Consumers who are looking for debt relief are wise to do advance homework. Many so-called "debt relief" organizations are nothing more than sham operations that take advantage of those who need help the most. The best debt relief companies are clear and up front about their services and fees, and don't promise more than they can deliver. The old maxim "If it sounds too good to be true, it is" was never truer than in debt relief.
The National Foundation for Credit Counseling
The longest-running nonprofit consumer debt relief agency in the United States is the National Foundation for Credit Counseling. Counselors are certified in debt relief and offer free budget consultations to consumers. If necessary, the counselor will enroll the the consumer in a debt management program (DMP) with lowered interest rates, payments and fees. The counselor will also close the credit account. Debts are repaid in full within five years. Counseling and setup are usually free, but DMP plans may have a fee (rules vary by state). The NFCC partners with local agencies that can provide in-person counseling if necessary.
CareOne Debt Relief Services
CareOne Debt Relief Services, accredited by the American Association of Debt Management Organizations, has been in business since 1998 and has a current "A" rating from the Better Business Bureau. The website is clear and easy to use. Loan calculators and other educational tools such as articles and blogs are readily available and updated frequently. Also, the website's "Debt Diva" offers tips for frugal living and saving money. CareOne does not provide housing or bankruptcy counseling services.
Money Management International
Money Management International is accredited by the National Foundation for Credit Counseling and has been in operation since 1989.. It is a nonprofit. MMI members have budget calculators and financial worksheets at their disposal, in addition to counseling and management services. There are considerable educational resources as well, and bankruptcy and housing counseling programs are also available. Consumers can begin the debt management process online. Fees are not published openly.
AAA Fair Credit Corporation
Educating consumers is the focus of AAA Fair Credit, rated "A+" by the Better Business Bureau. In addition to offering nonprofit credit card counseling and debt management services, AAA provides housing counseling services as well. Consumers who also need to focus their efforts on building assets won't be disappointed; there are programs and worksheets to help. The Tax Assistance Program provides free income tax preparation and financial advice to low-income families and individuals, and it's also accredited by several consumer debt relief agencies.
Springboard Nonprofit Consumer Credit Management
Since 1974, Springboard has offered consumers educational tools and tips as well as provided counseling, debt management, bankruptcy, and housing counseling services. The website is clear and easy to use. Practical solutions for budgeting, living on cash instead of credit, and advice on beginning an emergency fund are part of the program for members. It earned an "A" rating from the Better Business Bureau and is accredited by the National Foundation for Credit Counseling.