Drowning in debt? These five lifelines can help relieve debt

If you’re one of the Americans carrying a portion of the $1.08 trillion in U.S. credit card balances, or the 8% who are delinquent, a way out could mean the difference between a lifetime of financial struggle and a fresh start. 

That’s where debt relief companies come in. They negotiate your debt with creditors on your behalf, working to reduce the total amount you owe and create a plan for repayment, allowing you a chance to regain control over your finances and rebuild your life.

Reputable debt relief companies have fair pricing, a solid track record, satisfied customers, and agents who hold certifications from reputable organizations like International Association of Professional Debt Arbitrators (IAPDA, formerly known as the American Fair Credit Council), or American Association for Debt Resolution (AADR). We’ve done the work for you to find the best debt relief companies that meet this criteria.

The 5 best debt relief companies of February 2024

  1. Best overall: New Era Debt Solutions
  2. Best for private student loans: National Debt Relief
  3. Best for tax debt relief: CuraDebt
  4. Best for customer support: Pacific Debt Relief
  5. Best for interactive engagement: Freedom Debt Relief

1. Best overall: New Era Debt Solutions 

About: Headquartered in Camarillo, California, New Era Debt Solutions works to alleviate debt for clients located in 20 states, and an additional 27 states through Consumer First Legal Network (CFLN). It does not serve clients in Iowa, Maine, or Oregon.  

  • Since its inception, New Era has negotiated $275 million in debt relief. It reports an average reduction of 42.87% off the account balances at the time of settlement.
  • Since 1999, New Era Debt Solutions has worked to negotiate settlements for clients in a variety of hardships.
  • A BBB rating of A+ is the highest a company can score on its letter scale. Points are assigned based on factors such as complaint resolution, time in business, complaint volume, and business practices.
  • New Era has debt specialists available Monday through Saturday from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. PST and after hours by appointment. If you’re a current client, customer service is available Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. PST.

Our verdict 

Good for those seeking relief and an effective path out of debt. New Era Debt Solutions doesn’t sugarcoat the process, and provides the facts that other debt relief companies trying to earn your business might shy away from. It has an entire page dedicated to these hard truths, detailing its average settlement amounts, reasons why people have left the program before completion, and the average length of time it takes someone to complete its program. This transparency allows potential clients to make informed decisions, and goes a long way in building trust and credibility.   

2. Best for private student loans: National Debt Relief

About: Headquartered in New York City, National Debt Relief has settled more than $1 billion in debt. It has helped more than 500,000 people located all over the United States settle their debt. 

  • More than $1 billion in unsecured debts resolved — one of the larger amounts of debt settled that we’ve come across.
  • Like others on our list, National Debt Relief has an A+ BBB rating, the highest possible score.
  • National Debt Relief debt specialists are available Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to midnight EST and weekends from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. If you’re a current client, customer service is available Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. EST.

Our verdict 

Good for those seeking private student loan debt relief, National Debt Relief’s enormous amount of debts resolved and clients served makes them an attractive option. Its availability during late and weekend hours is beneficial for onboarding new clients, although these extended hours are not offered to existing clients. Like the rest of the options on our list, it charges no fees up front, and its performance-based pricing model ensures your financial wellbeing is priority.

3. Best for tax debt relief: CuraDebt

About: Headquartered in Hollywood, Florida, CuraDebt serves clients seeking debt relief in 35 states and Washington, D.C. The company has been in business since 1996, and serving clients across most of the United States since 2000. It’s one of the few options offering tax debt relief.

  • Expertise in various tax situations including liens, levies, interest abatement, innocent spouse relief, and wage garnishment release.
  • 3-phase approach to tax debt relief: investigation, compliance, and resolution.
  • CuraDebt has an A+ BBB rating.
  • Debt relief specialists are available Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. EST and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. EST.

Customer support 

Debt relief specialists are available Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. EST and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. EST. 

Our verdict

Good for those seeking tax debt relief from a variety of situations, including to prevent levy and seizures, releasing tax liens and levies, asset seizure defense, and offer in compromise. CuraDebt has a team of CPAs, enrolled agents, and attorneys to help with tax debt relief, and its consultations are free. While it isn’t BBB accredited, it still has an A+ BBB rating. 

4. Best for customer support: Pacific Debt Relief

About: Headquartered in San Diego, California, Pacific Debt Relief is available in 30 states, and has partnerships with debt relief companies in the states it doesn’t serve. 

  • In operation since 2002, Pacific Debt Relief has built an expectation of trust.
  • Like the others on this list, Pacific Debt Relief has an A+ rating with BBB, which is the highest a company can have.
  • Its customer service is available Monday through Thursday from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. PST, Friday from 6 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., and Saturday from 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Our verdict 

Good for those who prioritize customer service. Of the 1,456 Pacific Debt Relief reviews on Trustpilot, 84% were 5-star reviews, and 11% were 4 stars. The vast majority of reviews praise its customer service, and that’s something we like to see. Being burdened with debt is one of the most stressful situations one can face, and having a friendly voice on the other line to hold your hand and walk you through the process is sometimes all you need to see a light at the end of the tunnel and know that you’re not in this alone.

5. Best for interactive engagement: Freedom Debt Relief 

About: Headquartered in San Mateo, California, Freedom Debt Relief works with clients all over the country to get relief from their unsecured debts, such as credit cards and medical bills.

  • Freedom Debt Relief has served over 850,000 client, the most out of every company on our list, and has settled more than four million accounts.
  • $15+ billion in debt settled
  • Freedom Debt Relief has settled over $15 billion in debt, the most out of all the debt relief companies on our list.
  • Debt relief specialists are available Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. EST, and Saturday through Sunday from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. EST. Customer service for current clients can be reached Monday through Thursday from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. EST, Friday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. EST, and Saturday through Sunday from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. EST.

Our verdict 

Good for those who want an interactive dashboard that keeps you updated on the progress of your debt relief situation. Every time a new settlement offer comes in, you’re notified via phone and through your interactive dashboard. From there, you can select whether to accept it or not. This is particularly helpful for those with busy lives who don’t always have time to hop on a phone call.

What to know about debt relief companies

The first thing you should know about debt relief companies is that not all types of debt can be negotiated. Anything backed by the federal government or by collateral is ineligible for relief. This includes federal student loans, mortgages, and auto loans. Some private student loans may be eligible, depending on the debt relief company and your circumstances.  

Most debt relief companies require you to be facing some kind of financial hardship, such as a divorce or layoff, before they’ll consider taking you on as a client.   

And while you’ll get out of debt, know that your credit score will likely tank in the immediate term. This is because in order to negotiate with creditors, the money you’d typically put towards your debt will go into an FDIC-insured trust account to accumulate. This means missed payments and you’ll continue to receive collection calls. After all, why would a creditor negotiate if you’re already making on-time payments? 

Additionally, you don’t need a debt relief company in order to settle with creditors. There are plenty of online resources to do it yourself, but if you’re not confident in your negotiation skills, having an expert do it for you can save you time, money, and stress. After all, you don’t want to agree to unfavorable terms or misunderstand any of the legalities of your agreements.

How to choose a debt relief company

Choosing a debt relief company should be done with care, because the last thing you want is to end up in a worse situation than you’re in now. Here are some questions to ask potential debt relief companies:

  • Is it accredited by any industry organizations?
  • Does it publish its success rate? How about its failure rate?
  • What are its fees?
  • How long is the program?
  • How are you notified of settlement progress?
  • Does it have an in-house or external legal team?

Be wary of any companies charging money upfront (the FTC doesn’t allow this), making promises that your credit score won’t go down (if you’re settling, it will), and offering to settle for pennies on the dollar (it can’t). Do independent research on sites like Trustpilot and BBB to see real customer experiences, rather than only the curated ones offered by the debt relief company. 

Alternatives to debt relief companies

There are many alternative options before resorting to a debt relief company. Some of these include:

Frequently asked questions

Will my credit score improve by using a debt relief company?

In the short term, your credit score will almost always go down. You won’t be making payments on your debt, which will be reported to credit bureaus as a missed payment, and instead will be taking that money and putting it into an FDIC-insured trust account to accumulate until enough money is collected to settle. Once a settlement is reached, debt relief companies use the money in the trust account to settle that debt. However, in the long-term, once the missed payments drop off, your score is likely to increase as the debt decreases.

Do debt relief companies charge money upfront?

No, it’s against the FTC to charge money before settling. Instead, debt relief companies charge a fee based on the amount they have settled on your behalf. Typically, debt relief companies charge 15% to 25% after an agreement is reached.

Can credit relief companies stop collection calls?

No, you’re likely to continue to receive collect calls even when actively working with a debt relief company. This is because you’re missing payments. Legally, creditors are allowed to continue to attempt to collect on the debt owed.

Our methodology 

To determine the five best debt relief companies, our team did a thorough qualitative analysis of dozens of debt relief companies. We analyzed the services offered, its published track record, industry reputation, customer reviews, accreditations, and its customer service.

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