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The Best Debt Settlement Companies in 2020

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 not just 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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Fortunly’s Top Three Debt Settlement Picks

Our Top Picks

Freedom Debt Relief

Incredible client dashboard

Certified debt consultants

Fantastic customer service

Apply Now READ REVIEW

National Debt Relief

High savings rates

Best user satisfaction levels

Perfect BBB rating

Apply Now READ REVIEW

Accredited Debt Relief

High success rates

Numerous leading debt settlement partners

Amazing customer support

Apply Now READ REVIEW

6 Best Debt Settlement Companies

1. Freedom Debt Relief

The quality of service that Freedom Debt Relief offers remains unmatched, 17 years since it arrived on the scene. The company has already settled over $10 billion 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

Apply Now

show more


Min. debt requirement

$7,500

Upfront fee

$0

Monthly fee

$0

Service fee

15-20% of original debt

Time to settle

24-48 months

BBB rating

B-

Trustpilot rating

4

States covered

37

2. National Debt Relief

With 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

Apply Now

show more


Min. debt requirement

$7,500

Upfront fee

$0

Monthly fee

$0

Service fee

$0

Time to settle

24-48 months

BBB rating

A+

Trustpilot rating

4.8

States covered

41

3. Accredited Debt Relief

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

Apply Now

show more


Min. debt requirement

$7,500

Upfront fee

$0

Monthly fee

$0

Service fee

18-25% of original debt

Time to settle

24-48 months

BBB rating

A+

Trustpilot rating

4.8

States covered

39

4. New Era Debt Solutions

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 more than $250 million 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

Apply Now

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Min. debt requirement

$0

Upfront fee

$0

Monthly fee

$0

Service fee

16-20% of original debt

Time to settle

24-48 months

BBB rating

A+

Trustpilot rating

4.8

States covered

47

5. Guardian Debt Relief

Guardian Debt Relief is 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 most well-rounded agencies in the US.READ REVIEW

Low service fees

Accredited debt advisors

Useful tools and educational content

Apply Now

show more


Min. 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 rating

4.3

States covered

18

6. DMB Financial

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

Apply Now

show more


Min. 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 rating

N/A

States covered

26

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 really 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.

The Best Debt Settlement Companies in 2020

• Freedom Debt Relief: Best company for flexible program length
• National Debt Relief: Best company for savings rates
• Accredited Debt Relief: Best company for customer support
• New Era Debt Solutions: Best company for low service fees

Best Debt Settlement Companies of 2020 - Reviews

      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 types of secured debt. The average time for settling debt is between 24 and 48 months, and fees upon successful debt settlement range from 15% 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 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 overwhelming positive reviews for Freedom Debt Relief. The company holds a 4.5 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 Buy:

      Very useful Freedom Debt Relief dashboard

      Certified debt consultants

      Fantastic customer service

          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 Buy:

          High savings rates

          Best user satisfaction levels

          Stellar BBB reviews

              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 Buy:

              High success rates

              Many leading debt settlement partners

              Amazing customer support

                  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 a 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 Buy:

                  Lowest service fees

                  Personal advisor

                  Military personnel discounts

                      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-mid range 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 the other top companies offer, 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 Buy:

                      Low service fees

                      Accredited debt advisors

                      Useful tools and educational content

                          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 bas 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 Buy:

                          Highly experienced advisors

                          A+ rating with the BBB

                          Fast settlement times

                          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.

                          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.

                          Avoiding 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.