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Debt settlement companies provide help to consumers get their credit on track and avoid bankruptcy nightmares. The ultimate objective of the best debt settlement company is to help settle your debt at a significant fee. If you have an overwhelming debt that you seem not to have a hand around, you could reach out to a third-party company to help put your financial house in order. Several companies provide debt settlement services, and you could reach out to any of these for relief. However, several companies have varying features, benefits, and cons worth considering before committing to anything. You should contact a company with a track record for honesty, ethics, transparency, history of success in helping individuals get out of debt.
What are Debt Settlement Companies?
They are companies that help negotiate your debt on your behalf with creditors in an attempt to cancel, reduce or settle the outstanding balance. Apart from debt settlement, these companies also provide services, such as debt consolidation and debt management plans. During the negotiation process, the company will request consumers to desist from paying debts, which can cause a huge dent in an already damaged credit score. Often debt settlement companies justify this request by showing consumers that the damage to their credit score is temporary. These debt settlement companies reason that after settling these debts, the customer’s credit score will be boosted in no time; hence it is worth the risk.
This is how debt settlement companies work. They will set up a savings account and instruct the customer to deposit money in these accounts for an agreed period. They will then use these accounts to initiate negotiation and sometimes settle the debt with your creditors. Their bargaining chip in the negotiation with the lender is that your financial situation is bad; thus, you cannot clear the borrowed funds. They will try to convince the lender to take the amount in the account or reduce the debt; otherwise, they stand to receive no funds if the customer declares bankruptcy. Therefore, their function is double-edged: helping the customer not to declare bankruptcy and the company from potential loss of money should bankruptcy be declared.
Debt settlement may sound fantastic; however, it comes with hefty risks, including damage to your credit score, and there is no guarantee it can work. Due to the accompanying risk, it is often considered the last resort in curing your debt problems. If it is the only option left before declaring bankruptcy, you must select a reputable company to walk on this journey. Debt settlement companies are judged based on fee transparency, track record of excellent customer service, and approval by the industry regulators, such as the American Fair Credit Council (AFCC). We have selected the five best debt settlement companies in 2022 to help you in making decisions.
This debt relief company has a positive customer review, with Better Business Bureau giving it an A+ rating and Trustpilot showing a 4.6/5-star rating. It has vast experience under its belt in the industry, with over 250,000 customers. It has also settled over $1.3 billion in debt, taking two to four years to settle debts. This reputation has placed this company as one of the best debt settlement companies in the United States.
Century Support Services enable customers to access their online dashboard. Here they can monitor their progress 24/7 and manage their account with ease. Clients can also benefit from various tools and resources on its websites. The online features, such as customer support and live chat, allow customers to communicate with the company easily and have any challenges they face addressed promptly. Century Support Services is accredited by AFCC, serving customers in 31 states plus the District of Colombia. You are not required to pay upfront fees with this company.
What You Should Watch Out for
Though Century Support Services is excellent in other sectors, it is not fully transparent about the fees it charges. Nevertheless, based on the information on its website, one can estimate that its fees range from 18% to 25% of the total debts they will settle. They also require that the customer have unsecured credit card debt worth $10,000 or more to be considered.
If you are interested in contacting the services of Century Support Services, you should undertake a free online assessment or give them a call for free debt analysis. It does not operate in Oregon, Rhode Island, Washington, Illinois, Kansas, Wyoming, Nevada, South Carolina, Vermont, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Connecticut, North Dakota, Ohio, Georgia, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Maine, and West Virginia.
- It registers high customer satisfaction.
- It has an online dashboard, enabling customers to monitor their progress.
- AFCC accredits it.
- Customers can benefit from the various tools and resources on the website.
- The cost of debt settlement can go as high as 25% of the total debt
- Customers must have a minimum of $10,000 in debt to qualify for debt settlement
- It covers limited (31) states plus the District of Colombia
- They only provide customer support on weekdays and not on weekends
- They have less experience than other players in the industry.
This company has over two decades of experience under its belt and has settled over $250 million worth of debt to its clients. They have a 4.8/5 rating with Trustpilot, and the Better Business Bureau also accords it an A+ rating. It has a high customer satisfaction ranking, meaning it is held in high regard by clients. Though its website does not have a customer dashboard, clients can contact the company easily through email, calling, or using the online chat feature.
It operates in many states, providing the nation with debt settlement services, except for seven states. Like many reputable debt relief firms, New Era Debt Solutions is approved by the AFCC and offers free consultations to its clients. It averagely takes 28 months to complete a program, though they do not explicitly say the minimum debt a prospective customer should have to qualify for the program. On its website, New Era Debt Solutions indicate that it shall not begin negotiation with your creditors until you have accumulated funds in the set savings accounts between six to 12 months.
What You Should Watch Out for
New Era Debt Solutions does not show transparency in its fee structure since they have not posted them on their website. They reveal that they charge a 23% fee on the total enrolled debt. This amount is fair compared with what other players in the industry charge customer.
The company offers prospective customers online debt settlement services, or you can reach them via call for a debt-free analysis. It does not operate in South Dakota, Delaware, North Carolina, Maine, Illinois, Iowa, and Oregon.
- It registers high customer satisfaction scores with the bureaus
- It is accredited with AFCC, meaning it is trustworthy
- It provides customers with a live chat feature on the website for improved communication.
- The company does not reveal its fee structure on the website
- It has not specified the minimum amount of debt for a customer to qualify for a debt settlement program.
- It has no client portfolio
- It does not operate in seven states
- It only provides customer support on weekdays and not weekends.
National Debt Relief offers excellent services that have resulted in high customer satisfaction. The Better Business Bureau gave it an A+ ranking, while Trustpilot gave the company 4.7/5 stars. National Debt Relief has been in operation for over a decade, settling over $1 billion of unsecured debts. National Debt Relief is also transparent on the fee it charges, as shown on its website. The site shows that customers will part with a fee ranging from 18% to 25% of their total debts, averaging 20% in fees for most users. They settle most of the client’s debts within 24 to 48 months after initiating the negotiation.
It also offers customers a dashboard that enables them to track their progress 24/7. Additionally, its website has free resources and calculators, helping customers determine their debt settlement position. However, the website does not have a live chat feature for immediate response. The majority of United States citizens can benefit from the services of National Debt Relief, except for eight states. It is also accredited by AFCC, signifying its trustworthiness.
What You Should Watch for
This company will only come to your rescue when you are in a real financial crisis. The qualification to apply for debt settlement with National Debt Relief is that you should owe a minimum of $7,500 in unsecured debt. You must have also defaulted or failed to pay your payment by several months before being accepted into the company’s debt settlement program. Though National Debt Relief suggests that their average fee is 20% for its user, sometimes the fees can rise to 25% of the total debt due for settlement.
The company provides a free online quote for those interested in their services. You can also call them for free debt analysis. It does not operate in New Hampshire, South Carolina, Connecticut, Kansas, West Virginia, Oregon, Maine, and Vermont.
- It shows transparency on the fees it charges.
- It provides clients with a dashboard to help in monitoring progress
- AFCC approves it
- It has additional free resources and calculators on its website for the benefit of users.
- You must owe unsecured debt worth $7,500 to qualify
- Its fees can peak at 25% of the total debt
- Its website does not have a live chat feature
- It is not operational in eight states
- Its customer support is only available on weekdays
Since 2002, Pacific Debt Inc has been operating, settling over $300 million in unsecured debt. It is regarded as a company with the best customer experience, achieving an A+ with Better Business Bureau. Trustpilot accorded it 4.7/5 stars, indicating its prowess. It also takes the company between two to four years to settle debts, though some debts take longer. Customers also benefit from free quotes and consultations. Although Pacific Debt Inc offers educational resources through its website, it lacks clients’ dashboards and lives chat features. It is also AFCC accredited, operating in 29 states plus the District of Columbia.
What You Should Watch for
The disclosures from the company’s website indicate that the average customer will pay a fee ranging between 15% to 35% of the debt to be settled, providing a wider payment range than other companies in the industry. The company also requires that a customer have at least $10,000 in debts to qualify for the program. Pacific Debt Inc does not operate in 21 states.
Pacific Debt Inc offers online and call services to provide clients with free debt analysis. States that do not benefit from its services include North Dakota, Ohio, Connecticut, Delaware, Kansas, Maine, Illinois, Iowa, Georgia, Hawaii, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Vermont, Washington, Oregon, Rhode Island, Nevada, South Carolina, Tennessee, West Virginia, and Wyoming.
- It has operated for several years, thus having experience.
- It has high customer satisfaction scores
- It is AFCC accredited
- The debt settlement fees can be as high as 35%
- You must have a minimum of $10,000 in unsecured debt to qualify for the program.
- The company’s website does not have a client dashboard or live chat
- It is unavailable in 21 states
- They only offer customer support services from Monday through Friday.
It is regarded as the largest debt settlement company in the United States. It has settled over $10 billion in debt, boosting over 650,000 clients since its inception in 2002. The clients have given the company a 4.6/5 star in Trustpilot, showing higher customer satisfaction. The company indicates on its website that its average period of debt settlement is 24 to 468 months, providing clients with a portal to monitor their progress. Customers can get additional educational resources and emailing services through the Freedom Debt Relief website.
Though the website has no live chat, you are guaranteed customer support all days of the week. Being the largest debt settlement company in the nation, Freedom Debt Relief claims that its program benefits over 75% of the United States population. This is not available in states like New Jersey, and the fees could also vary from state to state. Like other renowned firms, Freedom Debt Relief is also approved by AFCC.
What You Should Look for
Lawsuits have bombarded this company in recent years. For example, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau took the company to court in 2019 and settled a case on transparency on unlawful charges and its fees. Therefore, it is important to have the agreed fee structure in writing before taking up this service. According to Freedom Debt Relief’s website, the charges for the average customer range between 15% to 25% of the debt to be settled. However, you should have at least $7,500 in unsecured debt to qualify for their debt settlement program.
You can check your qualification for debt settlement on the company’s website, or you could call for a free debt analysis.
- The company has positive customer service reviews.
- It provides clients with a portal to track progress
- Its customer support is available on all days of the week.
- It has had some lawsuits regarding unlawful charges and transparency
- The Better Business Bureau does not rate it
- It does not say which state it operates on
- It requires customers to have unsecured debt of $7,500
- The website does not have a live chat.
How to Choose the Best Debt Settlement Company
Before settling for a debt settlement service to help handle your debts, it is important to review your options. Debt settlement companies differ in cost, risk, and how they handle each situation. Another thing you should understand is that debt settlement differs from debt consolidation or debt management, all of which fall under the debt relief umbrella.
Debt management and consolidation require that you pay the full principal amount owed. However, debt settlement, also called debt forgiveness, requires that you pay less than the principal figure. If you have decided to go with debt settlement, it is vital to scrutinize any company you want to involve for legitimacy. Consider whether the company has the necessary approvals and licenses to conduct business in the region where you live. Below is a discussion of things you look for when selecting your debt settlement company:
You do well to confirm if the company is approved by the American Fair Credit Council, which enforces, advocates, and supports consumer rights for citizens with debt burdens and financial hardship. This council is known to promote best practices in the industry and encourages high standards for companies. You should also consider accreditation from the Better Business Bureau.
Avoid debt settlement companies that charge an upfront fee. The law does not permit these companies to charge clients upfront fees for their services. Therefore, before signing up for any program, please inquire from the debt settlement company for fee disclosure it often charges for its services. This will help you establish how much the entire process would cost you to be sure you will afford the service.
3. Time in Business
A company with a longer track record signifies its ability to negotiate and work well with creditors. Choose a company with a wealth of experience.
4. Customer Experience and Satisfaction reviews
You can establish these parameters from Trustpilot and the Better Business Bureau to know how several customers feel about a particular company. Consider past ratings and go through customer reviews to understand where the company lacks and excels.
5. Digital Experience
You should also consider the company’s digital experience. Digital experience is gauged by the ease of access to resources and information online or via mobile. You should examine if the debt settlement company supports services through emails, live chat, or a client dashboard for easy progress tracking.
Risks of Debt Settlement
Though debt settlement companies offer an opportunity of helping you fix your debt problems, this process comes with significant risks. It is important to be informed of these risks before signing any agreements.
1. Damage to your credit score
During negotiation, debt settlement companies advise clients to refrain from paying creditors. Stopping payments could adversely affect your credit score. You could also end up with late fees, accrued interest, and penalties on the current debt, plunging you into deeper debt. You could also be sued for repayment.
2. High costs
Most debt settlement programs require that clients save money for months before they settle their debt. It can be costly to an already struggling debtor, and if your financial situation cannot afford monthly payments, you may not go with the program to the end. Therefore, before you commit to any debt settlement program, ensure you can afford the monthly savings required by the company.
3. No guarantee
Your creditors may refuse to negotiate with your debt settlement company. The debt settlement company you have chosen may be unable to settle your debt, thus pushing you into more debt after the botched process.
Alternatives to Debt Settlement
If you think the risks of debt settlement are high, there are alternatives you could go for:
1. DIY debt relief
What debt settlement companies will do for you; you can do yourself. You can call your lenders and negotiate lower repayment or interest rates.
3. Debt management plans
This program often requires clients to deposit a certain amount of money into different bank accounts monthly. The debt management company will then distribute these funds to your creditors and negotiate better terms and low-interest rates on your behalf. They will need you to pay all your debt and any facilitation fee in full.
If your debt is good, it could qualify for consolidation at a lower interest rate than the current one. However, you should check for fees as you consider one company to the next to get the best deal.
There are several debt settlement companies in the United States, and you should carry out due diligence when choosing who to work with. Debt settlement can help you get out of debt, improve your credit score and avoid the risk associated with declaring bankruptcy. If you think you have reached the end of all available debt payment strategy, you can research to find which debt settlement better suit your need and seek their services.