Best Debt Settlement CompaniesReviewAdvice

Best Debt Settlement Companies for 2016

See our top picks for the best debt relief programs

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Best Debt Relief Programs

Debt Settlement is generally a last resort for individuals who are heavily indebted and spiraling towards bankruptcy. However unpleasant as it may seem, debt settlement companies can be an effective route to bypass bankruptcy altogether and get you on the right track towards paying off your debts.

When you enroll with a debt relief company, you're first instructed to hand over the names of your creditors and the amount of unsecured debt you owe each one. They'll then contact the creditors on your behalf and work to negotiate the outstanding balance. In return for a large one-time payment, the creditors will pardon the remaining debt.

Best Debt Settlement Companies: What to Consider

Most often, credit card issuers will elect to collect a lump sum because they're fearful that you won't pay the existing balance. Take a look at the list of the top five debt settlement companies in the industry. The ideal debt settlement service will possess the following characteristics:

  • High BBB Rating-The Better Business Bureau rates institutions on a variety of factors including customer satisfaction, business operations, and compliance with legal regulations.
  • Fees Noted Upfront-Any applicable fees should be addressed upfront. If you're not provided this information automatically, ask for the terms and agreements in writing.
  • Affiliations-These indicate an organization's certifications and involvement in other debt related sectors.
  • Customer Support-Telephone or email support for questions and inquiries.
  • Consultation-A free consultation prior to paying any type of enrollment fee.

What's Behind the Guarantee?

In general, be wary of any debt settlement service which guarantees results without shedding light on the risks associated with the process. Check the fine print and the terms of the agreement so that if the company is unable to come to an agreement with your creditors then you won't be liable for any fees. Also, keep in mind that your credit score will drop when you opt for debt settlement but in general it does go back up. Your primary goal in all this should be to eliminate your debt without filing for bankruptcy.

Who are the IAPDA and AFCC?

The International Association of Professional Debt Arbitrators (IAPDA) is an organization which provides training and certification to debt settlement companies in order to better advise and aid customers struggling financially. While the American Fair Credit Council (AFCC), the leading association of professional Consumer Credit Advocates, is designed to support individuals suffering from debt and credit issues. Both organizations promote ethical practices on behalf of consumers and advocate compliance with state and federal laws.

The Best Debt Settlement Companies

National Debt Relief Review

  • Pros
  • Online budget calculator
  • Creditor collection call log
  • Array of online tools and resources
  • No out-of-pocket fee
  • Phone, email, live chat
  • Cons
  • May be liable for entire balance
  • Minimum $7,500 in debt to qualify

National Debt Relief has been a leader in the industry since 2007 and has been hailed as the number one debt settlement firm in the country. They're at the forefront of the debt management sector and will do their best to reduce and eliminate your debt. After enrolling, you'll be instructed to create an account in which you will deposit a fixed amount each month. At that point, NDR will begin to negotiate a settlement with your creditors. When your lenders agree on a quantity, the money in the account will be used to pay off your debt and a portion will also be used to pay for the company's services. The assessed fee is based on your income, degree of debt, and several other factors. On average they'll take about 20 percent of the savings once the settlement takes place. This is a rough approximation, however, and is liable to change on a case-by-case basis. Each customer is assigned a certified debt counselor who will give you a free financial analysis followed by a debt reduction plan.

For those who are apprehensive about becoming involved with a debt settlement company, keep in mind that National Debt Relief is an accredited member of the American Fair Credit Council (AFCC) and International Association of Professional Debt Arbitrators (IAPDA). These organizations have strict regulations and require their members to act in accordance with all federal and state regulations regarding debt settlement.

Plus, National Debt Relief is upfront about the potential pitfalls of settling and offers information and other options, which is a refreshing trait when it comes to debt settlement companies.

The biggest drawback about this company is that they require customers to have at least $7,500 in unsecured debt. Unsecured debt includes things like credit cards, personal loans, medical bills, collections, repossessions, and business debts. NDR is very clear that they cannot settle any secured debts like lawsuits, back taxes, utility bills, student loans, mortgages or home loans.

If you possess less than the stipulated $7,500, review the other companies on the list. Although National Debt Relief can't make any guarantees by law, customers typically see results within 24 and 48 months of working with them. What's more, the company features a call log to record any attempts made by your creditors to contact you. Once you record the details of calls or letters, National Debt Relief will use the information to negotiate your settlement. It's also a clever way to keep track of any harassing calls that may be infringing on your personal rights. By documenting these instances, you'll be in a more desirable position to take action.

Verdict - Superb

On the whole, National Debt Relief is a top notch debt settlement firm. They've received 5 stars from Top Consumer Reviews and are adamant that they never charge upfront or ongoing fees for their services.

Freedom Debt Relief Review

  • Pros
  • A rating Better Business Bureau
  • Easy website navigation
  • Free consultation
  • Individual advisor
  • Online registration/management
  • Cons
  • No live chat
  • No IAPDA affiliation

Enroll with Freedom Debt Relief and you'll not only become one of 40,000 enrolled customers but a member of "The Freedom Family." At least that's what their website claims. Freedom Debt Relief offers the basic services you would expect with a debt settlement firm-online registration, personal advisor, free consultation, telephone-but has received some unfavorable reviews on the web. However, they still secured the fourth spot on the list because it's tough to find a debt settlement company that doesn't have some unsatisfied customers. It's simply the nature of the beast. Anyhow, this company does have some components that constitute the 3.5-star rating. To begin with, their website is well structured and easy to navigate. Access to their contact information, blog, and service charges are just a click away, which is a big plus. This counts for a lot considering how ambiguous the other industry websites were.

Freedom Debt Relief works like many of the other companies on the list. You'll be instructed to set up a trust where you'll deposit a specified amount per month. Meanwhile, the staff at FDR will negotiate a lower settlement with your creditors. According to the company's site, they get average settlements of 42 cents on the dollar. What's interesting is that they're one of the few companies to make a specific claim like this. It's a bold move but does add a degree of credibility to their repertoire.

The biggest advantages about working with Freedom Debt Relief is that you'll only be charged fees on resolved debt, they'll act as your credit advocate, and there's the potential to reduce the total amount of debt you owe. In terms of industry ratings, Bestcovery.com rates Freedom Debt Relief in the top 5, Consumeraffairs.com gives them 3.75/5.0 points and they have some stellar reviews on Yelp! Furthermore, they boast an A rating from the Better Business Bureau.

Verdict - Great

On paper, this company has the credentials to take the #1 spot but unfortunately the number of complaints filed against it brings its rank down to #4. It's still got some great services and favorable features so review the breakdown above before making a decision.

CuraDebt Debt Settlement Review

  • Pros
  • Free consultation
  • Personal debt negotiator
  • Online registration/management
  • Money-back guarantee
  • Blog resource
  • Cons
  • Not available in 13 states

CuraDebt was founded in 2000 with the intention to provide financial solutions within the debt relief sector. In terms of debt settlement, CuraDebt's in-house program costs 20% of the total entered debt. If you don't qualify for their in-house program, you will be refereed to another reputable company. To the company's credit, fees aren't collected until a settlement is reached.

A few consumer reviews claim that the CuraDebt representatives are not transparent when it comes to calling them for information. User reviews should be taken with a grain of salt due to the fact that they simply offer anecdotal information. However, it is important to make sure you know what you are paying for and what the company offers before signing on.

On a more positive note, CuraDebt has a money-back guarantee to serve its customers (see the client agreement for details) and a number of affiliations which are indicators that it abides by the industry standards. They're in good standing with The American Fair Credit Council (AFCC) and the International Association of Professional Debt Arbitrators. These watchdog organizations are dedicated to upholding fair practices and compliance of industry-wide regulations. Debt settlement organizations can be cunning so pay close attention to any discrepancies between the company's assertions and their actions.

As far as CuraDebt's website and support center goes they do offer telephone, email, and live chat services. They also have a credit restoration program to help those who complete their debt settlement program.

The last major point to take into consideration is there online resources. Unlike National Debt Relief, CuraDebt doesn't have a trove of financial tools on their website but they do sponsor a blog with valid financial advice.

Verdict - Very Good

What really stands out about CuraDebt debt settlement program is their low service fee and their assortment of awards with consumer ranking groups.

Oak View Law Group Review

  • Pros
  • Free consultation
  • Individual advisor
  • Online registration/management
  • Money-back guarantee
  • Telephone, email, live chat
  • Cons
  • No affiliation with AFCC
  • Higher service fee percentage
  • Average BBB rating

Oak View Law Group is a registered law firm with attorneys located all throughout the country. Their primary services consist of bankruptcy filings, debt relief, defamation protection, and debt settlement. Their debt relief programs range from consolidation to negotiation and settlement counseling. One of the biggest benefits about enrolling with Oak View Law Group is that you get access to a personal attorney who will act as your counselor throughout the duration of your settlement process. There will be someone readily available to answer your concerns and consequently ease the financial ambiguity on your part.

This service is invaluable in more ways than one. When you sign up with the company, you'll designate a special account to deposit a monthly payment into. Afterwards, they'll instruct you to stop paying your monthly payments to the creditors they're attempting to negotiate with. Be forewarned that by doing this you're putting yourself in serious credit jeopardy. The consequences are severe and should not be taken lightly by any means. As a general rule, consumer protection groups agree that you should refrain from this step until you've exhausted all your other options.

You're eligible to take advantage of their debt settlement program if you fit the following criteria:

  • Defaulted on the loan
  • Missing regular payments
  • Generate some source of income
  • Possess a considerable amount of debt

Oak View Law prides themselves on their money back guarantee as well as their affiliations to the International Association of Professional Debt Arbitrators and a number of other privacy protection organizations. In the event that you need to reach a representative, they have telephone, email, and live chat services available for your convenience. Although they're not a 24-hour service, you do have the ability to reach a spokesperson on weeknights and some weekends. (Check the website for a more comprehensive directory). Moreover, you can monitor the progress of your settlement on this same website which greatly adds to its ease of use. Oak View Law earns the third spot on the list because it's missing a few components which the other two companies feature. They're not a member of The American Fair Credit Council and their BBB rating is not excellent.

Verdict - Good

Oak View Law's track record speaks volumes to the level of service they provide and the effectiveness of their settlement program. As a matter of fact, their customer service department has earned rave reviews and a 71% client satisfaction rating. Electing for debt settlement can be quite an intimidating process so what better way to alleviate the uncertainty than with the help of a trained and licensed attorney.

Premier Debt Help Review

  • Pros
  • Free consultation
  • Individual advisor
  • Online registration/management
  • Telephone & email support
  • No payment until everything is settled
  • Cons
  • No live chat
  • No AFCC affiliation
  • Difficulties reaching customer service

Premier Debt Help provides debt relief options to customers in all 50 states. They pride themselves on the fact that they won't charge you a dime until they settle your debt. This is a great consumer promise considering the number of scams in the industry. Premier Debt Help provides a free first-time consultation to all prospective clients, which is common across the board. They are also accredited members of the American Association of Professional Debt Arbitrators (IAPDA) and offer support via telephone and email.

The biggest drawback with Premier Debt Help is that they're not affiliated with the AFCC and don't offer any live chat capabilities. In addition, they're not rated by the Better Business Bureau and a few consumer reports indicate that it's difficult to reach someone by phone.

Overall, they offer some great freebies like a 10-minute introductory consultation, free debt settlement calculator to monitor your progress, and online management function. They were rated on Bestcovery.com as the #1 debt consolidation company which is another mark in their favor!

Verdict - Fair

Premier Debt Help is your run-of-the mill debt settlement company. That's not by any means a bad thing but it doesn't go above and beyond to meet your debt related needs. It's still a credible company but not nearly the best in terms of program features.

Best Debt Relief Programs Recap

Debt settlement is not an appropriate solution for everyone. The aforementioned companies explicitly state on their websites that they do not guarantee any particular results and in the event that the debt settlement company cannot come to an agreement with your creditors, you may be liable to repay the entire amount. Furthermore, be wary of any company which tells you to stop communicating with your creditors but doesn't explain the severe repercussions. Carefully review the advantages and disadvantages once more before enrolling in a program.

Best Debt Settlement Companies FAQs

What is debt settlement?

Debt settlement is a process in which an individual's debt is reduced by negotiating with creditors on a reduced balance to be paid in full. This can be done by convincing creditors to forgive debt that is a result of accumulated interest. This is done with the idea that lenders would rather forgive some debt repaid than none, especially as a result of bankruptcy. Debt settlement is typically reserved for individuals who are facing bankruptcy and have no other available options. Some companies like National Debt Relief require clients to have a minimum debt in order to qualify. In this case, NDR requires at least $7,500. Once a settlement takes place, a debt settlement company will take a portion of the settlement as payment.

How do I select a debt settlement company?

When reviewing your options, check to see if the company is an accredited member of the American Fair Credit Council (AFCC) and the International Association of Professional Debt Arbitrators (IAPDA). You can also check the credentials of the people you are working with. Do they have a law degree or are they a certified financial advisor? The reason it's important for the organization to be accredited by these associations is because they have strict policies as to how they conduct business proceedings in relation to federal and state regulations. Although no company can legally make guarantees as to the nature of what they can do to eliminate your debt, customers have reported results within 1 to 2 years of working with them.

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Advertiser Disclosure

In order for MoneySavingPro to remain a consumer free service, many of the companies covered in our industry reviews compensate MoneySavingPro for new sign ups.

However, the results of our comparison tools, the rankings of the providers and the information presented is not affected by compensation. Indeed, many of these companies approach us for an advertising partnership after we have already written a published their reviews.

While we try to research and review as many providers as possible in the 100+ industries we cover, we have not reviewed every company available.

Our rating system is independent of compensation and reflects our true understanding of the industry and the company based on a variety of factors. The companies that receive the highest rating will always be the providers that we believe offer the best value to the consumer.

Advertiser Disclosure

In order for MoneySavingPro to remain a consumer free service, many of the companies covered in our industry reviews compensate MoneySavingPro for new sign ups.

However, the results of our comparison tools, the rankings of the providers and the information presented is not affected by compensation. Indeed, many of these companies approach us for an advertising partnership after we have already written a published their reviews.

While we try to research and review as many providers as possible in the 100+ industries we cover, we have not reviewed every company available.

Our rating system is independent of compensation and reflects our true understanding of the industry and the company based on a variety of factors. The companies that receive the highest rating will always be the providers that we believe offer the best value to the consumer.