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Best debt relief companies of April 2024

Apr 22, 2024

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Debt Relief

National Debt Relief: FEATURED PARTNER

National Debt Relief
Rating: 4.4 stars out of 5
4.4
  1. Checkmark Client dashboard for 24/7 monitoring
  2. Checkmark Available in 46 states across the US
  3. Checkmark Free initial consultation
  4. Checkmark No upfront fees
  5. Checkmark A+ Rating with the BBB
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Debt Relief

Accredited Debt Relief: Best for educational tools and resources

Accredited Debt Relief
Rating: 4.8 stars out of 5
4.8
  1. Checkmark Over $1 billion in debt paid off
  2. Checkmark Up to 40% debt reduction
  3. Checkmark $15,000 minimum debt required
  4. Checkmark Time frame as little as 24-48 months
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Debt Relief

Freedom Debt Relief: Best for those with less debt

Freedom Debt Relief
Rating: 4.1 stars out of 5
4.1
  1. Checkmark $15 Billion+ in Debt Resolved
  2. Checkmark 850,000+ Customers Served
  3. Checkmark A+ Rating with the BBB
  4. Checkmark No Upfront Fees
  5. Checkmark Recommended Debt: $15K+
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Debt Relief

JG Wentworth: BEST FOR STORE CARD DEBT

JG Wentworth
Rating: 4.3 stars out of 5
4.3
Bankrate Review
  1. Checkmark Free Consultation & No Risk.
  2. Checkmark Make one affordable monthly payment.
  3. Checkmark 30+ Years experience in financial services.
  4. Checkmark A+ Better Business Bureau rating.
  5. Checkmark Minimum Debt: $15,000
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Debt Relief

Pacific Debt: BEST FOR CREDIT CARD DEBT

Pacific Debt
Rating: 4.1 stars out of 5
4.1
Bankrate Review
  1. Checkmark Free online quote and program estimate
  2. Checkmark Nearly 20 years of experience helping consumers resolve debt

A closer look at our top debt relief companies 

National Debt Relief: Best for borrowers with high-interest debt

Overview: Since its inception in 2009, National Debt Relief has helped over 600,000 customers resolve over $10 billion in unsecured debt. Although the company is headquartered in New York City, it serves customers around the nation and offers multiple perks, like scholarships and individualized assistance. 

Accredited Debt Relief: Best for educational tools and resources 

Overview: With 13 years in the industry, Accredited Debt Relief has serviced over $1 billion debt and has over 300,000 clients enrolled. Its terms are similar to our other best relief companies, but its money-back guarantee and financial resources help set it apart. 

Freedom Debt Relief: Best for those with less debt

Overview: Freedom Debt Relief has helped settle over $18 billion in debt since 2002. Freedom boasts over 1,600 employees nationally and has over 350 customer service representatives. Plus, it's the only debt relief company on our list that offers 24/7 customer service. 

JG Wentworth: Best for store card debt 

Overview: Founded in 1991, JG Wentworth is our oldest featured relief company and one of the most recognizable names in the market. The company claims that the average client saves 51 percent on their total debt balance after enrolling. 

Pacific Debt: Best for credit card debt

Overview: Pacific Debt Relief has been offering debt relief services for over 20 years and has a great reputation for customer service. It can help with several different types of unsecured debt, but specializes in credit card debt. The company is accredited by the Consumer Debt Relief Initiative.

What is debt relief?

Debt relief is a service companies offer to help make your debt easier to pay. Debt relief companies work by directly connecting with your creditors to settle balances, lower rates or consolidate accounts on your behalf. 

In exchange for their services, you pay a fee ranging between 15 and 25 percent of your enrolled debts once they’re settled. Relief may come in the form of a debt management or debt consolidation plan. The companies often negotiate with creditors to settle your debts for less than what you owe. Their main goal is to help you get out of debt faster, make your monthly payments more affordable and avoid bankruptcy.

How do debt relief programs work?

Debt relief isn’t a one-size-fits-all type of solution. There are different ways to approach it, depending on what you feel comfortable with and the type of debt you’re trying to get rid off.

Pros and cons of debt relief 

Seeking debt relief through a third-party company could be a great option if you’re deep in debt. That said, this alternative isn't right for everyone. Weigh the pros and cons of debt relief before making a decision.

Pros

  • Get out of debt faster: Most debt relief companies have plans dedicated to getting you out of debt in under five years.
  • Let a third party work on your behalf: Someone else handles communications and negotiations so you don’t have to deal with collection phone calls yourself.
  • Save money: Because you’re speeding up your repayment timeline or paying a smaller amount than what you originally owed, you’ll pay less in interest.
  • Simplify your debt: Debt relief may enable you to reorganize your debt into a single account, making it easier for you to manage and keep up with payments.
  • Improve your credit score: By paying down revolving accounts, like credit cards, your credit utilization ratio will also decrease, which could boost your credit score.
  • Avoid bankruptcy: The goal of debt relief companies is to find a plan that makes your debt easier to repay so you can avoid going into bankruptcy.

Cons

  • High debt load needed to qualify: Most debt relief companies require you to have at least $10,000 in debt to be eligible for their plans.
  • Not all debt is covered: Debt relief companies tend to work only with unsecured credit accounts, such as medical bills, credit cards and personal loans. Secured debts, like auto loans and mortgages, are excluded.
  • Credit score could fall: Many debt relief companies require you to be behind on payments so they can help you. Although that makes creditors more likely to come to an agreement, the late payments will sink your credit scores.
  • Creditors may not settle: It is possible that your creditors won’t settle with your debt relief company. And if they don’t, they may sue you.
  • High fees: Debt relief companies typically charge a fee of between 15 and 25 percent of the amount settled, which could be a hefty amount if you’re thousands of dollars in debt.
  • Potential tax liability: Any amount over $600 that is forgiven is subject to taxes.

How to compare debt settlement companies 

Before choosing a debt relief company, you should ask five questions to ensure you’re dealing with a legitimate company that can help you achieve your desired results.

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Bankrate insight

"Debt relief scams are low hanging fruit for financial predators. Desperate consumers in financial distress are easy targets for high pressure sales pitches that promise guaranteed results as long you pay a hefty upfront fee. If you, a friend or a family member come are contacted by a debt relief company using these tactics, run — don’t walk — away.  A legitimate company should provide you with plenty of testimonials for people they’ve helped, and shouldn’t collect a dime from you until your debt is settled."

- Denny Ceizyk, Bankrate Senior Loans Writer

Applying for debt relief

The decision to apply for debt relief has serious potential benefits and consequences. Knowing what to do before you apply and what to expect once you do apply can help you choose the right relief for your situation and avoid pitfalls along the way. 

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Ahead of seeking out debt relief, it is important to consider a few aspects.

When should you seek debt relief?

Debt relief can be a great solution if any of the following is true:

  • You’re behind on payments or are struggling to pay each month.
  • You have thousands of dollars worth of unsecured debt (credit cards, medical bills, personal loans, etc.).
  • Your credit isn’t in the best shape to qualify for a debt consolidation loan.
  • Your debt payments eat away half or more of your monthly earnings.
  • You won’t be able to repay your debt on your own in less than five years.
  • Your only other option is bankruptcy.

Although you could get out of debt faster working with a debt relief company, this approach is not without risks. Here are some drawbacks to consider.

  • It may not work: Creditors and lenders aren't obligated to work with debt settlement companies and could deny the proposed settlement offers. If you're not going the way of settlement, you must stick with the plan for it to work.
  • You could hurt your credit score: If your debt relief company is working on a settlement and advises you to halt payments on your debts when you begin the debt relief process, your credit score will drop.
  • You could owe taxes: Any amount over $600 forgiven is subject to taxation.
  • It can be costly: Besides the possibility of having to pay late fees or penalties on any debts you may have stopped paying while in the process of debt relief, you'll also have to pay the company a fee for each debt it settles.

Research and learn about debt relief programs before you select one. As you review debt relief options, you should consider:

  • Bold claims: According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), if a company promises to resolve your debts without evaluating your case, that's an instant red flag. Companies cannot know whether your creditors will work with them until they’ve contacted them.
  • Upfront fees: The FTC also warns consumers to look out for companies that charge illegal upfront fees for their services. If you come in contact with a company that wants money before they take on your case, the company isn’t legitimate.
  • Official reputation within the space: Contact your state attorney general and a local consumer protection agency before selecting a company. The FTC also has a comprehensive list of companies and people banned from the debt relief business.
  • Customer reviews: Check consumer review websites like Trustpilot and the Better Business Bureau to see what former clients say about a particular company.

How will debt relief be applied to my loans?


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There are several types of debt relief. Some involve a temporary or permanent reduction in the interest rate or monthly loan payments. These include deferments and forbearances. Some base the loan payment on a percentage of your income or discretionary income, such as income-driven repayment plans. Some involve loan consolidation or refinance, where multiple loans are combined into a single loan with a lower interest rate and lower payment. Some involve loan forgiveness or loan discharge, where the remaining debt is canceled. Some require you to make a lump sum payment in exchange for settling the debt for less than what you owe. Note that some forms of debt relief where all or part of the debt is canceled may be treated as taxable income to you on IRS Form 1099-C (i.e., as though someone provided you with the money to pay off the debt).

Senior Loans Writer

If you’re working with a debt settlement or debt management company, they should provide written details about how your debt is being handled. With a debt settlement company, you may need to move funds into an account specifically for making plan payments. You can track the payments through the account. Debt settlement agencies tend to focus on your small accounts first since they’re easier to negotiate. Debt management is different. You agree to make payments over a longer period of time, at a lower rate or a combination of the two. Again, the key is to get everything in writing so you can track how the debts are being paid. If you think you’re working with a shady company, contact a non-profit credit counselor. And never, ever pay any company a single cent upfront for debt relief.

How to apply for debt relief 

You’ll take several steps on the path to debt relief, and knowing them can help improve the odds that you’ll get the type of relief you need.

  1. Determine which debts to include: You don’t have to add all of your credit accounts to a debt relief plan. It may be a good idea to keep a few small credit cards open for emergencies. Keep in mind that you won’t be able to use accounts that become part of a debt settlement or management plan 
  2. Get payoff estimates from each creditor: Although debt relief companies generally negotiate credit balances included in debt relief programs, you should know what you owe. The most accurate balances should be reflected on your monthly statement. 
  3. Decide which type of debt relief is best for you: Select the debt relief option that is realistic with your income and budget. Debt settlement is typically best if you’re behind on payments and can’t bring them current. Debt management plans may give you more affordable payment options if you’ve managed to keep your payment current. 
  4. Learn the eligibility requirements for each program: Many debt relief companies require you to have at least $10,000 of unsecured debt to qualify. Others may require proof that you’re behind on payments before they’ll consider you for relief. 
  5. Know what documents you’ll need: You should have copies of current statements for all of the debts you plan to pay off. You may also need proof of income like pay stubs or W-2s. 
  6. Fill out an application: Applying for debt relief may be a more involved process than getting a loan. The debt relief company may need you to help get contact information for each creditor, or provide updated paystubs and personal documents as needed. 
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Where can I get debt relief help?

To choose the right debt relief plan, you’ll need to assess your credit accounts, in addition to your financial situation and credit score.

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Alternatives to debt relief

If your situation is not dire enough to require debt relief, consider some other alternatives.

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Ask the experts: Should I work with a debt relief company to help me qualify for a mortgage?

"The answer is almost always no, unless you don’t plan to apply for a mortgage until you’ve completed your debt plan. Often debt included in a debt relief plan is flagged with a 'settle for less than balance' message on your credit report. A mortgage lender may deny your application if you don’t have a lot of other strengths like a low debt ratio or a big down payment. 

"In the mortgage world, 'settled for less than balance' is similar to a short sale, which is when you sell a home that's worth less than you owe. Because mortgage loan amounts are typically much higher than other debts, a lender may not be willing to lend you money to buy a home if you were unable to pay smaller debts as agreed." 

- Denny Ceizyk, Bankrate Senior Loans Writer

Frequently asked questions

How we choose our best debt relief companies

Bankrate's trusted personal loans industry expertise

57

years in business

12

companies reviewed

15

features weighed

180

data points collected

To rate debt relief services, Bankrate considers 15 factors. These factors include minimum debt allowed, what fees are charged, whether there are unresolved complaints and if the company is accredited. Categories that the services are rated on include: