Best Value: American Consumer Credit Counseling
American Consumer Credit Counseling is a nonprofit debt relief company that’s been offering its services since 1991 and is a member of the NFCC. The company provides its services to consumers nationally, which include financial education, credit counseling (for free), debt management programs, debt consolidation, and more. You can start the debt relief process online or by contacting the company via telephone or email. We chose American as the debt relief company offering the best value because its stated fees were some of the most transparent of the companies we reviewed.
The company is a BBB accredited business with an A+ rating and nearly four-star customer reviews. Some negative BBB reviews were related to lengthy conversations with customer service representatives. Its debt management program has an initial fee of $39 and a monthly maintenance fee ranging from $5 to $50, which may be waived or reduced depending on your state laws and needs. Overall, these fees were the lowest and most transparent of the debt relief companies we reviewed.
Best Debt Settlement Company: National Debt Relief
National Debt Relief is a national for-profit debt relief company founded in 2009 that specializes in offering debt settlement services to consumers. The company is a member of the American Fair Credit Council (AFCC), a trade association focused on consumer protection. Unlike the other debt relief companies we reviewed, National Debt Relief helps consumers settle their debt for less than the full amount owed. We ranked National Debt Relief Company as the best debt settlement company based on its decent reputation, relatively transparent pricing, and trade association membership.
The company is a BBB accredited business with an A+ rating and four-star customer reviews. National Debt Relief won’t charge you any upfront fees, and there’s no signup cost. The average amount customers pay is 15% to 25% of the debt they’ve enrolled in the program, which is paid when the settlement is complete. You can expect the debt relief process to take about 24 to 48 months. Keep in mind, debt settlement will negatively affect your credit score, and you may have to pay taxes on any forgiven debt.
What Is a Debt Relief Company?
A debt relief company helps people deal with their outstanding debt. While debt relief often comes in the form of debt management or debt settlement, it can also include debt consolidation. 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.
How Does Debt Relief Work?
When people hear the term debt relief, they often think of debt settlement, which is when a debt relief provider negotiates and settles your debt for less than the full amount owed. 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 counselor, who may review your budget and develop debt relief strategies, such as a debt management plan or even a debt consolidation loan.
How Much Does Debt Relief Cost?
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 creditors
- 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 say 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
How We Chose the Best Debt Relief Companies
We evaluated over a dozen debt relief companies to identify those with a good reputation, a long history of business operations, transparent pricing, and membership with a reputable trade association. We also considered whether the debt relief company was a nonprofit entity (counselors working for nonprofits are typically well-trained and often hold professional certifications) and if it offered credit counseling services. Based on our review, we chose companies with the features that should best enable you to meet your debt relief goals.
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