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You need to get out of debt, so we've made it easy to find your best options. Debt settlement companies are designed to help those in dire financial situations negotiate or resolve debt with creditors. Once you've read this article, you'll know which debt settlement company is best suited to your unique financial situation. The fact is that there are so many debt settlement companies out there, that it can be difficult to find the perfect one. That's why we've been careful in selecting our top five most qualified debt settlement companies. How We Evaluate Debt Settlement Companies At BestCompany.com, we evaluate debt settlement companies on a set of carefully selected ranking criteria, which includes important qualities like a company's minimum debt requirement, national accreditations, associated account setup fees, and of course, price. For example, companies with a low minimum debt requirement (e.g. $5,000) tend to have higher scores that companies that require upward of $20,000 in minimum debt. Similarly, companies with few account setup fees, or that charge a lower service fee-a percentage of the total debt, paid to the company-below industry averages, also receive high marks. Top companies also provide their services to more states and have been accredited by the American Fair Credit Council (AFCC) and/or the International Association of Professional Debt Arbitrators (IAPDA). Each debt settlement provider is independently reviewed and ranked using the same set of standards, and companies that demonstrate consistent excellence across our ranking criteria earn top marks. To learn more about the specific considerations that go into our debt settlement ranking criteria, check out how we rank. After thoroughly investigating each debt settlement provider in the industry, we've identified five companies that stand out from the rest: #1 Freedom Debt Relief Since 2002, Freedom Debt Relief has been at the forefront of regulating the debt settlement industry. In 2010, the company helped establish rules with the FTC that protect consumers from predatory debt-settlement practices. Freedom Debt Relief is also a founding member of the American Fair Credit Council and a Platinum member of the International Association of Professional Debt Arbitrators. In 14 years of business, the company has settled more than $5 billion in consumer debt in approximately 24-48 months per case (though this is not a guarantee). What we like about Freedom Debt Relief We like Freedom Debt Relief's flexible customizable program, which allows clients to set their own repayment terms. Customers can choose both the amount and the frequency of their payments and can rest assured that absolutely no fees will be charged until after the debt settlement services have been rendered in full. We found Freedom Debt Relief's Savings Estimator to be especially useful to customers who might be hesitant to sign up for a free consultation. The Savings Estimator calculates total savings, length of the program, as well as the suggested monthly deposit. #2 Pacific Debt Inc. Coming in at second place is Pacific Debt Inc., which got its start in 2002 as a response to the growing consumer debt epidemic in America. Pacific Debt is an accredited member of the American Fair Credit Council and the IAPDA and provides a simple enrollment process along with a client care team to help customers navigate the early stages of debt settlement. Each customer is assigned a personal account manager, who provide monthly updates on the customer's progress, as well as negotiates with creditors to speed up the settlement process. What we like about Pacific Debt Inc. One of the reasons we awarded Pacific Debt our number two spot is how easy its enrollment process is. Pacific Debt does not require customers to have a certain credit score before doing business, meaning a wider range of people — even those whose debt problems have severely affected their credit — can apply for debt settlement services with Pacific Debt. We also like Pacific Debt's low service fee of 17-20%. Many debt settlement services charge between 21% and 24%. #3 SettleBankDebt.com Our third-ranked debt settlement company has impressed customers by offering a unique approach to those seeking financial freedom. Instead of encouraging customers to stop paying their debt in order to negotiate, the company only takes on customers that already have unsecured debt that is in collections or have been declared delinquent; this way, customers do not suffer any more penalties to their credit score than is necessary. SettleBankDebt.com has been in the debt relief business since 1996. But, how much does SettleBankDebt.com cost? The company only charges customers anywhere from 5% to 10% of their total enrolled debt. What we like about SettleBankDebt.com We are particularly impressed with SettleBankDebt.com's prices — 5% to 10% fees are practically unheard of in the industry. The downside to these amazing prices is that the company only takes on debt that has already been sent to collections. We love the fact that SettleBankDebt.com has taken a creative approach to tackle the problem of damaged credit scores within the debt settlement industry. Most debtors opt to pay and negotiate with creditors themselves through DIY programs or financial education resources. But for those who are being hounded by debt collectors and need debt help now, SettleBankDebt.com is a great option. #4 Accredited Debt Relief Accredited Debt Relief has been an industry leader in debt settlement services since its founding in 2008. Through its team of expert negotiators, Accredited Debt Relief has settled thousands of accounts for businesses and individuals alike. The company is also a staunch supporter of charity work and has donated to several prominent charities, including St. Jude's, the Wounded Warrior Project, and the Susan G. Komen Foundation. Accredited Debt Relief is aptly named, received accreditations from both the AFCC, IAPDA and the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce. What we like about Accredited Debt Relief Accredited Debt Relief service fees are among some of the lowest we've seen — as low as 15% in some cases. This demonstrates to us that Accredited Debt Relief is sensitive to the financially volatile situation many of its customers find themselves in. In that same vein, the company charges zero upfront account setup fees and has a minimum debt requirement of $7,500 (below the industry average). We appreciate the company's transparency with its "Proven Results" page, which details savings figures for some of its actual customers. #5 CuraDebt In one form or another, CuraDebt has been assisting individuals and small businesses resolve their debt since 1996-making it one of the most experienced debt settlement providers in the entire industry. CuraDebt has received a number of accreditations and accolades from third-party organizations, such as the AFCC, IAPDA, The Netcheck Commerce Bureau, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. What we like about CuraDebt Something that stands out to us about CuraDebt is its approach to the service fee. Rather than charging a range of percentages based on a number of variables, CuraDebt simplifies the process by charging a flat 20% fee on your total debt-which is still less than what some other companies charge. CuraDebt's minimum debt requirement of $5,000 is also the lowest in the industry, which drastically increases the number of people CuraDebt can assist. Be sure to review the full list of debt settlement companies we've reviewed. The Future of the Debt Settlement Industry While several steps have been taken to ensure fair and honest practices are being implemented and enforced throughout the industry, debt settlement, as a whole, has a long way to go toward improving its reputation. Many financial experts strongly discourage consumers from using debt settlement as a means to resolve their debt because of the effect it can have on their credit scores. Experts also cite that, at least in some cases, debt settlement can actually result in more debt plus an even poorer credit score. When it comes to financial services in general, the knowledge gap between the financial expert and the average consumer is still very high. In order for debt settlement to remain a serviceable industry, companies must do more to foster good customer relationships. One way to do this is to be more upfront about what the debt settlement process entails, its effects, and who should or shouldn't enroll. Many people don't know that debt settlement is only ideal for those who can resolve their debt quickly, but do not qualify for other options. Companies should maintain compliance with all FTC regulations, and avoid creating false expectations (e.g., duration of the program, total savings, total costs, etc.). As the debt settlement industry continues to grow and evolve, BestCompany.com will continue to provide consumers with the latest news on industry standards, company rankings, and other pertinent news surrounding the industry. Our goal is to empower consumers to make better decisions when it comes to debt settlement; when you choose a top debt settlement company through BestCompany.com, you can rest assured it has been thoroughly inspected and approved beforehand.
If you're in a financial bind, you've probably at one time or another asked yourself, "what do I do now?" Effective solutions for severe financial problems are limited, and not always pretty. Do you declare bankruptcy to pay off your debts? Take on more loans or credit cards? Maybe you've even considered debt settlement as a way to reduce your overall debts by paying one lump sum payment. The problem with debt settlement companies is that there are plenty of phonies out there looking to snag a buck from a helpless victim. So how do you tell who's legit and who isn't? What badges of honesty are out there to prove a company's dependability? According to Best Company, there are three particular organizations that serve as a good measure of legitimacy: the American Fair Credit Council, the Better Business Bureau, and the International Association of Professional Debt Arbitrators. American Fair Credit Council The American Fair Credit Council operates on three basic principles: Support customers dealing with overwhelming credit and debt problems Promote and enforce industry "best practices" Advocate for consumer-centric legislation at the state and federal level that protects consumers through strong regulation and preservation of choice and debt relief The AFCC was founded in 2011 by debt companies whose goals included full compliance with Federal Trade Commission regulations. The organization rose from the ashes of The Association of Settlement Companies after its founders discovered the organization wasn't keeping up with the rapid changes in the credit industry. AFCC members don't handle consumers' funds, and consumers don't pay a fee until their debts are resolved. Better Business Bureau The Better Business Bureau (BBB) was founded in 1912 and operates as a nonprofit organization that gauges marketplace trust. Before 2008, the organization operated solely off a "satisfactory" or "unsatisfactory" rating system, but since then, the organization's rating system has followed a school-like rubric, rating companies on a scale from A+ to F. The BBB Partner Code of Conduct follows six guidelines: Start with Trust Maintain Legal and Regulatory Compliance Advertise Honestly Safeguard Data and Privacy Embody Integrity Report Violations of the Code Accreditation by the BBB means a business has paid a fee to be reviewed against the BBB's accreditation standards. The accreditation doesn't signify an endorsement of products/services or even a guarantee on the quality; it mostly means that the businesses are willing to go the extra step to resolve customer complaints on the BBB website. International Association of Professional Debt Arbitrators The International Association of Professional Debt Arbitrators (IAPDA) started in 2000 when the debt settlement industry was still small and growing. What the IAPDA sought to do was build online training and certification programs for individuals providing debt settlement services. The company claims to be the gold standard for qualification training in the debt settlement, credit counseling, and student loan industries. Since the program is focused on individuals, entrepreneurs can become IAPDA-certified as well as major corporations. When an individual passes the IADPA certification process, the customer can feel sure that the individual classifies as a Certified Debt Specialist, Certified Credit Counseling Specialist, and Certified Student Loan Professional. As time goes by, more and more states are instituting laws that indicate you can only work with debt companies that are trained and certified. This means that those who are already certified through IAPDA are industry-respected specialists that are keeping up to date on current debt relief business laws and requirements. What Does This Mean? Accreditations serve as badges for companies marking legitimacy, expertise, and experience. Customers should recognize companies with these certifications as quality companies to do business with. Best Company has listed among their grading criteria what debt settlement companies are accredited with all of these institutions. Some of these companies include Freedom Debt Relief, Pacific Debt Inc., and Accredited Debt Relief. Appropriately, all of these companies have achieved a rating of 8.5 or higher based on hundreds of consumer reviews. A full list of debt settlement companies can be found on our website.
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