If you’re struggling with debt and looking to avoid bankruptcy, hiring a debt settlement company can help. The best debt relief companies can work with your creditors to resolve your debt for less than what you owe, helping you become debt-free faster.
However, not all debt negotiation services are created equal. It’s important that you only choose reputable debt settlement programs that have many positive reviews and reasonable fees.
To help you decide, we’ve reviewed the top debt settlement companies in the industry. The four companies below are highly rated and have years of experience in debt relief options for personal loans, payday loans, high-interest credit cards, and more.
Without further ado, here are the best debt relief companies of 2023.
The 4 Best Debt Settlement Companies of 2023
- National Debt Relief: Best debt settlement company overall
- Accredited Debt Relief: Best for credit card debt
- Community Tax: Best for tax debt relief
- Freedom Debt Relief: Best for payday loan relief
#1. National Debt Relief: Best for Debt Settlement
National Debt Relief (NDR) was a top pick as one of the best debt relief companies for people with unsecured debts. Since the company’s inception in 2009, it has helped over 400,000 consumers settle their debts. It also has stellar ratings, with accreditation from the American Fair Credit Council and the Better Business Bureau.
Plus, it has thousands of five-star ratings from satisfied customers. Its website is an excellent source of financial education tools and resources, including a savings calculator.
National Debt Relief caters to people with unsecured debt and offers several useful services. Its team negotiates with credit card companies and banks every day to help people settle debts from:
- Credit cards
- Debt collectors
- Lines of credit
- Personal loans
- Payday loans
- Business debt
- Medical debt
- Lines of credit
- Some student debts
National Debt Relief doesn’t help people with back taxes or mortgage debt, though.
How Does The Process Work?
The process for National Debt Relief is simple. First, head to the website and fill out the online application. You’ll enter your name, contact details, how much debt you owe, etc. Be aware that National Debt Relief has a minimum debt requirement: you’ll need to have $10,000 or more in unsecured debt to be eligible.
If you’re eligible, you’ll receive a free consultation with one of National Debt Relief’s experienced debt counselors. During that appointment, your personal National Debt Relief counselor will discuss your finances and help you develop a debt settlement plan.
Once you save up enough to resolve your debts, you’ll pay about 15% to 25% of your total enrolled debt in fees. However, if National Debt Relief can’t resolve your accounts, you don’t have to pay them.
Key Features of National Debt Relief
- Average negotiation rate of 50%
- No upfront fees, cancellation fees, or sign-up fees
- Settlement times range between 24 and 48 months
- Full accreditation and an A+ rating with the BBB
- Certified professional debt arbitrators on staff
- Total debt requirement of at least $10,000
#2. Accredited Debt Relief: Best for Unsecured Credit Card Debts
Accredited Debt Relief (ADR) is another top-rated choice and offers some of the best debt relief programs for people with unsecured debt. Since the company’s inception in 2011, ADR has helped people across America become financially stable. In fact, the company has over 200,000 clients seeking debt resolution for financial problems, with over $1 billion in debt resolved.
The company has an excellent reputation as one of the best U.S. debt settlement companies, with thousands of five-star reviews from satisfied customers. It also maintains full accreditation from the Better Business Bureau and the American Fair Credit Council.
Consumers with $10,000 or more in unsecured debt can apply for one of the debt management plans Accredited Debt Relief offers. The company provides multiple debt relief solutions, including bankruptcy, credit counseling, consolidation loans, and debt settlement.
Unfortunately, Accredited Debt Relief doesn’t have a solution for tax debt relief, mortgage debt, or government student loans. However, Accredited Debt Relief can help you settle credit card debt, medical debt, department store debt, personal loans, or other forms of unsecured debt using various debt relief options.
How Does The Process Work?
Enrolling in one of the customized debt management plans Accredited Debt Relief offers is simple. Just pick up the phone and call, or you can request a free quote online. Then, a certified debt specialist will evaluate your finances and explain the different debt settlement programs available.
Next, you’ll select which debt relief program you want and begin enrollment. Your debt management plan will probably take between 12 and 48 months to complete, and you may save as much as 50% by resolving your debt. However, as is the industry standard, you’ll have to pay about 15% to 25% of your total debt to Accredited Debt Relief for fees.
- Clients save up to 50% on their debts
- Full accreditation with an A+ BBB rating
- Thousands of positive user reviews
- Several options for resolving unsecured debts
- Over $1 billion in debt resolutions since 2011
- Minimum debt requirement of $10,000
#3. Community Tax: Best Tax Debt Relief Company
Since 2010, Community Tax has helped over 100,000 clients settle more than $800 million in unpaid tax debts. Community Tax has a staff of Licensed Tax Practitioners to help its clients and offers multiple options for paying off tax debts. So if you have at least $5,000 in unpaid back taxes, Community Tax may be the best debt settlement company to help you resolve your debts.
Community Tax offers comprehensive debt settlement solutions for clients, specializing in over 15 unique financial situations regarding unpaid taxes. If you have back taxes, you may qualify for a tax debt relief service called offer-in-compromise, or OIC. This service allows you to settle your tax debts for less than what you originally owed.
As one of the best tax relief companies, Community Tax offers a wide range of services, including:
- Tax resolution
- Tax preparation
- Tax assurance
- Penalty abatements
- Financial hardship declarations
- Payroll tax negotiations
How Does The Process Work?
Signing up with Community Tax is easy. First, log on to its website to fill out an application or call to book a free initial consultation. Then, a certified tax specialist will help you determine if you’re eligible for an offer-in-compromise, also known as “currently not collectible.” If not, they’ll discuss alternative tax relief options that may be available to you.
Remember, you can only settle state tax and IRS tax debts. Community Tax doesn’t offer debt relief for any type of unsecured debt, including personal loans, credit card debt, or medical bills.
- Customized tax debt relief solutions
- Professional representation for IRS negotiations
- Money-back guarantee for clients
- Minimum requirement of $5,000 in back taxes
- Over $800 million in tax debt resolved
#4. Freedom Debt Relief: Highly Rated Debt Settlement Program with Free Consultation
Freedom Debt Relief is a clear choice for the best debt relief companies of 2022. In fact, it’s one of the original founding members of the American Fair Credit Council and has helped customers settle debts since 2002.
Flash forward twenty years later, and Freedom Debt Relief has resolved over $10 billion in consumer debt, with over 650,000 clients enrolled. The company also has accreditation from the International Association of Professional Debt Arbitrators and is a Platinum member.
Freedom Debt Relief provides customized debt settlement plans for clients with unsecured debt. If you’re struggling with department store debt, credit card debt, personal loans, or medical bills, Freedom Debt Relief may be the solution you need to resolve your financial issues.
In addition, the company also offers custom solutions for resolving student loans (private only) and certain business debts. However, you’ll need $7,500 or more in unsecured debt. If you have unpaid auto loans, utility bills, taxes, government student loans, or mortgage debt, you won’t be eligible for the debt management plans Freedom Debt Relief offers.
How Does The Process Work?
Freedom Debt Relief has a straightforward enrollment process. You can start by talking to one of their Certified Debt Consultants to see if you’re eligible for any programs. Then, your consultant will help you explore your debt relief options and see how much you could save.
Once you enroll, you begin the company’s innovative four-step program. You’ll build up your savings, and when you have enough, Freedom Debt Relief will start the negotiations with your creditors. Once you settle your debt, you’ll pay 15% to 25% of your total enrolled debt as a fee for using the company’s services. However, you’ll be debt-free, which is the ultimate goal.
- Debt settlement savings of up to 75%
- Customized debt settlement programs
- Over $10 billion in debt resolved since 2002
- Founding member of the American Fair Credit Council
- User-friendly online dashboard for progress monitoring
What Is Debt Settlement?
Debt settlement is a process that can help you become debt-free, but it’s not the right option for everyone. Generally speaking, the process works like this:
- You contact a debt relief company, explain your financial situation, and see which programs you qualify for based on your circumstances. Then, you sign an agreement to settle your debt.
- Each month, you set aside a specific amount of money into a special savings account that you determine ahead of time with your debt settlement company.
- While you’re building up your savings account, you generally stop all monthly payments to your creditors.
- The debt settlement company then negotiates with your creditors on your behalf, offering to pay off your total enrolled debt in a lump sum if the creditors accept less than what you owe towards your balance.
- After you’ve saved enough money, the company pays off your debt for the negotiated price (if the creditors agree to the negotiations).
- Once you settle your debts entirely, you pay the debt relief company a fee between 15% and 25% for using its services.
While that may sound like a relatively straightforward process, there are some caveats to choosing this option. For one, if you stop making monthly payments to your creditors, you can bet your credit score will take a serious nose dive. Of course, once you pay off your debt, it will increase.
However, it may take a few years to rebuild your credit (depending on how much you owe), during which time you’ll have poor credit. Also, while you’re not making any payments, your debt will likely increase from penalties and late fees.
In addition, there’s one more catch: while the company you choose will attempt to negotiate with creditors on your behalf, there’s no guarantee that they’ll agree to settle your debt for less than you owe. Also, some creditors don’t work with debt relief companies.
While you could attempt to negotiate with creditors yourself, your chances of success may be slim. Working with a professional debt settlement company may be the best option, particularly if you have a very high amount of unsecured debt.
How We Ranked the Best Debt Relief Companies
For this review, we used several criteria to determine the best consumer debt settlement companies. We looked at each company’s accreditation, user reviews, costs and fees, and the type of services offered.
The most reputable debt settlement companies have full accreditation from regulatory and independent consumer organizations. Official accreditation ensures that the company in question follows the quality standards and requirements that the accrediting organization has set.
For example, the Better Business Bureau is one of the most commonly referenced ratings and accreditation systems. It evaluates debt settlement companies based on several factors, including trustworthiness, performance, service, consumer complaints, etc.
The International Association of Professional Debt Arbitrators is another agency that accredits debt relief companies, along with the American Fair Credit Council. Both are well-established organizations that protect the rights of Americans with debt.
The IAPDA and AFCC use strict rules to ensure that every company under their purview follows industry best practices and provides quality services. All four debt relief companies we reviewed had the appropriate accreditations and excellent reputations.
When you need to purchase a product, what’s the first thing you do? Pull out your phone, go online and search for reviews from past customers who bought the item you want. Well, the same principle applies to the debt settlement industry. We read hundreds of testimonials from past customers for all four of the best debt relief companies in this review.
Of course, there will always be unhappy consumers, particularly when it concerns an important issue like debt settlement. However, we picked the four best debt relief companies that had thousands of positive reviews from past customers. We used verified website testimonials and other review sites to finalize our top four picks, including the Better Business Bureau, Reddit, TrustPilot, and more.
Costs and Fees
The goal of signing up for a debt settlement service is to pay off all the bills you owe to become free of debt. After all, you don’t want to increase your debt, right? The Federal Trade Commission prevents debt settlement firms from charging upfront fees to consumers. However, plenty of unethical companies and bad actors will take advantage of customers by charging hidden fees. In light of this, it’s essential to read the fine print and fee structure before you enroll in any program.
Legitimate debt settlement companies don’t charge customers fees until they successfully negotiate a settlement with the creditors. Then, they usually charge a certain percentage of the debt you just paid, typically between 15% and 25%. Other debt settlement companies may also charge additional fees for providing certain types of debt relief services or setting up your account.
Additional Services Offered
Another ranking criterion we used to rate the leading debt relief companies is whether they offered additional services. Typical services focus on helping consumers pay off unsecured debts, like medical bills, personal loans, private student loans, or credit card debt. Most don’t offer services for secured debts.
However, the best debt settlement companies provide consumers with additional debt relief options like financial education, credit counseling, debt management plans, and debt consolidation. So before you decide to work with a particular company, remember to check for additional services or other ways you can settle your debts for less and become financially stable.
Pros and Cons of Hiring a Debt Relief Company
Ask anyone who carries debt: it’s far easier to get into debt than to dig yourself out. Fortunately, you have plenty of available options. But how will those options affect your quality of life or financial situation? Keep reading as we explore the pros and cons of opting for debt settlement.
- You can become debt-free in just a few years
- There’s a chance you could settle your total debt for less than what you originally owed
- By working hard and saving money, you can learn better financial habits and eventually improve your credit score
- You won’t have to deal with multiple creditors by yourself
- You’ll only have one monthly payment instead of several
- The debt settlement service you choose will handle all the creditor negotiations for you
- Some creditors don’t work with debt relief companies
- You’ll owe a fee to the debt settlement company every time they settle an account
- All your settled debt (if less than the full amount you owe) may count as taxable income
- You may not be able to resolve your debts for less than what you owe
- Each settled account will remain on your credit report for seven years
- Debt relief companies do not guarantee results or a positive outcome
- If you stop making monthly minimum payments, your credit score will plummet, and you’ll likely receive debt collection calls
- Each missed monthly payment will rack up more late fees and penalties, driving up your total debt
Alternatives to Debt Settlement
Working with a debt settlement company may not be the best choice for everyone. Fortunately, you have more options than you may think. The most common alternatives to using debt settlement services are as follows.
Debt Consolidation Loans
Another alternative to debt settlement is taking out a debt consolidation loan, which takes multiple debts and combines them into one single monthly payment. The best possible scenario is to find a debt consolidation loan with a lower interest rate than what you’re currently paying.
If you can manage the situation responsibly, a debt consolidation loan might be the right option for you instead of a debt settlement program. You can combine credit card debt, medical bills, private student loans, etc., into a single monthly repayment schedule that’s easier to manage. While it might harm your credit rating initially, making your payments on time will improve your score in the long run.
A credit counseling agency provides debt relief services to consumers. Usually, this includes an in-depth evaluation or consultation of your financial situation with a debt counselor, including your debt obligation, expenses, income, etc.
After your debt counselor finishes your financial evaluation, they’ll develop a custom debt settlement plan for your unique circumstances. This plan will address all aspects of your financial circumstances, including purchase priorities, household expenses, business obligations, etc.
If you like to handle things independently, you may want to consider negotiating with your creditors instead of hiring a company to do it for you. While negotiating with creditors is the primary service that most debt settlement providers offer, no law says you can’t handle the negotiations yourself.
Furthermore, there’s one significant benefit to negotiating on your own behalf: it’s free, unlike using a debt settlement service. However, you may not have the same chance of success by yourself as you would by hiring experienced debt counselors.
If you’re stuck in a tough situation and have no way to pay off your debt, you may want to consider filing for bankruptcy, which is an official legal process. Once you do, the court will order your creditors to stop any collection calls or attempts to collect a debt from you. While this may sound like a more straightforward option than debt settlement, it should only be a last resort.
You can expect a bankruptcy claim to remain on your credit report for a full decade. During that time, you’ll likely have a lot of difficulties trying to borrow money, such as a personal loan or auto loan. You may even find that having such a negative item in your credit history limits your ability to find a good job, as most employers perform background checks that may include a credit report.
How to Verify If a Debt Resolution Service is Legitimate
America’s debt relief industry has plenty of reputable companies that offer manageable debt settlement programs for consumers. But, conversely, you may encounter unethical companies willing to scam people who are in a tricky financial situation.
Although these scams are often easy to spot or uncover with some online research, that’s not always the case. Below, we have listed a few red flags that may indicate you’re dealing with scammers:
- The company has a low Better Business Bureau rating and no accreditation
- The company promises a 100% debt settlement guarantee
- You find multiple customer complaints of fraudulent activity or scams
- The company charges you upfront fees to use its services
- You have trouble finding information about charges and fee disclosures
- The company doesn’t have a well-established history
- You can’t find the company’s American Fair Credit Council accreditation
- The company makes outlandish promises and guarantees
Generally speaking, when dealing with debt settlement companies, you should keep this old saying: “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.”
What’s the Difference Between Debt Consolidation and Debt Settlement?
Although you may hear people use the terms interchangeably, debt settlement and debt consolidation are two different services. While both have the same fundamental goal – to help people settle debts – they use different methods.
With debt settlement, you hire a private company to provide creditor negotiation services on your behalf to pay off your unsecured debt. Generally, you stop making payments and put the money in a savings account instead. Most of these debt settlement programs take two to four years to complete. However, once you have enough saved, the company pays off your debts in one lump sum.
Debt consolidation loans are different. The process involves you taking out a new loan, usually a balance transfer credit card or personal loan, to combine multiple debts into one fixed monthly payment. Usually, a debt consolidation loan will have a lower APR or more amenable terms than your previous debts. However, avoid using balance transfer credit cards since they can put you right back into debt.
Frequently Asked Questions
Does debt settlement actually work?
Yes, debt settlement plans work. However, it’s your responsibility to put aside money in your savings each month. If you fail to save up enough money, then you won’t be able to pay off your debts.
Additionally, using debt settlement services carries risks. For example, your creditors may not agree to a lower amount, or you may rack up even more debt from late fees, penalties, and other charges. However, you can mitigate those risks by finding a reputable debt settlement company that has accreditation from the proper organizations.
How much do debt negotiation services charge?
The top debt relief companies usually charge a percentage of your total enrolled debt for using their debt negotiation services, ranging between 15 and 25%. Here’s a quick example: for $15,000 in debt, your fee will be a maximum of $3,750. Remember, the Federal Trade Commission prevents debt settlement companies from charging upfront fees to their customers.
How long does the debt settlement process take?
The length of your debt settlement process may vary based on a few factors, including the total you owe, your total income, monthly expenses, etc. Generally speaking, most debt settlement programs take between two and five years to complete. Any company that guarantees to settle your debts within a very short period (i.e., six months) is likely a scammer.
Does the federal government offer a debt relief program?
Currently, no government debt relief program exists for settling personal credit card debt. Fortunately, you do have a few options as an alternative to working with a private debt relief company, such as non-profit credit counseling programs available for debtors.
However, the government offers debtors options for certain kinds of debt. For example, there’s the IRS Fresh Start Program, which helps consumers relieve tax debt. Hospital workers, firefighters, and first responders can also apply for a public service loan forgiveness program.
Do debt relief solutions hurt your credit score?
If you enroll in a debt settlement program, there’s a good chance that your credit score will take a hit. That chance will increase if you stop making your minimum monthly payments to creditors or only pay accounts with low balances.
However, the reduction in your score will be considerably less than if you file for bankruptcy. If you complete your debt relief plan, you’ll be able to slowly increase your credit score and improve your finances within a few years.
How long will it take to rebuild credit after enrolling in debt relief services?
Should you successfully settle debts with the help of a private debt relief company, your credit rating will begin to improve. Usually, this takes anywhere from six to 24 months. However, this time frame varies based on how low your score is after you complete your debt settlement program and the overall stability of your finances.
After reviewing dozens of the best debt settlement companies, we picked four of the best options for 2022, including National Debt Relief, Freedom Debt Relief, Community Tax, and Accredited Debt Relief. If you’re struggling with unsecured debt or back taxes, these companies can help you improve your financial future. With some hard work, smart decisions, and a little discipline, you could become debt-free in just a few short years.