Top Consumer Choice
Top Consumer Choice
Debt relief options range from debt settlement, consolidation, and management to credit counseling, bankruptcy, and do-it-yourself programs.
If you also have tax debt, you should consult with a tax debt relief company. These companies hire enrolled agents and tax attorneys who can negotiate with the IRS, make offers in compromise, remove penalties, and set up installment agreements.
Debt relief companies focus on unsecured debt, personal loans, or payday loans. Debt relief options are designed to deal with a wide variety of debt problems, namely credit card debt, student loan debt, debt from medical bills, and other types of unsecured debt.
If you choose debt settlement, the debt resolution company will negotiate a settlement with your lender. If you choose a debt management program, the company will adjust interest rates and monthly payment amounts to make it easier to pay off your debt. Because every person has a unique debt situation, your choice might be completely different from your friend's or family member's choice of debt relief company.
You need to first understand the different options and then look into companies to pinpoint the perfect partnership for you. To get the best help for your burdensome debts, you should also consider the type of debt you owe, the amount, your credit score, and your financial ability to make monthly payments.
All of these factors are considered by debt professionals when designing plans for you to progress on the road to financial freedom. Weigh the various debt relief options against your personal financial situation to choose the best debt relief company.
Remember to compare the best debt relief companies by how much experience they have in dealing with creditors, their ability to help you with any type of unsecured debt (credit card debt, student loan debt, etc.), and how many fees they have compared to other debt negotiation companies.
Debt management programs are typically offered by credit counseling companies. These companies can help you examine your budget and make a payment plan to get out of debt. Sometimes the company will negotiate for lower interest rates as well. These services are sometimes also offered by debt consolidation companies.
Enrolling in a debt management plan means that you hire the company to pay each of your creditors. Instead of paying each of your creditors monthly, you'll make one monthly payment to the company that will then disburse the funds to your various creditors. This service has a monthly fee and a one-time enrollment fee. These fees are determined during a consultation.
Debt management has many positive aspects. It's a great way to get yourself out of debt and hold yourself accountable to your plan. If you have high amounts of debt, other options may be better for your situation.
While paying the full debt amount is what makes a debt management plan good for your credit score and credit report, it means that you'll be paying interest. Paying off your debt this way means that you'll spend more on what you bought than it was originally worth.
However, it's nice to not take on additional debt and still consolidate into one monthly payment. If you have a manageable amount of debt, a debt management plan is a great path to take.
Debt consolidation is a general term used to describe combining multiple payments from different creditors into one monthly payment. A single monthly payment with a lower interest rate is usually achieved through a consolidation loan.
It is important to note that debt settlement companies sometimes claim they are debt consolidation companies, though the two have slightly different roles. Debt consolidation companies allow you to take out a loan to pay off your debt, and then make one monthly payment on that loan rather than pay multiple creditors, while debt settlement companies seek to settle your debts for less than you owe. Typical debt consolidation companies help you pay your debts in full with a lower monthly payment.
There are many ways to consolidate your debt; however, debt consolidation companies tend to offer one of two services. The first is a debt management plan (DMP). This service is offered by credit counseling agencies and some debt consolidation companies.
Working with a credit counselor or financial adviser, clients review their monthly income and spending to create a budget. The company negotiates a low-interest rate with each creditor, like credit card companies or payday loan companies.
Most debt consolidation programs will pay lenders from a monthly payment you pay to the debt consolidation company. This makes it easier for you to keep track of your debts because you only have one payment to make each month.
Trustworthy companies offer a free consultation. If you choose to become a client, there is usually a one-time enrollment fee. Companies also charge a small monthly fee for their services.
The second method is a . Some companies offer a " "; however, this is often just another term for a . If you decide to take this route, you should make sure that it's a low-interest so you can save money in the long run.
Consolidation companies offer debt reduction by focusing on the interest rates, not the total debt amount like debt settlement services.
While debt consolidation is highly beneficial, it does rely on your personal responsibility. Debt consolidation is designed to help you change spending habits, and because of this, many customers do not fully complete the process. It's important to be disciplined and committed to your personal debt management plan.
There aren't many downsides to consolidating your debt, which is why debt consolidation remains one of the most sought-after methods of debt relief for customers. Take a look at the pros and cons of debt consolidation with a debt management plan:
Using a loan to consolidate debt offers may similar pros; however, the savings are dependent on the terms of the loan. Your creditworthiness is a large factor in interest rates, so you may not end up saving a substantial amount if your credit score isn't excellent.
If your debt primarily comes from high credit card balances, you could do a balance transfer to a new or different credit card with a lower interest rate. This is one way to consolidate credit card debt. Before choosing this option, check to see what the balance transfer fee is for your credit card. You would have to be disciplined to make more than the minimum monthly payment to be effective at paying off your credit card debt.
Working with another company to qualify for a consolidation loan or enrolling in a debt management program are also good options for consolidating credit card debt.
Debt settlement is the process of negotiating with your creditors for a lower overall debt amount. Usually, consumers work with a debt settlement company to plan the best approach. Settlement companies negotiate with each of your creditors to get the debt total down. Meanwhile, you'll start saving monthly to make the lump sum settlement payment. Those who find themselves deep in debt with few or no other debt relief options will find debt settlement a life-saving solution.
Some companies, such as , offer customers a money-back guarantee to lessen their risk in signing up for a .
The process typically begins with a free consultation with the company to discuss your financial situation, debt amount, and creditors. The company then makes a payment plan based on your situation.
Trustworthy debt settlement companies do not charge an upfront fee. They are only paid once a settlement is successfully made.
Over several months, you deposit a set amount into a specific savings account. Rather than paying your creditors, you place money into this account to build up a lump-sum payment.
Once you have enough money saved, the debt settlement company will negotiate with your creditor, trying to convince them to settle your debt for the accrued amount.
If debt settlement is successful, it can lower your total debt amount, saving you thousands of dollars. Rather than paying your full balance, you may end up paying only 50 percent. Also, once a settlement is reached, you are completely finished with that particular creditor.
Customers should know that debt settlement can hurt your credit score. Since a debt settlement program has you place money into a savings account rather than pay your creditors, your debts will become delinquent. Your score will drop during the process. Additionally, your debt will be marked “settled” rather than “paid in full” on your credit report.
If you're considering debt settlement, it's a good idea to also look at credit repair services. Some companies, like Curadebt, include enrollment in credit repair as part of their services.
Not all creditors are willing to negotiate, and they have no legal obligation to settle. If they are willing to settle, the terms are up to their discretion; therefore, you may only save a small amount.
Also, if you work with a debt settlement company, it often charges a percentage of your enrolled debt, which may also limit your savings. Though it is unlikely, you could be sued by your creditors. The settlement process can take two to four years to settle all of your debts.
Finally, if you save over $600, you may be taxed on your forgiven debt. Loan forgiveness is considered taxable income. The only way to avoid this is if you are insolvent, i.e. your liabilities exceed your assets.
Every debt relief company should offer a free consultation before you are required to sign anything. For credit counseling companies, a free financial education course may be involved. During the consultation, there are a number of things you need to find out to determine whether to choose the company in question. Refer to these suggestions when preparing for your free consultation:
Ask about the client-representative relationship. It is better to work with the same person throughout the debt relief process to allow for a more personal relationship and avoid mistakes in your debt case. In some cases, companies randomly assign customers to different debt professionals for each consultation.
Ask about projected prices for your case. The cost of relief services varies depending on the kind of debt relief program chosen and where you live. Debt settlement companies will charge you a percentage of your enrolled debt (usually between 15 and 25 percent). If you owe $20,000 total in debt and your debt relief company saves you $10,000 but also charges 25 percent of your enrolled debt, you will end up paying $10,000 to your creditors and $2,500 to the debt relief company.
On the other hand, debt consolidation companies charge a monthly management fee for their debt management plan services. This fee varies by company and state.
Ask about all possible debt relief options. Though your debt relief professional might suggest one course of action, you need to be aware of all your options because each option has its own pros and cons. Be sure to understand why the professional you work with makes a certain recommendation and ensure your representative is open with you about your options.
Freedom Debt Relief is the top debt relief company. It has earned its spot at the top of our list because of positive customer reviews and the quality services it offers. Freedom Debt Relief specializes in debt settlement, so it’s a good option for people seeking settlement.
If you’re looking for debt consolidation or a debt management program, view other top debt relief companies.
While Freedom Debt Relief is available in many states, there are some regional limitations. Check out the top debt relief companies in your area
When it comes to debt relief, you have some options. You can choose a debt management program, debt consolidation, or debt settlement. Each kind of debt relief service works differently.
A debt management program puts all of your payments into one monthly payment at a lower interest rate. Every month clients make one monthly payment and the debt management company disburses the payment to creditors. These programs have a one-time enrollment fee and monthly fees. These programs are sometimes referred to as debt consolidation because they mimic a debt consolidation loan without requiring clients to apply and take one on.
Debt consolidation is taking out a new loan to pay off all current debt. Typically, this loan should have a lower interest rate. This method also means that you have one monthly payment. In some cases, a debt consolidation loan can be a good option, especially if you’re disciplined.
With debt settlement, you enroll your debt with a company. The company will negotiate to settlements, which means that you will not pay the full balance due. Debt settlement clients generally stop making any payments on their debts. Instead, they put the money into a separate account to be used when paying the settlements.
This will depend greatly on your current financial situation. You will have to answer a few questions before finding the right option.
For example, how much debt do you currently have? Are you close to paying it off? Is your debt delinquent? If you are falling behind on your payment and are unable to pay the full balance of your debt, debt settlement may be a good option for you, especially as an alternative to bankruptcy.
On the other hand, if your accounts are still current, you want to protect your credit and your assets, and you want more manageable monthly payments, then a debt consolidation program or a debt management program is a great option. Take advantage of the free consultation offered by each company to discover which option is best. If you want to get a closer look at your options with debt consolidation, you can take this personal debt quiz.
Debt relief is usually a better option than bankruptcy. More specifically, debt consolidation is much better than bankruptcy, but the real question is whether to use debt settlement as opposed to bankruptcy. Bankruptcy can decrease your credit score 160 to 220 points and can stay on your credit report for 10 years, while some debt management plans have little to no effect on your credit score.
It depends on if you choose debt settlement or debt consolidation. Debt settlement can lower your score but it does bounce back much faster than it would if you declared bankruptcy. If you opt for debt settlement, your debts will be marked as "settled" instead of "paid in full" on the credit report. If you decide to go with debt consolidation, there is usually an increase on your credit score as you pay off your debts. If you complete the entire program, your debts are paid in full.
With debt settlement, you can usually pay off all of your debts within two and four years. With debt consolidation, it could be anywhere between three and five years.
If you settled debt for less than you owe, you may have to pay taxes on saved money over $600. However, if you are insolvent (have more debts than assets), you don't have to pay this. If you still are not convinced of debt relief due to possible tax penalties, try asking about it during your free consultation or research debt relief taxes further.
Typically, debt settlement companies offer programs that accept unsecured debt (credit card debt, some student loan debt, unsecured personal loans, etc.).
However, very few companies provide debt relief services for secured debt. You will have to talk to each company for details on which types of debt can be enrolled.
No. Getting a consolidation loan is a debt relief option, but you need a good credit score to qualify for a low-interest rate.
If you really want to stick with a debt consolidation strategy that doesn't require you to have a high credit score to take out a loan, you can go with a credit counseling agency that provides debt management plans (DMPs) as opposed to a loan.
Debt settlement is another option that does not require you to get a loan.
Yes, there are many do-it-yourself methods, but most people need help to navigate the complexities of debt relief strategy. Additionally, you may find savings on your own, but you are much more likely to cut a greater number of debts with the help of a debt relief expert.
If a company is FTC compliant and accredited by professional organizations such as the AFCC, IAPDA, NFCC, etc., chances are it is a legitimate company. With these accreditations, companies are held to higher standards, and company employees receive additional levels of training in debt relief strategies, often leading to higher customer satisfaction.
If you do not trust these accreditation organizations alone, you can look at each company's social media comments (which usually house complaints/praise for most companies). To take your research a step further, review the top debt relief companies and their respective debt relief reviews.
Not exactly. Some debt relief companies claim to provide all debt relief services, but most have specialties.
For example, a credit counseling agency can provide you with debt management plans while companies that focus on debt settlement probably don't offer DMPs. Additionally, some debt relief companies are non-profit while others are for-profit.
Sign up below to receive a monthly newsletter containing relevant news, resources and expert tips on Debt Relief and other products and services.