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Fortunly's Guide

The Best Debt Settlement Companies in 2021

By
G. Dautovic

July 05,2021


Benjamin Franklin famously said he would rather go to bed supperless than rise from it in debt. But for many people, being debt-free is nothing more than wishful thinking. In fact, Americans are more in debt now than they’ve ever been, which in turn has created large industries that help people relieve, reduce, and eliminate unmanageable debt. 

To put it in perspective, the best debt settlement companies in the US are now serving hundreds of thousands of customers and saving them billions of dollars in the process. 

That’s not to say that all these firms that are popping up are legitimate. As is the case with all businesses that deal with money, the potential for fraud in this industry is extremely high. At Fortunly, we believe it’s time to shine some light not just on the potential scams, but also on companies that can legitimately help debtors out with their problems.

The result is this comprehensive list of the top debt settlement companies. We’ve included all the necessary information to help you make an informed choice and start living a debt-free life once again.

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9 Best Debt Relief Companies

Best for: Flexible program length
Freedom Debt Relief
Freedom Debt Relief Logo
Bottom line

The quality of service that Freedom Debt Relief offers remains unmatched, 19 years since it arrived on the scene. The company has already settled over countless billions in debt and attracted hundreds of thousands of clients, with an incredible rate of 50,000 settled accounts each month. If you have at least $7,500 in unsecured debt and wish to turn to settlement, Freedom is sure to provide you with the most transparent and professional service money can buy. Read Review

  • Incredible client dashboard
  • Certified debt consultants
  • Fantastic customer service
Learn More
On Freedom Debt Relief Website
Minimum debt requirement:
$7,500
Upfront fee:
$0
Monthly fee:
$9.95
Service fee:
18-25% of original debt
Time to settle:
24-48 months
BBB rating:
B
Trustpilot customer rating:
4.6
States covered:
37
Best for: Savings rates
National Debt Relief
National Debt Relief Logo
Bottom line

With more than a decade of experience and a model built around consumer-friendly practices, National Debt Relief has taken the industry by storm, quickly becoming a leader in its field. National offers some of the lowest rates and covers an impressive 41 states. This, combined with the quality of its service, makes it one of the two best-rated debt settlement companies by customers across all rating websites. Read Review

  • High savings rates
  • Best user satisfaction levels
  • Perfect BBB rating
Learn More
On National Debt Relief Website
Minimum debt requirement:
$7,500
Upfront fee:
$0
Monthly fee:
N/A
Service fee:
15-25% of original debt
Time to settle:
24-48 months
BBB rating:
A+
Trustpilot customer rating:
4.7
States covered:
41
Best for: Customer support
Accredited Debt Relief
Accredited Debt Relief Logo
Bottom line

Accredited Debt Relief is a broker company that links you with the debt settlement agency best suited to deal with your personal needs. The company has an incredibly high level of customer trust and has proven time and time again to be one of the best choices out there for successfully settling debt. Accredited is also probably the world’s leading platform for guidance and financial management; it also provides a wide array of other debt relief services. Read Review

  • High success rates
  • Numerous leading debt settlement partners
  • Amazing customer support
Learn More
On Accredited Debt Relief Website
Minimum debt requirement:
$7,500
Upfront fee:
$0
Monthly fee:
N/A
Service fee:
14-25% of original debt
Time to settle:
12-60 months
BBB rating:
A+
Trustpilot customer rating:
4.9
States covered:
39
Best for: Low service fees
New Era Debt Solutions
New Era Debt Solutions Logo
Bottom line

As one of the pioneers of this industry, New Era Debt Solutions has been serving customers for more than two decades. The company has settled hundreds of millions in debt for its clients and has built a great reputation through its dedication to transparency. This veteran debt settlement agency is also probably the most innovative and consumer-friendly of all, providing personalized assistance, the lowest fees, and no minimum debt requirement. New Era is also one of the rare companies that even offers discounts to active and former military personnel, cementing itself as one of the true market leaders. Read Review

  • Lowest service fees
  • Personal advisor
  • Military personnel discounts
Learn More
On New Era Debt Solutions Website
Minimum debt requirement:
$0
Upfront fee:
$0
Monthly fee:
N/A
Service fee:
16-20% of original debt
Time to settle:
24-48 months
BBB rating:
A+
Trustpilot customer rating:
4.7
States covered:
47
Best for: Customers with unsecured credit card debt
Guardian Debt Relief
Guardian Debt Relief Logo
Bottom line

Guardian Debt Relief is a New York-based debt settlement company with seven years of experience and some of the highest success rates in the industry. By offering lower rates but a larger minimum requirement, Guardian is most suitable for those with more unsecured debt on their credit cards. The company also provides other financial services like credit counseling, financial education, and debt management, making it one of the best debt consolidation companies in the US. Read Review

  • Low service fees
  • Accredited debt advisors
  • Useful tools and educational content
Learn More
On Guardian Debt Relief Website
Minimum debt requirement:
$10,000
Upfront fee:
$0
Monthly fee:
$0
Service fee:
20% of original debt
Time to settle:
24-48 months
BBB rating:
A+
Trustpilot customer rating:
4.7
States covered:
18
Best for: Fast settlement times
DMB Financial
DMB Financial Logo
Bottom line

DMB Financial was founded in 2003 in Beverly, Massachusetts. Since then, it has quickly become one of the most successful debt relief companies in the US. In the past 14 years, DMB bas served more than 30,000 clients and saved them more than $1 billion in unsecured debts. The minimum debt requirements for applying are a bit higher than average and the company covers fewer states than the industry giants. However, its settlement times are usually faster and its record of success is great, making DMB an excellent choice for those eligible to use its services. Read Review

  • Highly-experienced advisors
  • A+ rating with the BBB
  • Fast settlement times
Learn More
On DMB Financial Website
Minimum debt requirement:
$10,000
Upfront fee:
$0
Monthly fee:
$35.95
Service fee:
18-25% of original debt
Time to settle:
24-48 months
BBB rating:
A+
Trustpilot customer rating:
N/A
States covered:
26
Best for: Customers with tax debt
CuraDebt
CuraDebt Logo
Bottom line

CuraDebt was launched in 2000 in Hollywood, Florida. Over the past two decades, the company has helped more than 200,000 individuals and small business owners deal with unsecured debt and tax issues. CuraDebt is fully transparent about what it can do and how much it’ll charge you for the service. It’s happy to work with consumers with just $5,000 in unsecured debt. On average, it can save you about 30% after fees. Read Review

  • Assistance with federal and state taxes
  • Free consultation
  • High consumer satisfaction ratings
Learn More
On CuraDebt Website
Minimum debt requirement:
$5,000
Upfront fee:
$0
Monthly fee:
$0
Service fee:
20% of original debt
Time to settle:
24-48 months
BBB rating:
A+
Trustpilot customer rating:
4.4
States covered:
33 (all services)
Best for: No upfront fees
DebtBye
DebtBye Logo
Bottom line

Owned and operated by LMB Associates, DebtBye isn’t a debt specialist. The company operates as a financial services marketplace that connects consumers in need of debt settlement or personal funding solutions with the most suitable financial service providers. Whether you need help with credit card debt, tax issues, or any other type of unsecured debt, at least one of DebtBye’s affiliates will be able to help you. Read Review

  • Quick and easy application process
  • No upfront fees
  • Multiple debt settlement partners
Learn More
On DebtBye Website
Minimum debt requirement:
$5,000-$10,000
Upfront fee:
$0
Monthly fee:
$0
Service fee:
15-25% of original debt
Time to settle:
24-48 months
BBB rating:
N/A
Trustpilot rating:
N/A
States covered:
Depends on the service provider
Best for: Simple application process
DebtSolutions
DebtSolutions Logo
Bottom line

DebtSolutions is one of the newest online debt services aggregators. Instead of offering financial services directly, the company connects consumers with different kinds of debt issues with the most suitable debt relief specialists. DebtSolutions’ partners work with several types of secured and unsecured debt and offer debt settlement, debt consolidation, and debt management services. Read Review

  • Simple application process
  • No upfront fees
  • No monthly administration costs
Learn More
On DebtSolutions Website
Minimum debt requirement:
$10,000 (lower with some providers)
Upfront fee:
$0
Monthly fee:
$0
Service fee:
15-25% of original debt
Time to settle:
24-48 months
BBB rating:
N/A
Trustpilot rating:
N/A
States covered:
Depends on the service provider
Evaluation Criteria

How Do We Determine the Best Debt Settlement Company?

One of the main principles on which Fortunly is built is transparency. We believe we should provide our readers with a detailed look into the review process through which we choose the best debt settlement programs and explain the key features that we examine to determine our final list. We use our structured review plan to weigh each company’s strengths and features against industry standards. As such, we promote customer-friendly practices and help improve the market by pointing out flaws and failings. When it comes to debt settlement, the key things we focus on are as follows.

Quality of the product

This section of the review provides insight into what features, minimum requirements, and types of debt settlement the company offers. We also look for other important things like fees, BBB ratings, accreditations, and the number of states the company operates in. By piecing all these factors together, we get a sense of the overall quality of the product. 

User experience

It’s not enough that debt solution services offer you attractive plans for settling your debts, especially since the competition within the industry has never been stronger. This means companies now need to have user-friendly platforms that work on multiple devices, while also providing quality customer support and consultation. We look for those companies that provide the best user experience to their customers and penalize those that lag behind.

Customer reviews

Last but not least, we value customers’ opinions when determining how great a company is. This is even more pronounced in the case of debt settlement. That’s because this process can take a long time and users’ impressions can change throughout the process. The companies with the best customer ratings earn an extra degree of trust.

Quick Overview

The Best Debt Settlement Companies in 2021

Reviews of the Best Debt Settlement Companies

Freedom Debt Relief Review

5 stars Our Rating
Minimum debt requirement:
$7,500
Monthly fee:
$9.95
Service fee:
18-25% of original debt
Time to settle:
24-48 months

Founded in 2002, Freedom Debt Relief (FDR) is the largest debt settlement company in the US. It has long fought for more consumer-friendly practices and regulations within the industry, building a reputation as one of the most trusted firms that deal with debt resolution. Seventeen years since it was founded, Freedom has become a true market leader, but its competitors are quickly catching up. Our review will determine how far ahead the company is now.

Quality of the product

Freedom has one of the best debt settlement program options, which has led over 600,000 clients to sign up for the company’s services. The company works with customers with at least $7,500 in total debt balance and deals strictly with debt from credit cards, personal loans, private student loans, and other unsecured debt. Freedom does not work with mortgages, car loans, or any other type of secured debt. The average time for settling debt is between 24 and 48 months, and fees upon successful debt settlement range from 18% to 25%. 

Freedom holds a B rating with the BBB and operates in 37 states across the US. It is a founding member of the American Fair Credit Council and is also accredited by the International Association of Professional Debt Arbitrators (IAPDA). All the company’s consultants who work on setting credit card debt are also certified by the IADPA. True to its name, Freedom offers free consultations to all potential customers. This means you can get expert advice whether you choose to become a client or not.  

User experience

The Freedom Debt Relief website is easily one of the best we’ve seen, with a crisp design built around great functionality. The initial process begins over the phone. After talking to a consultant to set up a settlement account, you’ll get access to the incredibly useful client dashboard. This nifty feature is what makes Freedom stand out from competing debt settlement services, as it makes tracking your progress both easy and transparent. The dashboard also offers you plenty of content to help you manage your finances better in the future, making it a great source of useful financial information. 

This dedication to quality service extends to customer support; you can reach Freedom’s staff any day of the week to get your questions and concerns resolved. The customer service agents are knowledgeable, friendly, and show the same level of professionalism as the company’s qualified advisors.  

Customer reviews

Debt settlement agencies more so than many other finance-based businesses rely heavily on customer satisfaction, which is why it’s so impressive to see the overwhelmingly positive reviews for Freedom Debt Relief. The company holds a 4.6 star Trustpilot score, and the same goes for user scores on Consumer Affairs and BBB. With thousands upon thousands of votes and almost perfect scores across the board, it is no surprise that Freedom is considered the best that the industry has to offer.

Final words

The quality of service at Freedom Debt Relief remains unmatched, 17 years since the company arrived on the scene. During that time, Freedom has settled over $10 billion in unsecured credit debt and has attracted hundreds of thousands of clients, with an incredible rate of 50,000 settled accounts each month. If you have at least $7,500 in unsecured debt that you wish to settle, there’s no better place to turn to for help.

Reasons to consider

  • Very useful Freedom Debt Relief dashboard
  • Certified debt consultants
  • Fantastic customer service
+ Show more

National Debt Relief Review

5 stars Our Rating
Minimum debt requirement:
$7,500
Monthly fee:
N/A
Service fee:
15-25% of original debt
Time to settle:
24-48 months

National Debt Relief LLC was founded in 2009 in New York. In the 10 years since, it has already become synonymous with the industry. With a wide range of services, high savings rates, and exceptional national coverage, it’s one of the most reputable debt settlement companies out there.

Quality of the product

National Debt Relief has one of the most affordable settlement programs on the market. The company has a minimum requirement of at least $7,500 in unsecured debts, including credit card debt, medical bills, and private student loans. This list does not include mortgages, federal student debt, and other types of secured debt. 

There are no upfront fees for eligible debts and the company boasts average savings of 30% once the settlement process is complete. The service fee at National Debt Relief ranges from 18-25% of your total enrolled debt, and you can cancel it without penalties or cancelation fees. The average time until most settlement loans are resolved is between 24 and 48 months. 

One of the greatest strengths of National Debt Relief is the fact that it operates in an impressive 41 states. Only residents of Connecticut, Georgia, Kansas, Maine, New Hampshire, South Carolina, Oregon, Vermont, and West Virginia are ineligible. The company also has the highest possible BBB rating of A+, with just 144 registered customer complaints at the time of writing this review. It’s also accredited by both the AFCC and IAPDA.

User experience

The National Debt Relief website is full of useful and educational information regarding debt settlement, and you can access this information straight from the main page. It does feel a bit cluttered, especially compared to how some competitors have designed their websites, but it does its job well and is easy enough to navigate. The best way to contact the company is over the phone; corporate debt advisors will ask you questions about your financial situation before creating a tailor-made solution that best suits your current needs.

Once you open up your account with National, you can easily access it either through the website or a mobile app. This allows you to keep track of your payments as you save enough funds to start settling your debt. You’ll also get access to a ton of useful content to help you manage your money better and grow your credit rating once your current debt is settled and paid off. For any additional information, National Debt Relief has a customer service program that you can reach via telephone during work hours. 

Customer reviews

While National lacks the 24/7 live customer support that some debt settlement firms provide, it still boasts incredible user ratings across multiple websites. On Trustpilot, the company has a near-perfect 4.8/5 star rating from over 27,000 customers, and it has an identical 4.8 rating from 10,500 customers on Consumer Affairs. This is an incredible feat for a debt settlement company and it speaks volumes about how successful National Debt Relief has become in a short time.

Final words

National Debt Relief proves that the debt settlement business can be extremely successful if done correctly and built around consumer-friendly practices. And while there are still some minor flaws with the company’s website design and customer service, this is clearly a contender for the title of best debt settlement company in the US. 

Reasons to consider

  • High savings rates
  • Best user satisfaction levels

• Stellar BBB reviews

+ Show more

Accredited Debt Relief Review

4.5 stars Our Rating
Minimum debt requirement:
$7,500
Monthly fee:
N/A
Service fee:
14-25% of original debt
Time to settle:
12-60 months

Accredited Debt Relief is a unique addition to our list in that it’s not a direct debt settlement company, but more of a broker that connects you with world-class agencies that can help you pay off your debt. With years of experience and well-earned customer trust, it’s a great choice for anyone looking for professional guidance on the quest for the best debt settlement services out there. But what makes an outsider like this deserving of such a high position on our list?

Quality of the product

Because Accredited Debt Relief works as a link between customers and debt settlement agencies, it follows the standard minimum requirements of $7,500 in unsecured debt. This is also one of the rare firms that provides both debt settlement and debt consolidation services, and it works across 39 states. Service fees vary from state to state, but all remain in the 18-25% range, which is the current industry standard. There are also no additional consultation and operational fees in case your debt does not get settled, and settlement negotiations themselves take between 24 and 48 months.

Accredited Debt Relief partners with some of the best companies for debt settlement in the US, which is why it holds a perfect A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau. This confidence in Accredited’s business practices is only strengthened by the fact that the firm is also a member of the AFCC, the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce, and the IAPDA. 

User experience

The company’s website is pretty straightforward and has all the necessary information laid out in such a way that it’s incredibly easy to find the most important details right from the get-go. It lacks some advanced features like a debt calculator, but the company’s advisors will give you a free professional consultation once you contact them about the credit card settlement process. 

If you decide to find a company through Accredited Debt Relief, you won’t have to pay any upfront or monthly fees. Even if you have a change of heart and decide to cancel the service, you are free to take your money out without any costs attached. There is also a great customer support service that works seven days a week, although hours are slightly different on Saturdays and Sundays.     

Customer reviews

Accredited Debt Relief is one of the best debt relief companies out there, with customers particularly praising the customer service staff and advisors for their empathetic, friendly approach. In fact, the company has only 14 complaints registered by the BBB at the time of writing this review. It also has an excellent 4.8 trust score from 1,916 reviews on Trustpilot, as well as a five-star rating from 86 ratings submitted in the past year on Consumer Affairs.   

Final words

One could argue that it’s more difficult for broker firms like Accredited Debt Relief to attain the same level of respect as other reputable debt settlement companies. To the company’s credit, it has done just that. With many industry-leading partners and a track record that speaks for itself, Accredited is, without doubt, a great option for successfully settling your debt. 

Reasons to consider

  • High success rates
  • Many leading debt settlement partners
  • Amazing customer support
+ Show more

New Era Debt Solutions Review

3.5 stars Our Rating
Minimum debt requirement:
$0
Monthly fee:
N/A
Service fee:
16-20% of original debt
Time to settle:
24-48 months

One of the pioneers of the industry, New Era Debt Solutions has been serving customers since 1999. Over the past two decades, this California-based company has settled more than $250 million in debt for its clients and maintained a strict policy of transparency and personalized assistance. But how does it measure up against the best debt management companies in the industry today?

Quality of the product

New Era doesn’t simply follow the standards of the debt settlement industry. No, this veteran company is guided by principles that truly set it apart. New Era is very clearly committed to providing the most customer-friendly debt solutions possible. This is evident in every aspect of its operations, from its lack of minimum debt requirements to the fact that New Era Debt Solutions fees of 16-20% are the lowest out there. This is accentuated by the fact that both active military personnel and veterans can get a discount of up to 4% depending on the size of their debt. 

New Era boasts average customer savings of 56.27% on its enrolled debt balance after the debt is settled (service fee excluded) and has a low 18.28% drop-out rate. It is also available in 47 states and has major hubs in metropolitan areas like New York City and San Diego. Last but not least, New Era is an accredited member of the Better Business Bureau and holds a perfect A+ rating, making it one of the best-rated debt settlement companies in the US.

User experience

New Era Debt Solutions doesn’t only focus on customer-friendly practices when it comes to pricing and discounts. The company’s approach is also quite evident in the overall user experience, starting with a modern website that is full of useful and educational information, along with a handy free debt calculator. There is also a huge focus on transparency, as New Era openly and prominently displays its debt settlement data on the site. But the real stand-out is that the company provides personalized service, meaning each customer gets their own advisor.

This means you’ll have a dedicated representative to guide you and work on your case until debt resolution is reached, which carries with it plenty of benefits. For starters, you can review your plan at any time with a handler who is well-informed about your case, while also having the option to keep track of your account online. This personalized approach means you may have to wait for a little longer when contacting customer service to speak with your individual manager, but it’s well worth the trouble.  

Customer reviews

With a long history of success in the business and a dedication to providing the best quality of service to its customers, New Era unsurprisingly finds itself among the top-rated debt settlement companies. The company currently has no complaints registered on the BBB, holds a 4.8 score on Trustpilot, and has an equally impressive rating on Consumer Affairs. Customer reviews mostly praise New Era’s friendly advisors and their clear communication, confirming that people value a service that is both personal and highly professional.

Final words

Any questions we may have had about New Era Debt Solutions have been thoroughly answered by the high standards the company consistently sets across all levels of its service. This is probably the most customer-friendly debt settlement company in the US, with a huge area of coverage, the lowest fees, and discounts for active and former military personnel. 

One of the pioneers of the industry, New Era Debt Solutions has been serving customers since 1999. Over the past two decades, this California-based company has settled more than $250 million in debt for its clients and maintained a strict policy of transparency and personalized assistance. But how does it measure up against the best debt management companies in the industry today?

 

Quality of the product

New Era doesn’t simply follow the standards of the debt settlement industry. No, this veteran company is guided by principles that truly set it apart. New Era is very clearly committed to providing the most customer-friendly debt solutions possible. This is evident in every aspect of its operations, from its lack of minimum debt requirements to the fact that New Era Debt Solutions fees of 16-20% are the lowest out there. This is accentuated by the fact that both active military personnel and veterans can get a discount of up to 4% depending on the size of their debt. 

 

New Era boasts average customer savings of 56.27% on its enrolled debt balance after the debt is settled (service fee excluded) and has a low 18.28% drop-out rate. It is also available in 47 states and has major hubs in metropolitan areas like New York City and San Diego. Last but not least, New Era is an accredited member of the Better Business Bureau and holds a perfect A+ rating, making it one of the best-rated debt settlement companies in the US.

 

User experience

New Era Debt Solutions doesn’t only focus on customer-friendly practices when it comes to pricing and discounts. The company’s approach is also quite evident in the overall user experience, starting with a modern website that is full of useful and educational information, along with a handy free debt calculator. There is also a huge focus on transparency, as New Era openly and prominently displays its debt settlement data on the site. But the real stand-out is that the company provides personalized service, meaning each customer gets their own advisor.

 

This means you’ll have a dedicated representative to guide you and work on your case until debt resolution is reached, which carries with it plenty of benefits. For starters, you can review your plan at any time with a handler who is well-informed about your case, while also having the option to keep track of your account online. This personalized approach means you may have to wait for a little longer when contacting customer service to speak with your individual manager, but it’s well worth the trouble.  

 

Customer reviews

With a long history of success in the business and a dedication to providing the best quality of service to its customers, New Era unsurprisingly finds itself among the top-rated debt settlement companies. The company currently has no complaints registered on the BBB, holds a 4.8 score on Trustpilot, and has an equally impressive rating on Consumer Affairs. Customer reviews mostly praise New Era’s friendly advisors and their clear communication, confirming that people value a service that is both personal and highly professional.

 

Final words

Any questions we may have had about New Era Debt Solutions have been thoroughly answered by the high standards the company consistently sets across all levels of its service. This is probably the most customer-friendly debt settlement company in the US, with a huge area of coverage, the lowest fees, and discounts for active and former military personnel. 

Reasons to consider

  • Lowest service fees
  • Personal advisor
  • Military personnel discounts

 

+ Show more

Guardian Debt Relief Review

4.5 stars Our Rating
Minimum debt requirement:
$10,000
Monthly fee
$0
Service fee:
20% of original debt
Time to settle:
24-48 months

Guardian Debt Relief is a New York-based company that’s been operating since 2012. It focuses on an individualized approach to debt settlement and even offers services like credit counseling, financial education, and debt management. During the seven years it has been operating, Guardian has earned numerous awards and attained high customer trust, propelling itself to a place among the top 5 debt settlement companies in the US.

Quality of the product

The minimum debt requirement to apply for a settlement account at Guardian Debt Relief is $10,000, which is a bit higher than most of the competition in 2019. There are no upfront fees, and the service fee after the debt is settled is a flat 20%. This is somewhere in the lower midrange as credit card debt settlement companies go, with many competitors’ fees moving well past 25%. Guardian can generally reduce debt to about 50% before fees, meaning you’re likely to save around 30% of your original debt.

Guardian Debt Relief is accredited by the Better Business Bureau and holds the maximum A+ rating. The company is also a member of both the IAPDA and the AFCC, so you can rest assured the advisors you will be in contact with are some of the most professional and knowledgeable experts in the field of debt settlement. The only major downside to Guardian’s great offer is the fact that the company currently services only 18 states. This is much narrower coverage than other best debt relief offers, which is why it’s further down our list than you might expect. 

User experience

While the Guardian Debt Relief website is certainly not the most feature-heavy on our list, it still includes some nifty tools like a live chat option and a debt calculator. The platform is also very easy to navigate; everything you need to know about the service, costs, and requirements is just a click away. Your initial contact with Guardian will take place over the phone. Once your advisor gets a full picture of your financial situation, you can set up an account to start saving money for your debt settlement agreement. 

After that, you’ll be able to manage your account via mobile or desktop and keep track of payments at any time using the very useful client portal. There’s plenty of educational content here to help you manage your finances better once your debt is settled. If you do have any issues, feel free to contact an advisor about anything related to your account. 

Customer reviews

Guardian Debt Relief is among the best-rated debt settlement companies, even though it doesn’t have nearly as many reviews as you can find with the longer-established industry giants. Still, the company has a 4.3 trust rating from 38 reviews on Trustpilot and holds a four-star rating with just one complaint on the BBB website. Most of the praise is directed toward Guardian’s team members, who are described as very understanding and professional.

Final words

With below-average fees and high success rates, Guardian Debt Relief is a good choice for those with a higher amount of unsecured debt. The company provides a great number of features and employs professional staff who will create the settlement plan that’s best-suited for you. The only major downside is that this quality service is currently not available in many states. However, if you live in one of the 18 eligible states, you should definitely consider Guardian as one of the top debt settlement programs available.

Reasons to consider

  • Low service fees
  • Accredited debt advisors
  • Useful tools and educational content
+ Show more

DMB Financial

4 stars Our Rating
Minimum debt requirement:
$10,000
Monthly fee:
$35.95
Service fee:
18-25% of original debt
Time to settle:
24-48 months

DMB Financial was founded in 2003 in Beverly, Massachusetts. Since then, it has quickly become one of the leading settlement firms in the US. Over the past 16 years, DMB has served more than 30,000 clients and saved them over $1 billion in unsecured debts. With such success and a wealth of experience, it’s no surprise that the company is regularly being named among the most trusted names in the industry. We conducted our own review to put this reputation to the test. 

Quality of the product

DMB Financial differs from other debt settlement companies in that it doesn’t specify its minimum debt requirements. This is a strange choice - we consider it a flaw - but generally, the company accepts customers with at least two credit cards and $10,000 in debt to settle. The company also fails to disclose information about service fees, which we consider an even bigger problem, but our research shows that DMB follows industry standards with fees in the 18-25% range. There is also a $35.95 monthly fee that you should be aware of, making it a pricier option than the other top debt settlement firms in the US.

DMB Financial offers much more insight into the amount of written-off debt its clients can expect. The numbers show an average of 50% in savings, excluding the service fee. This brings it in line with the best credit card debt settlement companies, which is why it’s not surprising that DMB has a perfect A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau. The company is also accredited by both the AFCC and the IAPDA, ensuring that the advisors you’ll be working with are among the most professional in the country. The only thing lacking here is wide coverage; DMB currently covers only 26 states, which is below industry standards.

User experience

The company’s website is a bit lackluster when compared to the best we’ve seen, mostly because it doesn’t provide customers with any useful tools or educational content to help familiarize them with the debt settlement process. If DMB Financial were to make its approach a bit more transparent and its business plan clearer, the whole experience would feel more complete. For now, however, you’ll start getting all the necessary information once you create an application or call the company to talk to a financial debt advisor. This is where the quality of service starts to shine, and where DMB proves its world-class quality.

Once your advisor creates a settlement plan that suits your needs, you can open an account and start preparing for the settlement process. You can follow and manage your account via either desktop or mobile, or call your advisor about any questions you may have regarding your case. 

Customer reviews

DMB Financial has a very high rating of almost 5 stars on the BBB from 2,240 customers. And while this number of reviews is a great indicator of how successfully the company manages to settle credit card debt, it is not featured on other sites like Trustpilot or Consumer Affairs. Nevertheless, it’s quite clear that DMB has amassed a great level of trust among the majority of customers it serves.

Final words

While it doesn’t quite compete with the service of some other names on our list, especially concerning transparency and innovation, DMB Financial not far off the best and cheapest debt settlement companies in the US. The company’s depth of experience and proven track record of fast settlements speaks for itself, so if you live in any of the states DMB works in, it’s worth considering.

Reasons to consider

  • Highly experienced advisors
  • A+ rating with the BBB
  • Fast settlement times
+ Show more

CuraDebt Review

4 stars Our Rating
Minimum debt requirement:
$5,000
Monthly fee:
$0
Service fee:
20% of original debt
Time to settle:
24-48 months

Launched in 2000, CuraDebt is a Florida-based debt settlement company. The company has counseled more than 200,000 individuals and small business owners, helping them find the best way to handle their unsecured debt and tax issues. 

As one of the best US debt settlement service providers, CuraDebt operates nationwide, though the full range of its services is available in only 33 states. The company is a member of the US Chamber of Commerce, the Online Business Bureau, the AFCC, and IAPDA.

Quality of the Product

CuraDebt works with businesses and individual customers with at least $5,000 in total debt. Its core services include debt relief, tax debt relief, debt settlement, and debt negotiation. 

Debtors can expect this company to offer assistance with debt from personal loans and lines of credit, credit cards, collections and repossessions, medical bills, certain private student loans, and back taxes. Although it’s one of the top debt consolidation companies, CuraDebt doesn’t address lawsuits, utility bills, auto loans, government-guaranteed student loans, government loans, mortgages, and other types of secured debt. 

Unlike most of its competitors, the company offers solutions for tax-related issues such as unpaid business and personal taxes, trust fund penalties, tax penalties, tax liens, wage garnishments, audits, rollover IRA issues, foreign corporation problems, FBAR issues, and more complex problematic tax situations. 

 

The average debt settling time is two to four years. CuraDebt usually charges about 20% of the total debt amount. There are no upfront fees or monthly administration charges for those who sign up for the company’s debt relief programs. 

Another great thing about CuraDebt is that it offers free consultations to all of its prospective clients.

User Experience

While CuraDebt’s website is hardly among the most neatly designed platforms we’ve seen, it’s very informative and fully transparent. Accessing information about debt settlement programs, issues the company can help you with, and pricing is quick and easy. In the results section, CuraDebt displays a long list of debt settlement letters, many of which reveal that its clients managed to save up 80% of what they owed.

As one of the best debt settlement companies, CuraDebt also offers excellent customer service. To start the process or inquire about a feature, you can get in touch with the company by calling (877) 850-3328 or emailing counselors@curadebt.com. Working hours are from 9 a.m. until 8 p.m. Eastern time Monday through Friday and 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturdays. Residents of Florida can also come for an in-office consultation. 

Customer Reviews

CuraDebt holds a score of 4.4 stars on Trustpilot and 4.2 stars on Consumer Affairs. It has received five stars from customers at BBB, where it holds an A+ rating. With such high customer satisfaction rates, it’s clear that not only is CuraDebt safe to use, but it’s also a consumer favorite.

Final Words

Unlike most debt relief service providers, which rarely offer solutions for tax debts, CuraDebt assists individuals who owe back taxes. The company also doesn’t shy away from comprehensive traditional debt resolution services designed to help consumers get out of debt by paying only a portion of what they owe. Considering that its minimum debt requirement is just $5,000, CuraDebt is an excellent solution if you have only a few small debts you want to settle.

Reasons to Consider

  • Assistance with federal and state taxes
  • Free consultation
  • High consumer satisfaction ratings
+ Show more

DebtBye Review

4 stars Our Rating
Minimum debt requirement:
$5,000-$10,000
Monthly fee:
$0
Service fee:
15-25% of original debt
Time to settle:
24-48 months

Unlike most of the companies on our list, DebtBye does not offer debt settlement services directly. Instead, it operates as a marketplace for debt relief specialists, online lenders, and other companies that provide financial services. Owned and operated by LMB Associates, DebtBye collects users’ personal information and service requests online, using the data to find the best third-party debt negotiation specialist for each user’s needs.

Quality of the Product

Given that DebtBye is a financial services aggregator, the complete list of available debt settlement options offered to you may vary widely depending on the provider you opt for. One of the best things about this platform is that it lets you request a quote and speak to a qualified debt advisor for free - no upfront fees or similar strings are attached. 

DebtBye’s partners offer assistance with declaring bankruptcy; consolidating, managing, and satisfying debts; improving credit; erasing extreme fees; reducing interest rates; and streamlining payment procedures. As far as negotiating debt settlement goes, there are solutions for credit card debts, taxes, and other types of unsecured debt. 

Depending on your needs and qualifications, DebtBye may help you lower your monthly payments, reduce interest rates, repay your credit card debt faster, or settle your credit card debt for less than you owe. 

The minimum debt requirement is usually between $5,000 and $10,000, while service fees range from 15% to 25% of the debt amount. Debt settlements can take from 24 to 48 months.

User Experience

Aside from the overview of lending and debt settlement services provided by its partners, DebtBye doesn’t offer much additional information. 

Regardless of whether you are on the hunt for debt consolidation or debt negotiation services, you’ll be prompted to fill out an application form that’s available on DebtBye’s homepage. Filling out the questionnaire won’t take you more than 10 minutes. As soon as you complete the form, you’ll be presented with a list of companies willing to help you. Since DebtBye operates as a matchmaker, once you choose the service provider whose offer best fits your needs, you’ll start communicating directly with that company. 

DebtBye’s website doesn’t offer any type of customer support. Remember, this is nothing more than a marketplace platform. The financial service provider you decide upon will be responsible for handling any questions or issues you may stumble upon. 

Consumer Reviews

As a recently established online marketplace for credit card debt relief services, DebtBye has yet to establish its online reputation. At the time of writing this review, we were not able to find any information about the company on Trustpilot, Consumer Affairs, or Better Business Bureau websites. 

Final Words

DebtBye is a good choice if you want to save some time on applying for debt settlement services with several companies. Instead of shopping around for days, you can just answer a few simple questions and you’ll be presented with multiple offers in minutes. 

Reasons to Consider:

  • Quick and easy application process
  • No upfront fees
  • Multiple debt settlement partners
+ Show more

DebtSolutions Review

4 stars Our Rating
Minimum debt requirement:
$10,000 (lower with some providers)
Monthly fee:
$0
Service fee:
15-25% of original debt
Time to settle:
24-48 months

Instead of providing debt settlement options directly, DebtSolutions has partnered up with some of the best debt relief providers to offer a wide range of services to consumers with different needs. In other words, DebtSolutions helps its users take control of their debts by pointing them in the direction of the most suitable providers of debt settlement, debt management, and debt consolidation services. 

Quality of the Product

Depending on your financial circumstances and the debt relief agencies DebtSolutions connects you with, you may be offered solutions for your credit card debt, tax issues, mortgage debt, auto loan debt, business or personal loan debt, and student loan debt. The most common approaches include working with creditors to agree on new repayment terms or lower interest rates, or negotiating with creditors to lower the total debt balance and resolve it in a shorter time. 

By linking you with some of the best debt settlement companies, DebtSolutions gives you a chance to enroll even if your debt is below $10,000. Fees vary depending on the state and the provider but typically remain in the industry-standard range (15 to 25% of the total debt amount). Negotiations can take 24 to 48 months, and there are no additional fees if they end unsuccessfully. 

User Experience

Although DebtSolutions isn’t a direct service provider, its website features plenty of information about debt settlement, debt management, and debt consolidation solutions offered by its partner agencies. 

The application process is one of the easiest we’ve come across. All you have to do before you start settling your debts is to provide information about yourself, your debt type, and the total amount that you owe. Filling out the questionnaire shouldn’t take you more than five minutes. The site will respond with a list of debt settlement service providers willing to help you out. 

After you pick one of the company’s partner agencies, DebtSolutions will step out. Going forward, you’ll communicate directly with the debt settlement service provider that you've selected.

User Reviews

DebtSolutions is one of the newest online marketplaces for debt relief services. Unlike many other providers, it still hasn’t served many clients. The service is so new it hasn’t yet accumulated reviews on Consumer Affairs or Trustpilot. The debt services company isn’t yet accredited by the BBB.

Final Words

One of the best things about this debt settlement marketplace is how quickly it can come up with multiple solutions, no matter how complicated your financial situation may be. Instead of requesting quotes from multiple debt relief companies, all you have to do is fill out a single application on the DebtSolutions site and you’ll receive offers in minutes. 

Reasons to Consider

  • Simple application process
  • No upfront fees
  • No monthly administration costs
+ Show more

Fortunly’s Guide To Debt Settlement

How Debt Settlement Works

Debt settlement is a process between creditors and debtors in which the two parties mutually agree on a sum that is less than what is owed. This option is usually available only for unsecured debt and can either be done on your own or via debt settlement agencies. The DIY method is not easy and you need to have a deep understanding of the subject to be able to properly negotiate with creditors, but you could also save money if you do it well.

The second option is to hire a professional agency, which will then negotiate with creditors on your behalf. During the debt settlement negotiation process, all your payments are made to the debt settlement company and usually withheld from the creditors until all the debtor’s accounts are in default due to non-payment. This way, the debt settlement company gains leverage to force the creditors to accept a lump sum that’s less than what you owe. The process can last from two to four years, and if an agreement is reached, you’ll no longer be indebted to the creditor.

It is important to note that debt settlement is not the same as debt or credit consolidation, which is a process in which you take out one loan to pay off multiple others after securing a lower interest rate on the entire debt load. 

Type of Debts Eligible For Settlement

As we mentioned above, debt settlement is usually reserved for unsecured debts, which are debts that aren’t secured by assets and on which lenders do not have the right to any collateral. This means secured debts like mortgages and car loans aren’t covered by settlement companies. There are also exceptions within unsecured debts; federal student loans, in particular, are almost impossible to settle. The types of unsecured debt that are covered by the top debt settlement companies are:

  • Credit card
  • Medical
  • Utility bills
  • Personal loans
  • Auto possession balances
  • Private student loans
  • Cell phone bills
  • Mortgage “short pay” balances
  • Apartment leases 

Debt Settlement Risks

While debt settlement can prove to be the best option for some debtors, it’s certainly not without its risks and consequences. As such, it’s important to consider all the good and the bad that can come with the decision, whether you do it yourself or through a debt settlement company. 

Debt settlement hurts your credit score

This is an unavoidable consequence of the debt settlement process and should be the first thing you consider, particularly if you have a good credit score. Because your account status is marked “settled in full” and not “paid in full” after the debt settlement process, this notation will stay on your credit report for seven years, making it hard to rebuild your credit score during that period. 

Debt settlement will hurt less if your credit score is already low and you have existing accounts that are in collection. Basically, the lower your credit score already is, the less risk you have on settling your debt.   

There will be additional fees

While laws prevent debt solution services from charging you any upfront fees, you can expect them to charge you a percentage of the eliminated debt, depending on the company. These fees aren’t applied to your debt reduction, so you should always consider how much money you’re really saving once all the costs are finalized. 

Having to pay a fee on the eliminated debt is a much better option, of course, as paying some 25% on $1,000 of eliminated debt is world’s apart from paying the same percentage fee on your original $10,000 debt. As such, it’s important to find a company and an offer that suits your needs best.

Forgiven debt can be taxed

In addition to your post-debt settlement fees, you should keep in mind that the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) will expect you to include the forgiven debt on your tax return. The IRS treats a debt reduction as income, so you’ll need to pay income taxes on whatever the reduced amount was. The only way you can avoid this is if your forgiven debt amounts to less than $600, but the majority of settlements will exceed this number, and the creditor will be required by law to notify the IRS of the amount of reduced debt.  

Creditor collection calls may increase

One of the most stressful parts of debt settlement is the aggressive calls you’ll get from credit card companies in their attempts to collect overdue bills. This means that for months and months, possibly even years, you’ll have to deal with constant collection calls and, potentially, in-person visits. These calls are among the top reasons why people seek debt reduction services in the first place. That’s why it’s important to plan in advance. You should know how much time you’ll need to save enough money to settle your debt or face being targeted by creditors for a long time.  

It may not work out

Finally, you should always keep in mind that, in some cases, creditors will simply refuse to negotiate credit card debt. Not all debts get settled, and even though the data on this is not clear, one thing is for sure - plenty of debt settlement applications fail. This can prove to be even more damaging because some creditors do not simply deny the requests, but also pursue legal action, which may result in wage garnishment or lien.

Alternatives to Debt Settlement

Debt settlement can certainly prove to be a great choice for many people, but for some, there are alternative ways to ease debt. We’ve already mentioned the “DIY” method, which can work for knowledgeable debtors or those who are indebted to creditors who aren’t willing to work with debt settlement companies. But there are other methods worth considering. 

Debt Consolidation

Often mistaken for debt settlement, a debt relief program - otherwise known as debt consolidation - is a process in which your debts are consolidated into a single loan with one monthly payment and one interest rate. This can prove to be useful for some people with numerous existing debts because they will have a streamlined road with (hopefully) a lower interest rate on the consolidation debt. The downside of this approach is that you may end up paying more due to extended repayment terms, so it’s crucial to consider what effect debt consolidation will have on your potential savings.

Debt Management

A debt management plan (DMP) is primarily used to pay off credit card debt by using the services of a credit counselor. To find a reputable one, you can check the US Justice Department’s list of credit counselors by state, or consult the National Foundation for Credit Counseling. When meeting with your credit counselor, you’ll review your entire financial plan and set up a strategy, after which the counselor will negotiate with your creditors to possibly lower the fees or even reduce the overall debt owed. 

Once you agree to a DMP, you must close all your credit cards and give the agency permission to manage your accounts, while sending the counselor a single monthly payment that he or she will disburse to the creditors. Even the best debt management programs usually last between three and five years, and in that time you can’t obtain new debt. These services aren’t available for secured debts such as federal student loans, mortgages or auto loans. If you need help dealing with those types of debt, your debt counselor can give you guidance.

Bankruptcy

The last option is bankruptcy, which is often considered to be exactly that - a last resort. Bankruptcy has severe negative implications and impacts your credit score even more heavily than debt settlement, but it’s not always necessarily the worst option between the two. Bankruptcy allows you to start afresh by forgiving debts that cannot be paid, while providing some measure of repayment to creditors based on your assets that are available for liquidation. Based on our best debt settlement companies reviews, you can see which firms can help you with bankruptcy. 

The bankruptcy option most commonly used to dispose of unsecured debts is called chapter 7 bankruptcy, through which an individual liquidates nonexempt assets to repay some or all of their debt. Nonexempt assets include things like high-value heirlooms, collections, second homes, cash, stocks, and bonds. If you do not possess any valuable assets and only own exempt property like clothing, tools, or a personal vehicle, you cannot repay any part of your unsecured debt by liquidating those items. Chapter 7 is positive in the way that the whole process usually moves much more quickly than a debt settlement, which in itself is not guaranteed to be accepted by creditors.

Choose the Best Debt Relief Company and Avoid Debt Settlement Scams

While we will always try to give you all the important information regarding the ethics and honesty of debt settlement companies, like providing you with their Better Business Bureau and customer ratings, the fact is that there are some things that you should always be aware of when determining how legitimate a company is.

First things first, you should be the one who initiates contact. Companies that are hunting for potential clients can often be shady and there is always a better option out there for you. This also applies to those debt settlement firms that ask for upfront fees or guarantee results. Remember, no one can promise you that a creditor will accept the requests for settling your debt.

Only when you’re sure that the debt settlement company of your choice fulfills these conditions and discloses to you all the necessary information regarding the process should you consider using its services. And even then, it’s of utmost importance to personally stay in touch with your creditors to make sure that the debts are being settled and paid off.

FAQ
Are debt settlement companies legitimate? +

Debt settlement is a legitimate business that is regulated by the government, but there are certainly some shady companies out there. No debt settlement company can guarantee you that creditors will write off a portion of your debt to them, and no agency should ask you to pay them anything upfront. To make sure you’re dealing with a legitimate firm, always ask for the terms of your deal in writing and choose accredited brands with high customer satisfaction rates.

What percentage should I offer to settle debt? +

Most of the top companies in the debt settlement business advertise savings of 50% or more, but even when that’s the case, it doesn’t include the service fee you pay to the agency. Realistically, after all costs, you can expect to save around 30-40% depending on how good a deal you get.

Can I buy a house after debt settlement? +

Even the best debt settlement program will damage your credit score, making it quite hard for you to find a good deal on a home loan. Data from the Federal Housing Administration says you can only qualify for a loan with a 3.5% down payment if you have a FICO credit score of at least 580. If not, the down payment will be 10%, which is why it’s important to start rebuilding your credit score before you can become eligible for a better deal.

Luckily, there are quite a few ways you can improve your rating, but it will probably take months or even years to do so. One of the commonly used methods to build up a good credit score is to make small credit card purchases and pay the balance in full as soon you receive the billing statement. You should also consider switching to cash purchases, as well as saving up cash for the down payment, so you don’t have to borrow as much for your home loan. Finally, if you have any other active debts, paying them off will go a long way toward improving your credit score. 

Can I apply for a credit card from the same bank after settlement? +

Banks that have written off a debt for a customer are rarely going to issue them another card or a loan. You should always keep that in mind when opting for a debt settlement plan, because not only are your credit card accounts unavailable during the process, but the process also locks you out of that bank’s system for life.  

Can I settle business or commercial debts? +

Settling business accounts is possible in the same way that you settle your personal credit card accounts, but it differs in that it directly affects your company. Defaulting on a business loan will probably lead to headaches if you’re planning to keep the business going, as vendors and suppliers will start requiring cash payments to continue working with you. Some banks also treat business accounts differently, so settling a credit card debt might turn out to be much harder on business accounts. Debt resolution companies can certainly help you resolve the situation. 

Can I be sued during debt settlement? +

The law allows creditors to file lawsuits against clients who aren’t paying off their debt, and choosing the option of debt settlement may increase your chances of being sued, or at least receiving threats of litigation. Still, there are so many account delinquencies each year that lawsuits to collect are not as common as you may think. In case litigation threats actually lead to a lawsuit, any potential savings you’ll get on settled debt will be minimized, while a court-determined payment plan may damage your ability to save money and settle other debts.

How much tax do I pay on a settlement? +

While you are required to report any debt settlement greater than $600 as income, not everyone ends up owing tax on their settlements. The IRS can allow for a write-off of income from forgiven debts, up to the amount by which you were insolvent at that time. This is not possible only if you had a positive net worth at the time of settlement, which is highly unlikely. Still, it is recommended that you consult a tax attorney or advisor from one of the best debt settlement companies to see what options can be applied to your specific circumstances.