If you have overwhelming debt that you’re ready to pay off, you may be interested in getting help from a debt relief company. Debt relief companies can help borrowers eliminate their credit card debt, student loan debt, medical debt, and other types of unsecured debt through debt settlement and debt consolidation.
But with more than 100 debt relief companies listed on BestCompany.com, how do you know who is the best debt relief company to work with? The more than 19,000 real customer reviews offer some insights.
If you’re looking for a debt relief company, consider these factors from 5,888 reviews from verified customers from May 31, 2018 to May 31, 2020.
Customer service was a common theme in both positive and negative debt relief company reviews. Out of 5,053 five-star reviews, about 22 percent mention “service,” while about 11 percent of one- and two-star reviews mention “customer service.”
Resolving your debt can take anywhere from a few months to several years. Choosing a company that answers your questions in a timely manner can make the process much smoother.
One verified customer of Freedom Debt Relief, the highest-rated debt relief company on BestCompany.com, wrote that the company has an entire team of people it can refer customers to if the customer service representative they speak with can’t answer their question.
“They do what they say they're going to do and give great support,” Angela wrote. “I'm very confident in them and very happy I signed up.”
Make sure to get a clear understanding of how your debt relief program will work, including how long it will take. Many negative reviews of debt relief companies mentioned misunderstandings over the timeline.
For example, Eric from Jersey City, New Jersey, wrote about Freedom Debt Relief, “I did not like the uncertainty of the end cost and graduation date moving all over the place. I always paid on time and more than the agreed amount, but the graduation date currently extends several months beyond the four-year agreed period. This is not at all what I understood when I signed the agreement.”
Be sure to find out how long it could take to finish the debt relief process.
Other reviews complained about not realizing debt settlement might open them up to legal action or negative effects on their credit score. If you’re pursuing debt settlement, it’s important to understand that withholding payment from your creditors could lead to them pursuing legal action against you and will likely lower your credit score, as well. Only work with debt settlement companies that are honest about these risks upfront.
While some debt relief companies offer both debt consolidation and debt settlement, some only offer one or the other.
Debt consolidation is consolidating several debts into a single debt, often through a debt consolidation loan. Debt consolidation is often a better option for those who have a good credit score, as this can help borrowers obtain a consolidation loan with a lower interest rate.
Debt consolidation may also be right for you if high-interest debt is a concern. Debt settlement involves negotiating with creditors to have part of your debt forgiven.
When you enroll in a debt settlement program, you typically stop paying your creditors and instead save that money for a later lump sum payment. Meanwhile, the debt settlement company works on negotiating with your creditors to reduce your debt, in exchange for paying it off in a lump sum. Debt settlement often hurts your credit score initially, when you stop making payments, and it could result in higher taxes because the IRS considers forgiven debt to be taxable income. But it could also reduce your total debt amount significantly.
Debt settlement may be the right option for you if you’re most concerned about the amount of debt you hold. Once you decide whether you’re interested in debt consolidation or debt settlement, make sure you choose a company that offers that service.
The cost of debt relief services came up frequently in BestCompany.com debt relief reviews. About 12 percent of reviews from verified customers mentioned the words “money,” “cost,” “price,” or “fee.” Even a five-star review of Freedom Debt Relief from a verified customer mentioned high prices as a negative.
“Their negotiations are excellent but their fees (are) a little high,” Anita wrote.
Some debt relief companies base their prices on a percentage of the customer’s enrolled debt, some base their pricing on the amount of money they save the customer, and others simply charge a flat-rate fee.
A flat-rate fee may be a good option if you have a large amount of debt you’re planning to enroll in a debt relief program. Performance-based pricing is also a good sign in a debt relief company — this pricing model demonstrates faith in the company’s ability to save borrowers money on their debt.
Before you sign any contracts, be sure to find out all the fees associated with the company’s debt relief services.
Debt relief companies have different requirements and availability. For example, not all debt relief companies operate in every state. As you’re narrowing down your options, make sure the companies you want to work with operate in the state where you live.
Some companies offer services in states where they don’t have a physical presence. If you don’t mind working with a company over the phone or email, that may not be a problem for you. However, if it’s important to you to be able to meet with company representatives in person, make sure they have an office location that’s accessible to you.
Many debt relief companies also have minimum debt requirements; if your total debt amount is lower than the minimum debt requirement, you won’t be able to use the company’s services.
One reviewer wrote of Pacific Debt, “They couldn't offer any kind of debt relief because your debt had to be 10,000 or more.”
Also be sure that the debt relief companies you’re interested in handle the kinds of debt you hold. Some companies specialize in certain specific kinds of debt, and some debt relief methods only work for unsecured debt.
You can avoid many problems down the road if you do your research upfront, making sure to choose a debt relief company that offers the right kind of services for your specific situation, with affordable pricing and great customer service.
One way to find those companies is to compare debt relief company reviews from real customers. Once you’ve narrowed down your list of potential companies to work with, it’s also a good idea to take advantage of a free consultation and speak with a company representative, asking any relevant questions about the services they provide.
With research and data on your side, you can find the right debt relief company for your needs.