Debt can be a valuable tool when used wisely. After all, taking out a mortgage can help you move your family into the home of your dreams, and an auto loan can help you secure reliable transportation for work. Even credit cards can be a boon for your finances if you use them for the perks and rewards without letting them take over your life.
Unfortunately, it’s easy for debt to spiral out of control, and unsecured credit card debt can be especially problematic for consumers. The Federal Reserve reports that the total revolving, consumer, outstanding, credit card debt in the United States was $965 billion in January 2021. It's more than just the total amount of debt that is an issue: the average credit card interest rate came in at 16.28%. With statistics like these, it’s no wonder consumers with debt—and particularly high-interest debt—often struggle to get ahead.
Debt relief companies provide a path out of debt that could result in you paying less than you owe. The strategy they use is also frequently referred to as “debt settlement” for this reason.
We compared the top debt relief companies to find ones that offer a transparent debt relief process with consistently positive results and reasonable fees. If you’re on the hunt for a firm that can help settle your debts, you should start your search here.
The 6 Best Debt Relief Companies of 2021
Best Overall : National Debt Relief
We chose National Debt Relief as the best overall in our ranking based on its track record for results, overall transparency, and a money-back guarantee. National Debt Relief has several examples of massive reductions of credit card balances on their website, showcasing their abilities.
More than 10 years in business
Proven results helping settle debts for less than consumers owe
No upfront fees
You need to have at least $7,500 in qualifying debts
Does not handle certain types of debts like mortgage loans and back taxes
National Debt Relief was founded in 2009 with the main mission of helping consumers get out of debt through a reliable debt settlement program. This firm is incredibly transparent about its process and results—they share examples of what they've done for past clients on their website: $15,000 reduced to $3,000 in debt, $22,500 reduced to $8,000, and $11,000 reduced to $2,000 in debt. This company has proven results, and it has maintained an A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau (BBB).
National Debt Relief helps consumers begin the process by offering a free consultation with one of its debt counselors. From there, you will have the option to explain your situation and talk over potential solutions, including using National Debt Relief for debt settlement.
Like other debt settlement programs, this company has you set aside a specific amount of money in a separate account each month, which you will later use to settle your debts for less than what you owe. In the meantime, National Debt Relief helps coordinate your efforts and negotiates with your creditors on your behalf.
You won’t pay any upfront fees to use this service, although consumers normally pay between 18% to 25% of the total debt enrolled in the program by the time their debts are settled. Generally speaking, programs from this firm last for 24 to 48 months.
Best for Debt Settlement : Accredited Debt Relief
Accredited Debt Relief is the best settlement option based on its proven results and success on this type of debt relief with high-interest credit card debt over $10,000.
Receive a free consultation from a Certified Debt Specialist
Settle your debts for as little as 50% of what you owe
Plans work best for consumers who have at least $10,000 in debt that they’re struggling to pay off
Lack of transparency in terms of pricing on their website
Accredited Debt Relief has been in business since 2011 with the main goal of providing debt relief options to families who need them. This company boasts an array of results on its website, with plenty of former customers settling their debts for as little as 30% of what they originally owed.
Like other debt relief companies, Accredited Debt Relief focuses its efforts on debt settlement. It starts potential clients with a free consultation with a certified debt specialist who can help them talk over their situation and options. If they are deemed a good candidate for debt settlement, Accredited Debt Relief helps them begin saving money in a separate account and stop using credit cards.
From there, the firm negotiates with creditors on your behalf, which can lead to a debt settlement that is considerably less than the amounts owed. Accredited Debt Relief also offers a money-back guarantee that lets you cancel your program at any time without a penalty.
Best for High-Interest Credit Card Debt : DMB Financial
We chose DMB Financial as the best for high-interest credit card debt based on its dedication to helping consumers consolidate their debts into a new, lower payment, which can be especially helpful when it comes to growing debts with high interest rates.
Consolidate high-interest debts into a single lower program payment
Settle your debts for less than what you owe
No specific eligibility requirements for their programs
Lack of pricing listed on their website
Founded in 2003, DMB Financial has a long history of helping clients establish debt settlement programs. This company reports real-time results for its clients on its website, many of which show clients settling debts for many thousands of dollars less than what they owed. DMB Financial is also a member of the American Fair Credit Council, which includes a select number of debt settlement companies that commit to the highest standards for their clients.
DMB Financial says that, through its process, it’s possible for you to become debt-free in 36 to 48 months. You can call the company for a free initial consultation with a program consultant who can help you talk over your situation and goals. From there, a program will be created for you, during which you will make monthly deposits into a separate account. DMB Financial will then negotiate with your creditors for you to pay less than what you owe on your debts.
While DMB Financial focuses on all unsecured debts, it claims to be able to help consumers the most with high-interest credit card debt. With one of its programs, you can consolidate all your bills into a single monthly payment you make into a savings account each month. This can be a lifesaver when your interest rates and bills are just too high and continue to grow as you make only minimum monthly payments.
Best for Customer Satisfaction : New Era Debt Solutions
New Era Debt Solutions maintains a staff of attorneys ensuring that everything is done according to state and federal law giving consumers confidence in the job done.
No upfront fees or monthly administration charges
Attorneys on staff
All services handled in-house
Free consultation with a counselor
New Era Debt Solutions is not available in Iowa, Maine, or South Dakota, and it may not be accessible in all U.S. cities
New Era Debt Solutions has been in business since 1999 and has helped clients settle over $250 million in debt. Clients will not pay any upfront charges for its services. Its plans also come without any monthly administration fees, and performance-based fees are only charged when you see results. New Era Debt Solutions maintains an A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau.
Like other debt settlement companies, New Era Debt Solutions has its clients save money for debt settlement in a separate account. In the meantime, they negotiate with your creditors to help you pay less than what you owe.
According to the company, its clients settle their debts and become debt-free after an average of fewer than 28 months. They claim to be able to expunge 50%-80% of debt owed. The company claims to lower both the balance and interest rates of debts.
Other benefits of New Era Debt Solutions include the fact it has attorneys on staff and an account management team is also assigned to each client from the start. The company also handles all of its work in-house and never outsources tasks to other unproven firms or contractors.
Best for Tax Debt Relief : CuraDebt
While other debt relief companies shy away from tax debts, CuraDebt offers special assistance for consumers who owe back taxes. This program is offered on top of its traditional debt settlement programs that can help consumers become debt-free while paying less than what they owe.
CuraDebt offers traditional debt settlement programs as well as assistance with back taxes (federal or state)
In-person consultations are only available in Hollywood, Florida
CuraDebt has been in business since 2000, and it offers a free consultation for consumers interested in its debt relief programs. Like other debt relief companies, CuraDebt also displays an array of debt settlement letters on its website, many of which show consumers who settled debts for as little as 20% of what they owed. Additionally, the company reports that its customers typically pay approximately 20% of their enrolled debt amount in fees over time. There are no monthly administration fees.
Where many other debt relief companies don’t touch outstanding tax debts, CuraDebt offers specific assistance for consumers who owe back taxes and need help coming up with a plan while they manage other debts they have. This makes CuraDebt unusual in that it can help consumers who have multiple types of debt including taxes, credit cards, and personal loans.
Specifically, CuraDebt's assistance for tax debt relief includes transparent, flat-fee pricing and help to settle and to negotiate on IRS and state tax debts. It even has federal and state tax experts on staff, and this assistance is available in all 50 states.
Best Interactive Program : Freedom Debt Relief
We chose Freedom Debt Relief due to the fact it offers an interactive client dashboard that lets clients track their progress.
Free consultation and no upfront fees
Client dashboard lets you track your progress
Clients typically settle for a higher percentage of what they owe than with some other debt relief companies
Freedom Debt Relief has been in business since 2002 and currently employs over 2,000 highly trained debt experts and professionals. It starts clients off by offering a free consultation with a certified debt consultant who can help them talk over their debts and what they hope to accomplish. From there, they craft a personalized debt settlement plan that asks you to save a specific amount in a separate account to use for debt settlement later on.
One feature that helps Freedom Debt Relief stand out is its interactive process. Once you sign up for a debt settlement program and begin making deposits, you’ll qualify for a client dashboard that you can use to stay up to date on your program. This dashboard lets you see how much you have saved, how much you owe, and any progress Freedom Debt Relief has made negotiating debts on your behalf.
Freedom Debt Relief says its clients don’t pay any fees until work is done on their behalf. By the end of their debt settlement programs, customers pay a fee equal to a percentage of the amount of debt they enrolled in the program. While Freedom Debt Relief cannot guarantee it will settle your debts, it claims that many of its clients wind up paying significantly less than the amounts they once owed.
What Does a Debt Relief Company Do?
Debt relief companies are for-profit organizations that help consumers settle their debts for less than what they owe. These companies gear their services to clients who are so overwhelmed with debt that they cannot figure out a solution on their own.
While there are plenty of reputable debt relief companies out there, it’s important to note that the debt relief industry is rife with scams. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) says it’s wise to be judicious about companies you work with for this reason. You should also strive to avoid working with debt relief companies that try to collect fees before they settle your debts or ones that advertise a new government program that could help.
What Is Debt Settlement?
Generally speaking, debt relief companies turn to debt settlement as the best debt relief option. With debt settlement, these companies ask their clients to set aside a specific amount of money in a dedicated savings account each month. The goal of this account is to build up a sum of money that can be used to settle debts later on.
Debt relief companies then negotiate with creditors on your behalf, which typically involves offering less than what you owe toward your balances. At the end of a debt settlement program, clients should be debt-free and able to move on with their lives.
While paying less than what you owe may sound ideal, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) notes that debt settlement has risks. For example, debt relief companies will ask you to stop paying your bills while they work to settle your debts, which can have grave consequences for your credit score. Also be aware that creditors are not required to settle your debts for less than what you owe, so there’s no guarantee your debt relief company will be successful.
What Is Debt Consolidation?
If you’re wondering about the difference between debt settlement and debt consolidation, here are some details to keep in mind. Where debt settlement involves working with a debt relief company to settle your debts for less than what you owe, debt consolidation requires you to take out a new financial product (typically a personal loan or a balance transfer credit card) to consolidate all your existing debts.
With debt consolidation, you’ll move all your old debts to the new loan with a lower APR or better terms. While the goal of debt consolidation is saving money, debt consolidation can also help you go from paying multiple debt payments each month down to just one.
What Are Creditors Doing During COVID-19 to Help Debtors?
Since March of 2020, top banks and lenders have rolled out emergency assistance for customers who are having trouble paying their bills due to the impact of COVID-19. According to the National Foundation for Credit Counseling (NFCC), some creditors including Chase, Capital One, Citi, and Discover have extended deferment programs for their loans and credit cards, which can allow you to skip monthly payments for a limited amount of time.
If you’re falling behind on your credit card bills or payments on other loans, it’s smart to check with your creditor’s website to see what programs may be available to you. While loan deferment programs won’t make your debts go away, they can buy you some time to get your finances back on track while helping you avoid late fees and damage to your credit score.
Do Debt Relief Companies Hurt Your Credit?
One major downside of debt settlement programs is the fact that your credit score can take a 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.
With that being said, the FTC notes that damage to your credit score isn’t all you have to worry about. Stopping payments while you save money for debt settlement can also lead to late fees and penalties that can cause your balances to go up even more. You may also get calls from creditors or debt collectors during your program, and you could even be sued.
How Much Does Debt Relief Cost?
Debt relief companies tend to offer a free consultation to get the process started. From there, they charge performance-based fees that typically work out to a percentage of the debt amount you have enrolled.
Based on the companies we profiled, common debt relief charges work out to 15% to 25% of the total debts enrolled in a program. This means that, if you sign up for a debt settlement program with $10,000 in credit card debt, you may wind up paying $1,500 to $2,500 to get it resolved. And remember, that’s on top of the amount you pay your creditors to settle your debts.
How We Chose the Best Debt Relief Companies
We started the process by creating a debt relief methodology and then looked for debt relief companies that have been in business for more than five years. From there, we gave precedence to firms that offer a free, no-obligation consultation with a debt consultant. While debt relief companies don’t advertise or charge flat-rate fees you can commit to ahead of time, we also gave extra points to companies that advertise a range of potential fees on their websites. Finally, we compared companies based on their proven success in helping clients settle debts for less than what they owe.