Best Debt Relief Companies of April 2024 (2024)

Table of Contents
Best Debt Relief Companies of April 2024 Important Best Overall for Debt Settlement, Best for Credit Card Debt, Best for Low Fees : National Debt Relief Best for Tax Debt Relief : CuraDebt Best for Customer Service : Accredited Debt Relief Best for Customer Satisfaction and Reputation : New Era Debt Solutions Also Great for Customer Satisfaction and Reputation : Freedom Debt Relief Best for Small Debts : Money Management International Also Great for Low Fees : Pacific Debt Relief Best for Credit Counseling : Apprisen Our Expert Recommendation for the Best Debt Relief Companies Compare the Best Debt Relief Companies What Is Debt Settlement? How Debt Settlement Works Pros & Cons of Debt Settlement Alternatives to Debt Settlement Programs Debt Relief vs. Bankruptcy Debt Settlement vs. Debt Consolidation How to Get Out of Debt Who Should Consider Debt Relief? Is Debt Relief Right For You? How to Choose a Debt Relief Company Sana Siddiqui, Investopedia Research Analyst How to Apply for Debt Relief Risks of Dealing With a Debt Relief Company How to Spot a Debt Relief Scam Frequently Asked Questions What Debt Relief Company Is Best to Work With? Who Can Help Me Settle My Debt? How Long Does Debt Settlement Take? Does Debt Consolidation Ruin Your Credit? How to Pay Off $10,000 of Credit Card Debt? How Long Does Debt Relief Stay on Your Credit Report? How Much Do Debt Relief Companies Charge? Does Credit Repair Make Sense Following Debt Relief? Companies We Reviewed Why You Should Trust Us How We Chose the Best Debt Relief Companies Learn More About Debt Relief References

National Debt Relief is the best overall debt settlement company, according to our research. National Debt Relief's low-cost fee structure and referral service make it a top option for people struggling with debts.

Our highest-rated debt settlement companies all charge similar fees, ranging from 15% to 25% of the debt. Some debt settlement companies below require at least $10,000 in debt to enroll in a program, with the goal of reducing the amount you owe, while others don't require as much. You'll find some credit counseling companies here as well, which offer debt management plans for enrollment and monthly fees. These plans are usually less expensive than debt settlement, but they don't result in any forgiven debt.

We researched 40 different debt relief companies and rated them in several important categories: costs, availability, reputation and stability, customer experience, and services offered. Debt settlement services were compared to other debt settlement services, and likewise for credit counseling services. Important factors like fee transparency, accreditations, and customer support options were examined for each company. In total, we collected over 2,000 data points across 53 criteria and used them to inform our best picks for the categories below.

Best Debt Relief Companies of April 2024

Important

Several financial products fall under the term "debt relief," including debt settlement, credit counseling, bankruptcy, and debt consolidation. Below, you'll find our recommendations for both debt settlement firms and credit counseling services, followed by information on alternative debt relief solutions and how to choose what's right for your situation.

Best Debt Relief Companies of April 2024

Best Debt Relief Companies of April 2024

  • Our Top Picks
  • National Debt Relief
  • CuraDebt
  • Accredited Debt Relief
  • New Era Debt Solutions
  • Freedom Debt Relief
  • Money Management International
  • Pacific Debt Relief
  • Apprisen
  • See More (5)
  • Our Expert Recommendations

  • Compare the Best Debt Relief Companies

  • What Is Debt Settlement?

  • Pros and Cons

  • Alternatives

  • How to Get Out of Debt

  • Who Should Consider Debt Relief?

  • Is Debt Relief Right For You?

  • How to Choose a Debt Relief Company

  • How to Apply for Debt Relief

  • Risks

  • Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

  • Why You Should Trust Us

  • Methodology

Best Overall for Debt Settlement, Best for Credit Card Debt, Best for Low Fees : National Debt Relief

Investopedia's Rating

4.8

Best Debt Relief Companies of April 2024 (1)

  • Debt Settlement: Yes
  • Debt Settlement Fee: 15% to 25% of settled debt
  • Debt Management Plans: No
  • Minimum Debt Required: $7,500

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • Top-ranking company that works with credit card debt

  • Lowest debt settlement fees among top-ranking companies

  • Referral service for other debt solutions

  • Available in most states

Cons

  • No live chat option

  • Not available in Oregon, Vermont, or West Virginia

  • Doesn’t disclose savings account fees

Why We Chose It

National Debt Relief scored highly across the board in major categories that we rate the best debt relief companies on, making it the best overall debt settlement service. It charges low fees (from 15% to 25% of the debt that the company successfully settles, versus the total amount) and works with most types of unsecured debt, including “some student debts.” Although most debt settlement companies can help with credit card debt, National Debt Relief is our top pick for credit card debt thanks to its high overall score.

If National Debt Relief can’t help you, it can offer referrals to partners for things like credit counseling and debt consolidation loans.

National Debt Relief is based in New York City and has been around since 2009.

Learn more in our full review: National Debt Relief Review.

Fees & Costs

National Debt Relief, by law, doesn’t charge any upfront fees of its own. You’ll get a free consultation, and if you decide to proceed, National Debt Relief will set you up with an FDIC-insured savings account from a third party, which often comes with a setup fee and recurring monthly fees.

After a few months of building up a settlement fund in that account, National Debt Relief will start negotiating with your lenders. For any debts that it’s successfully able to settle, you’ll pay 15% to 25% of the settled debt.

While National Debt Relief is upfront with its own charges, it’s unfortunately silent about how much you’ll have to pay for the FDIC-insured savings account that you’ll use to build your settlement nest egg. These costs, while typically not large, can add up to a significant amount over the 24 to 48 months that it typically takes to complete a debt settlement program—but you’ll have to pay for this with any debt settlement company.

Best for Tax Debt Relief : CuraDebt

Investopedia's Rating

3.9

Best Debt Relief Companies of April 2024 (2)

  • Debt Settlement: Yes
  • Debt Settlement Fee: 15% to 25% of initial debt
  • Debt Management Plans: No
  • Minimum Debt Required: $5,000

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • Can help with a range of debt types

  • Offers live chat

  • Accredited by the AFCC and IAPDA

Cons

Why We Chose It

CuraDebt may have a website that looks like it hasn’t been updated much since the company launched in 1996, but this Florida-based debt relief company is worth looking into. It helps people with many types of debts, including some that most debt settlement companies don’t touch, such as tax debts.

It’s our highest-rated company that offers help with tax debt, which is available in 50 states. Its broader debt settlement plans are offered in half as many states.

CuraDebt offers limited customer support hours (Monday to Friday, plus Saturday) but is still relatively accessible, with live online chat via the website. Customer reviews of the company from Trustpilot (3.3 out of 5) and BBB (4.8 out of 5) tend to be relatively good overall.

Learn more in our full review:CuraDebt Debt Settlement Review.

Fees & Costs

All inquiries into CuraDebt’s services start with a free consultation. CuraDebt offers “flat fee pricing” for its tax debt assistance services, although it doesn’t specify how much it costs.

CuraDebt’s debt settlement services are the main draw, however, and as with all other debt settlement companies there are no upfront fees. You’ll stop paying your debts and make monthly payments into a third-party account to build up a settlement fund. These often come with fees as well, but CuraDebt doesn’t note how much, if anything, this costs.

If CuraDebt is successful in resolving any of your debts, it’ll charge you a settlement fee of 15% to 25% of the initial amount of those debts.

Best for Customer Service : Accredited Debt Relief

Investopedia's Rating

4.3

Best Debt Relief Companies of April 2024 (3)

  • Debt Settlement: Yes
  • Debt Settlement Fee: 25% of settled debt
  • Debt Management Plans: No
  • Minimum Debt Required: $10,000

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • Excellent customer service availability

  • Good customer reviews

  • Works with a wide range of debts

Cons

  • High minimum debt requirement of $10,000

  • Not transparent about savings account fees

  • Not available in 10 states

Why We Chose It

Accredited Debt Relief is a division of Beyond Finance, another company that essentially offers the same services. It’s our top company for customer service thanks to its many methods of customer support—it offers live chat, phone, email, mail, and even fax accessibility—along with good reviews from past clients.

Live chat can be convenient, but it’s especially easy to reach customer support via phone, compared to many other companies; the company staffs its call center every day from 8:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. ET (until 10:00 p.m. on weekends).

Beyond Finance offers a mobile app as well, though it’s not clear whether customers of Accredited Debt Relief are able to use this platform too. Some other details about the companies are similarly muddled together. However, with close to 6,000 reviewers on Trustpilot giving the company an average rating of 4.9 stars (out of 5), it’s clear the company’s doing something right.

Accredited Debt Relief was founded in 2011 in Houston, TX.

Learn more in our full review:Accredited Debt Relief Review.

Fees & Costs

Accredited Debt Relief offers two main services: debt settlement and debt consolidation loans. It can help you decide which one is best with a free consultation. If you opt for debt settlement, you’ll owe the company 25% of the debt that it’s able to successfully settle. You may also owe a setup fee and monthly fees for a savings account from a third-party bank. Accredited Debt Relief does not specify an amount for these charges.

Accredited Debt Relief also offers debt consolidation loans through its partners:

  • Origination fee: 1% to 6%
  • APR: 4.90% to 35.99%
  • Term length: 4 to 84 months
  • Loan amount: $1,000 to $100,000

Best for Customer Satisfaction and Reputation : New Era Debt Solutions

Investopedia's Rating

4.0

Best Debt Relief Companies of April 2024 (4)

  • Debt Settlement: Yes
  • Debt Settlement Fee: 15% to 23% of initial debt
  • Debt Management Plans: No
  • Minimum Debt Required: $10,000

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • Highest customer satisfaction ratings among top-ranking companies

  • Relatively low fees

  • Claims to reduce debts by 57% on average

Cons

  • High minimum debt requirement of $10,000

  • Charges based on initial debt, rather than settled debt

  • Not available in Maine, Oregon, and Iowa

Why We Chose It

You’ll need at least $10,000 in credit card or other eligible unsecured debt to hire California-based New Era Debt Solutions. That’s higher than most other companies, but New Era does have more than a 20-year track record of settling your debt for less (it was founded in 1999).

New Era has the highest customer reviews and ratings of any of the top debt relief companies we examined. Over 350 people have given New Era a 4.9-star rating on Trustpilot, for example. Dozens more have given it the same rating on Google and the BBB.

Learn more in our full review:New Era Debt Solutions Review.

Fees & Costs

Initial consultations with New Era are free. If you decide to go ahead with the service, you’ll open up a third-party savings account to serve as an escrow account. You’ll make monthly payments into this account, which may come with an initial and monthly fee.

If New Era is successful in negotiating with your creditors, it’ll charge a settlement fee ranging from 15% to 23% of your initial debt.

Also Great for Customer Satisfaction and Reputation : Freedom Debt Relief

Investopedia's Rating

4.1

Best Debt Relief Companies of April 2024 (5)

  • Debt Settlement: Yes
  • Debt Settlement Fee: 15% to 25% of initial debt
  • Debt Management Plans: No
  • Minimum Debt Required: $7,500

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • Good customer reviews and reputation

  • Transparent about fees

  • Can help with a wide range of debts

Cons

  • Not available in 8 states and D.C.

  • Somewhat expensive third-party monthly charges

  • Consumer protection law violations on record

Why We Chose It

One of the more popular companies operating in the debt relief space, Freedom Debt Relief claims to have helped over a million customers shed a collective $18 billion in debt in the 20 years it’s been operating. Those customers have left a lot of helpful breadcrumbs about working with the company, and they’re largely positive. Freedom Debt Relief has a 4.6-star rating on Trustpilot based on over 41,000 reviews, for example, and 4.83 on BBB with over 100 reviews. It’s almost as highly rated as our top pick for customer satisfaction and reputation.

Freedom Debt Relief helps people with many types of unsecured debts, including payday loans and private student loans. The services offered by Freedom Debt Relief can be expensive because, if negotiations are successful, it charges a percentage fee of your initial debts, rather than of the amount of settled debt. However, the company does have a “program guarantee” which limits the fees the company charges in some cases.

Freedom Debt Relief’s program guarantee ensures customers won’t pay “more than the total amount of debt you enroll in [their] program.” However, since debt settlement often causes your outstanding balances to swell due to late fees and interest charges, that amount may be more than you expected.

Freedom Debt Relief has been in business since 2002, and is based in San Mateo, California.

Learn more in our full review:Freedom Debt Relief Review.

Fees & Costs

Freedom Debt Relief offers a free consultation to go over your financial details. The company doesn’t charge any fees upfront, but it does require you to open a savings account with a third party. Most debt relief companies don’t mention the costs with this account, but Freedom Debt Relief does: There’s a one-time $9.95 setup fee, plus a $9.95 monthly charge. This is a high price for a savings account given that banks generally offer them for free, but it’s not unusual with even the best debt relief companies.

If you agree to any debt settlements that Freedom Debt Relief is able to negotiate, you’ll be charged a fee of 15% to 25% of your original debt—not the amount of settled debt.

Best for Small Debts : Money Management International

Investopedia's Rating

3.8

Best Debt Relief Companies of April 2024 (6)

  • Debt Settlement: Yes
  • Debt Settlement Fee: Not disclosed
  • Debt Management Plans: Yes
  • Minimum Debt Required: $0

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • No minimum debt requirement

  • Excellent customer satisfaction ratings

  • Been in business for a long time

Cons

  • Doesn’t disclose debt settlement fees

  • Potentially high debt management plan fees

Why We Chose It

Money Management International (MMI) is a nonprofit debt relief company based in Stafford, Texas, and founded in 1958. Unlike most other companies, it doesn’t have a minimum debt requirement to enroll in a debt settlement program. However, these are only offered in certain circ*mstances. Instead, MMI generally steers people toward a debt management plan. The company’s DMP fees run a bit on the high side, according to Investopedia research, but MMI offers services on a sliding fee scale for people with lower incomes.

Customer service availability is top-notch at MMI. The agency’s phone lines are open 24/7 and you can get help in person at one of MMI’s 38 branch locations around the country. There are also options to connect with an advisor online via live chat or email.

Learn more in our full review:Money Management International Review.

Fees & Costs

Money Management International offers an initial free credit counseling session if you complete an online form or call the company. After that, your advisor will create a plan and recommend certain services. Paid options are available on a sliding fee scale and include:

  • Debt management plans: One-time enrollment fee of $0 to $75; monthly fee of $0 to $59 after that. Plans are generally designed to pay off your debt within five years.
  • Debt settlement: MMI may offer debt settlement services occasionally, but does not disclose how much it costs.
  • Bankruptcy counseling: Up to $50 for pre-filing and pre-discharge courses
  • Reverse mortgage counseling: $199 for a course in how reverse mortgages work, required if you're taking out an HECM loan
  • First-time homebuyer counseling: Up to $159 for a course on buying your first home, required by some lenders
  • Credit report review: Up to $59 to review your credit report in-depth and make recommendations about how to improve it

Money Management International also offers free support in these areas:

  • Student loan counseling
  • Disaster recovery counseling
  • Foreclosure and eviction counseling

Also Great for Low Fees : Pacific Debt Relief

Investopedia's Rating

4.3

Best Debt Relief Companies of April 2024 (7)

  • Debt Settlement: Yes
  • Debt Settlement Fee: 15% to 25% of settled debt
  • Debt Management Plans: No
  • Minimum Debt Required: $10,000

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • Debt settlement fees are among the lowest of companies reviewed

  • 20+-year company history (founded in 2002)

  • Excellent customer satisfaction ratings

Cons

  • Requires at least $10,000 of debt

  • Only available in 28 states and D.C.

  • Limited customer service support hours

Why We Chose It

Pacific’s settlement fees are just as low as our best overall pick for debt settlement—15% to 25% of the settled debt—but it has a slightly lower overall rating. The company’s website claims to charge based on your total enrolled debt, however, a company representative confirmed that it actually charges based on the amount of settled debt, which can end up being less expensive.

Judging by online customer reviews, Pacific Debt Relief has built up quite a positive reputation among debt relief companies. Nearly 1,500 people have given Pacific Debt Relief an average score of 4.7 stars out of 5, for example, and its reviews with the Better Business Bureau (BBB) are higher yet: 4.93 stars out of 5, based on a similar number of reviews.

Pacific Debt Relief is based in San Diego and has been around for over two decades.

Learn more in our full review:Pacific Debt Relief Review.

Fees & Costs

All customers start with a free consultation with Pacific Debt Relief. After a review of your finances and your debt, Pacific Debt Relief may offer you a contract if it decides to offer its services to you. You’ll need to stop paying your debts and instead pay into a third-party savings account (which may come with additional, unspecified fees). Pacific Debt Relief will use those funds to negotiate a debt payoff settlement. If it’s successful, it’ll charge you 15% to 25% of any settled debts.

Best for Credit Counseling : Apprisen

Investopedia's Rating

4.8

Best Debt Relief Companies of April 2024 (8)

  • Debt Management Plans: Yes
  • DMP Enrollment Fee: $0 to $45
  • DMP Monthly Fee: $0 to $45
  • Minimum Debt Required: $0

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • Low fees on a sliding scale

  • Resources for tax debt, housing debt, student loans, and more

  • Multiple customer support channels

Cons

  • Limited customer service hours

  • Counseling courses may have limited human interaction

  • Some counseling options have higher fees

Why We Chose It

Apprisen is our highest-rated credit counseling agency, founded in 1955 and based in Gahanna, Ohio. It’s not a debt settlement agency like the other companies on this list; instead, it’s a nonprofit that offers a whole host of debt management services. Debt management plans (DMPs) are offered at many credit counseling agencies, and these are quite different from debt settlement. You’ll repay your full debt with help from Apprisen counselors who negotiate with your creditors to reduce your interest rates. This process often takes three to five years.

You’ll make one payment a month to Apprisen, which will distribute it to all of your creditors so that the entire balance is paid off, not forgiven like with a debt settlement company. This helps reduce damage to your credit score. Apprisen also offers many other options to help with housing debt, student loans, ongoing financial coaching, and more. Some of these programs are structured as online courses and workshops, whereas others involve working one-on-one with a counselor.

Learn more in our full review:Apprisen Credit Counseling Review.

Fees & Costs

Apprisen starts with a free financial review session with a counselor. The company will then propose a financial plan for you with a cost estimate for services. Apprisen offers reduced-price services for those who qualify, and may even waive its fees entirely.

  • Debt management plans: $0 to $45 to enroll, $0 to $45 per month
  • Credit health plan: $65 for individuals and $85 for couples for an in-depth look at your credit score and to develop a comprehensive plan to improve it over time.
  • Financial coaching: $10 per month for a yearly check-in, on-demand access to a counselor, and other financial tools
  • Financial health plan: $95 for an in-depth, holistic planning session to go over your budget, debts, credit, and savings and develop a savings plan to meet your financial goals
  • Bankruptcy counseling: $25 for an online pre-bankruptcy counseling course and $50 for an in-person post-bankruptcy workshop
  • Pre-purchase mortgage counseling: $90 for advice on getting ready to take out a mortgage, required by some lenders (this fee is not charged in some cases, however)

In addition to the paid counseling options above, Apprisen also offers free counseling for the following situations and needs:

  • First-time renters
  • First-time homebuyers
  • Mortgage delinquency/foreclosure prevention
  • Student loan counseling

Our Expert Recommendation for the Best Debt Relief Companies

Debt relief companies aren’t your only option when it comes to getting out of debt. Generally, experts recommend other debt help options first.

But if you decide that debt settlement is right for you, consider National Debt Relief, New Era Debt Solutions, and Freedom Debt Relief first since these companies have the highest customer satisfaction scores. Apprisen is our top pick for nonprofit credit counseling agencies, which many financial advisors recommend over for-profit debt settlement companies (Money Management International is another highly rated company offering credit counseling).

Compare the Best Debt Relief Companies

Debt SettlementDebt Settlement FeeDebt Management PlansDMP Enrollment FeeDMP Monthly Fee
National Debt Relief Best Overall for Debt Settlement/Credit Card Debt/Low FeesYes15%–25% of settled debtNoN/AN/A
CuraDebt Best for Tax Debt ReliefYes15% to 25% of initial debtNoN/AN/A
Accredited Debt Relief Best for Customer ServiceYes25% of settled debtNoN/AN/A
New Era Debt Solutions Best for Customer Satisfaction and ReputationYes15% to 23% of initial debtNoN/AN/A
Freedom Debt Relief Also Great for Customer Satisfaction and ReputationYes15% to 25% of initial debtNoN/AN/A
Money Management International Best for Small DebtsYesNot disclosedYes$0–$75$0–$59
Pacific Debt Relief Also Great for Low FeesYes15% to 25% of settled debtNoN/AN/A
Apprisen Best Overall for Credit CounselingNoN/AYes$0–$45$0–$45

Debt relief companies generally can’t help you with student loans, but there are other options for student loan debt relief. Federal student loan borrowers can choose from various financial aid options. Private student loan borrowers can approach their loan servicer for help. If that doesn’t work, you can try refinancing with a new lender or contacting a debt attorney for assistance.

What Is Debt Settlement?

Debt settlement is a type of debt relief that involves a third-party company negotiating with creditors to lower the total amount owed for those who have accumulated so much debt that they can no longer stay on top of their payments. In exchange for this service, debt relief companies typically charge consumers a fee based on a percentage of the amount settled.

How Debt Settlement Works

Debt relief companies often work to resolve debts through a process called debt settlement, which involves negotiating with creditors to reduce the amount of debt owed, often by 40% to 60% of the outstanding balance.

In the debt settlement process, clients are asked to set aside a specific amount of money each month in a dedicated savings account. The goal is to save up enough money to negotiate a lump sum settlement with creditors. To build up savings and gain negotiating power, clients are also advised to pause regular payments and instead direct funds to the savings account.

While the potential savings are attractive, debt settlement comes with risks. Your credit score may be damaged once you stop paying your bills, as late payment behavior and delinquency will show up on your credit report. On top of that, creditors aren't required to agree to a settlement, so there’s no guarantee the negotiations will be successful.

Pros & Cons of Debt Settlement

Pros

  • You may get out of debt sooner

  • You may avoid bankruptcy

Cons

  • Your credit score may be hurt

  • Your success isn’t guaranteed

  • You may not stick with the plan

  • You may may owe additional taxes

Alternatives to Debt Settlement Programs

As you seek debt relief options, also consider other programs and strategies that may be better suited for your goals:

  • Nonprofit credit counseling services: Credit counselors can review your financial situation, help you create a budget, and design a personalized money management plan for paying off your debt. Fees for many of these services are modest, or even free. The National Foundation for Credit Counseling (NFCC) is a great place to start to learn about options for those who are struggling with consumer debt.
  • Debt management plan: Credit counselors work with your creditors to create a payment plan and schedule with a lower monthly payment using a debt management plan. If approved, you'll make one monthly payment to the credit counseling agency until your debt is paid off. You'll have to stop using any credit cards, but your accounts remain in good standing. These plans usually come with a fee.
  • Debt consolidation: Debt consolidation involves combining multiple debts into one using a personal loan or credit card balance transfer. This can simplify the repayment process for unsecured debts like credit card bills or medical bills and save money in the long run if your consolidation loan or balance transfer credit card has a lower interest rate than your other debts. Debt consolidation also has the advantage of not affecting your credit score if you make timely payments on your new debt obligation with reduced interest rates to the credit card company or debt consolidation lender.

Debt Relief vs. Bankruptcy

A specific type of debt relief, debt settlement, is a very different process than Chapter 7 bankruptcy or Chapter 13 bankruptcy. Declaring bankruptcy involves a debtor who is unable to repay their debts petitioning the court to seek temporary protection from creditors for their unsecured debts and is intended to result in an equitable settlement of the debtor's obligations, typically for significantly less than was originally owed. Secured debts, like mortgage or car loans, are not discharged through bankruptcy but rather involve the borrower forfeiting the loan collateral if they are unable to make payments. Debt settlement is a process by which the terms of existing debts are renegotiated by a third party for a fee to lower the cost, either in reduced interest or cancellation of part of the principal, of carrying debt.

While debt settlement can negatively impact credit, bankruptcy significantly impairs both credit scores and can block access to further credit for quite a period as it is reported for seven years to the credit bureaus.

Debt Settlement vs. Debt Consolidation

Debt settlement is often confused with debt consolidation but the two terms are very different. Debt settlement entails negotiation between the borrower, either directly or through an agent acting on the borrower's behalf, and the lender(s) to get the lender to accept something less than the total amount owed by the borrower. Debt consolidation is a loan made by a new lender to pay off existing consumer debts, thereby consolidating the previous debts into a single, lower-interest loan that must be repaid by the borrower.

How to Get Out of Debt

Getting out of debt can be challenging for those with bills that have piled up from credit card purchases, medical expenses, and other types of borrowing, the minimum payments for which can often exceed their take-home pay. The process of paying down bills can be systematic and effective if the right steps are followed, though:

  • Make a budget that includes all types of expenses - both non-discretionary ones (like food, rent or mortgage, and car payments) and discretionary ones (like expenses for entertainment, travel, or restaurants). Look for discretionary costs that can be cut while applying that money toward paying down debt.
  • Begin paying down the debt with the highest interest rate first (usually a credit card account) and then move to the next-highest interest account in sequence.
  • Utilize balance transfer credit card offers to move high-interest debt into a 0% interest rate account and pay down that balance during the no-interest introductory period (which typically lasts 12 months). Debt consolidation loans can also offer a way to roll all higher-interest debt into a single lower-interest loan.
  • Call lenders with whom you carry the highest-interest debt and ask for an interest rate deduction or a debt repayment plan that can fit within your monthly budget.

If the steps above are not feasible due to insufficient income, unemployment, or credit eligibility then credit counseling, debt settlement or even bankruptcy may be steps to consider.

Who Should Consider Debt Relief?

Debt relief should be considered if you:

  • Have more debt payments than you can service (i.e. at least make minimum payments)
  • Are willing to have your credit score significantly decreased by the debt settlement process
  • Do not wish to consider declaring bankruptcy

Debt settlement services can be relatively expensive and negatively affect your credit, so it is not advisable to pursue them without first contacting your creditors to see if there are other options for debt restructuring or more favorable repayment plan terms to pay your creditors available.

Is Debt Relief Right For You?

The decision to pursue debt relief is a very personal one and should not be considered lightly. That's because it can have long-term effects on your credit score and may not completely free you from the obligation of eventually repaying all the principal, interest, and fees that you owe on your debts.

While debt relief can provide an initial settlement with creditors, those lenders often charge off the portion of the debt not collected to debt collection agencies. However, debt settlement can offer many people a path to getting out of debt that they might not have without the help of a debt relief company's ability to negotiate with creditors on their behalf.

How to Choose a Debt Relief Company

Before you hire a debt relief company, make sure you understand the fees and interest that would be charged, the services offered, and the firm's reputation.

  • Debt settlement generally costs 15% to 25% of the amount of the debt owed.
  • Look for reputable and trustworthy companies that are accredited by the American Fair Credit Council (AFCC) or the International Association of Professional Debt Arbitrators (IAPDA).
  • It can also be a good idea to contact your state attorney general's office to see if there are any recent or outstanding complaints about any companies you are considering.

Any company you consider should be transparent about its pricing and its process, have strong customer satisfaction scores, and be free of regulatory actions.

Sana Siddiqui, Investopedia Research Analyst

"Customers should be vigilant about having their debt relief questions answered without giving out personal information because some of these companies are eager to put you in their database and 'close' you on a settlement plan instead of reviewing costs and terms upfront. Information like fees, cancellation policies, and eligible debt should be discussed before providing any personal information to a company so you can first decide if they are an affordable option before proceeding." —Sana Siddiqui, Investopedia Research Analyst

How to Apply for Debt Relief

To apply for a debt settlement program you need to:

1. Research companies that can settle your type of debt:

  • Not all debt relief companies can settle certain types of debt like debt from payday loans, student loans, or medical debt. However, most can work with common types of consumer debt like high-interest credit card debt.
  • Compare fees charged between companies—most charge a flat percentage of the outstanding debt being settled.

2. Make sure you meet any debt-level requirements:

  • Some companies require that you have a certain level of debt before they will work with you.

3. Contact the company that best suits your needs:

  • Provide creditor information, including lender names, account numbers, loan payment amounts, total loan amounts owed, and interest rates charged
  • Provide personal information like proof of employment (pay stub, 1099, or W2), Social Security number, and annual income
  • Sign a contract authorizing the company to negotiate with your creditors and agree on the fee charged for the services provided by the company.

It is best to thoroughly research your options, both online and by speaking to friends and family, before deciding on a debt settlement company to ensure the one you choose has a solid reputation, isn't under sanction by any regulatory authorities, and has good customer experience reviews. Reputability, trustworthiness, and transparency are critical factors that should be considered before selecting a company to help settle your debt.

Risks of Dealing With a Debt Relief Company

Choosing to work with a debt relief company to settle your debt does come with risks. If you decide to proceed with debt relief, be aware that you could face the following:

  • Lenders who choose not to settle your debts
  • A significant drop in your credit score
  • Adverse information on your credit report for up to seven years
  • Unpaid debt, though settled with the original lender, may be subject to sale to debt collectors
  • High fees—some debt relief companies charge up to 25% of the total balances settled; this can vary by state.
  • Tax liability—any debts over $600 that are settled or forgiven can be subject to federal income tax

How to Spot a Debt Relief Scam

Below are some red flags to be aware of to avoid getting scammed by a disreputable debt relief company:

  • Demand for payment upfront, before it settles your debt
  • A guarantee that they can settle all of your debt and make you debt-free
  • An unusually high number of consumer complaints
  • No TrustPilot rating or a very poor rating
  • A record of sanctions and penalties levied by government regulatory agencies
  • An insecure website application page without HTTPS security protocol

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What Debt Relief Company Is Best to Work With?

    National Debt Relief is Investopedia's pick for the best overall debt relief company in the country in March 2024. We evaluated the leading debt companies across 19 different criteria in four areas: reputation and stability, customer experience, services, and costs and fees. National Debt Relief achieved the best overall score compared to other companies we evaluated.

  • Who Can Help Me Settle My Debt?

    Debt settlement companies, like the ones we profiled above, can offer you help with negotiating with creditors to provide relief from accumulated high-interest debt from private student loans, credit cards, buy-now-pay-later agreements, and other forms of personal loan obligations. Alternatives to using debt settlement companies for debt relief can include working with a nonprofit debt counseling service or taking advantage of a debt consolidation loan. Using a new creditor to pay off your debt may seem risky but the lower interest rate potentially available can help you pay down balances faster.

  • How Long Does Debt Settlement Take?

    Debt settlement can take a considerable amount of time, up to three to four years to complete, starting from the time you stop making regular payments to your creditors and until you ultimately pay off the discounted amounts negotiated by a debt relief company.

  • Does Debt Consolidation Ruin Your Credit?

    One major downside of debt settlement programs is the fact that your credit score can take a significant hit once you stop making payments. This makes sense since your payment history is the most important factor used to determine your FICO credit score. When you stop making payments on personal loans, that behavior gets reported to credit bureaus, or in the case of small business owners it can get reported to a business bureau.

    Damage to your credit score isn’t all you have to worry about. Stopping payments while you save money for debt settlement also can lead to late fees and penalties that can cause your balances to go up even more. You also may get debt collection calls from creditors or debt collectors during your program, and you even could potentially face a debt collection lawsuit.

  • How to Pay Off $10,000 of Credit Card Debt?

    For someone with $10,000 in credit card debt, a simple option for paying off the debt more quickly is to seek a 0% balance transfer offer from another card issuer. If the new account offers a credit limit high enough to transfer the entire $10,000, then the borrower can begin paying down the principal directly rather than paying interest each month. Some balance transfer offers involve a balance transfer fee, however, so it can pay to shop around. Another option for this level of credit card debt relief is to apply for a personal debt consolidation loan at a lower interest rate and then pay that loan down over time. If neither of those options is available, then working with a debt relief company to settle the debt may prove to be the best path to providing sufficient relief leading to loan repayment for a negotiated amount that is less than originally owed.

  • How Long Does Debt Relief Stay on Your Credit Report?

    Consumer debt that is settled for less than was originally owed can stay on your credit report for up to seven years. The negative impact on credit scores can recover before that time with responsible credit behavior but debt settlement information for amounts payed under terms of less than paid as agreed under the original account agreements will likely remain.

  • How Much Do Debt Relief Companies Charge?

    Debt relief companies typically charge their customers a percentage of the amount of debt that they are able to settle with creditors, generally within a range of 15% to 25%. So, to settle $10,000 of debt could cost between $1,500 and $2,500.

  • Does Credit Repair Make Sense Following Debt Relief?

    Settling debt with creditors can certainly hurt your credit since debt relief entails a company negotiating on your behalf with lenders to accept significantly less than you owe. Credit repair companies can potentially help improve your credit scores by engaging with credit reporting agencies and creditors to have any inaccurate information removed from yourcredit reports. While the negative credit impact of debt settlement won't be affected by cleaning up your credit files, the removal of inaccurate or incomplete information can certainly help.

  • Companies We Reviewed

    We researched and reviewed 40 companies to find the best debt relief companies you see above on this list. While we write individual reviews for most companies, we do not always write reviews for companies we would not recommend. Below are the companies we researched along with links to individual company reviews to help you learn more before making a decision:

    A Debt Coach Credit Counseling, Accredited Debt Relief, American Consumer Credit Counseling, American Debt Relief, Americor Financial, Apprisen, Atlas Debt Relief, Cambridge Credit Counseling, Century Support Services, Christian Credit Counselors, Citizens Debt Relief, ClearOne Advantage, Community Tax, Consolidated Credit, Consumer Education Services, Countrywide Debt Relief, Credit.org, CreditAssociates, CuraDebt, Debt Reduction Services, DebtBlue, DebtWave, DMB Financial, Family Credit Managment, Fast Track Debt Relief, First Choice Debt Relief, Freedom Debt Relief, GreenPath, Greenwise Debt Relief, GRT Financial, InCharge Debt Solutions, JG Wentworth, Liberty Debt Relief, Money Management International, National Debt Relief, New Era Debt Solutions, Pacific Debt Relief, Progressive Debt Relief, Rescue One Financial, Trinity Debt Management.

Why You Should Trust Us

Investopedia launched in 1999 and has been helping readers find the best debt relief companies since June 2020. We collected over 2,000 data points on the debt relief companies we reviewed and based our assessments on numerous factors, including services, costs and fees, availability, reputation and stability, customer experience.

Best Debt Relief Companies of April 2024 (9)

How We Chose the Best Debt Relief Companies

To determine the best debt relief companies, we reviewed various databases, competitive analyses, consumer behavior, and more, ultimately narrowing down the list to 40 companies that offered debt settlement and/or credit counseling services. We developed a quantitative model in which we identified 53 important criteria across five categories.

We weighted each category as follows to rate debt settlement services for this article:

  • Costs and fees: 41.00%
  • Availability: 22.50%
  • Reputation and stability: 19.00%
  • Customer experience: 9.50%
  • Services: 8.00%

We weighted each category as follows to rate credit counseling services for this article:

  • Costs and fees: 37.00%
  • Availability: 19.50%
  • Reputation and stability: 18.50%
  • Customer experience: 9.00%
  • Services: 16.00%

We then gathered data for the 53 criteria directly from companies via websites, media contacts, and existing partnerships. Data was collected between Oct. 19, 2023, and Dec. 18, 2023. This resulted in over 2,000 data points in our rubric, which we used to score and determine the best debt relief companies (including debt settlement and credit counseling services) for people looking to manage and get out of debt.

To learn more about our process for finding the best debt relief companies, read our full methodology.

Learn More About Debt Relief

  • What Is Debt Relief?
  • What Is Debt Settlement?
  • How Much Does a Debt Relief Program Cost?
  • Debt Consolidation vs. Debt Settlement
  • Best Debt Relief Companies
  • How to Get Debt Relief
  • How to Choose a Debt Management Plan
  • How to Get a Debt Consolidation Loan
  • How to Find a Credit Counselor
  • Best Debt Consolidation Loans
  • Best Credit Repair Companies
  • Best Debt Reduction Software
  • Best Credit Counseling Services

Best Debt Relief Companies of April 2024 (10)

Article Sources

Investopedia requires writers to use primary sources to support their work. These include white papers, government data, original reporting, and interviews with industry experts. We also reference original research from other reputable publishers where appropriate. You can learn more about the standards we follow in producing accurate, unbiased content in oureditorial policy.

  1. Federal Reserve: "Consumer Credit - G.19."

  2. Better Business Bureau. "Business Profile: CuraDebt Systems, LLC."

  3. Trustpilot. "CuraDebt Reviews."

  4. Trustpilot. "Accredited Debt Relief."

  5. Trustpilot. "New Era Debt Solutions."

  6. Better Business Bureau. "Business Profile: New Era Debt Solutions."

  7. Google. "New Era Debt Solutions."

  8. Better Business Bureau. “Business Profile: Freedom Debt Relief LLC.”

  9. Trustpilot. "Freedom Debt Relief."

  10. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. "What Is a Debt Relief Program and How Do I Know If I Should Use One?"

  11. Better Business Bureau. "Business Profile: Pacific Debt Relief."

  12. Trustpilot. "Pacific Debt Relief."

  13. Federal Trade Commission. "How to Get Out of Debt."

  14. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. “What Is Credit Counseling?

  15. National Foundation for Credit Counseling. "Debt Settlement."

Related Articles
How Much Does Debt Settlement Cost? Best Credit Counseling Services of April 2024 How We Review and Rate Debt Relief Companies How to Choose a Debt Settlement Company How Does Credit Card Debt Relief Work? Debt Reduction Services Review

Best Debt Relief Companies of April 2024 (2024)

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