Stuck in the Debt Trap? These 11 Debt Relief Programs Can Help You Break Free

Credit card use continues to soar even as the interest rates have risen dramatically, often exceeding 20%. 

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) estimates that outstanding credit card debt will continue to set records and may even hit $1 trillion.

If you’re struggling to make your monthly payments and it seems like your credit cards will never be paid off, it’s time to consider debt relief services.

Here are the 11 Best Debt Relief Programs

Best overall: DebtHammer 

If you’re stuck with debt and unsure what to do next, DebtHammer can help.

Our caring team will review your situation and customize the best approach for your specific financial situation.

The consultation is totally free, and you won’t immediately have to decide how to proceed. We genuinely believe our service will make your life easier, but only if we find the best option and customize it for you. If we don’t have a plan that will help you, we will let you know upfront.  You haven’t wasted time or money if you aren’t a good fit.

DebtHammer was founded in 2020, specifically focusing on helping clients with payday loan debt. Commercial debt relief programs have traditionally overlooked payday loan users, and we wanted to fix that. The company has since expanded its mission and now helps a wider array of borrowers negotiate settlements or find affordable debt consolidation loans to help them escape the high-interest debt trap.

READ MORE: Debt settlement — how to get your debt under control now

Key points about DebtHammer

If you’re worried about how much debt relief will cost, don’t. You don’t pay DebtHammer a cent in fees until we get results. Here are some other essential things to know:

  • The minimum debt total to enroll is lower than the industry average. You can enroll if you have $7,500 in unsecured debts or $1,000 in payday loan debt
  • Offers multiple debt solutions, like debt settlement and debt consolidation loans
  • Ensures you have the support you need to complete your debt settlement plan successfully
  • Has earned an A rating from the Better Business Bureau and 4.8 out of five stars on Trustpilot.
  • Has a proven track record of results settling debts
  • Reviews every settlement offer with you
  • Helps you set up a savings account to cover debt repayment
  • Offers financial education resources to help you build your money skills
  • Has a dedicated team that truly cares about helping you get out of debt
  • The staff has expertise working with a wide array of creditors including payday lenders, tribal lenders, personal loan companies and credit card companies
  • Offers legal help if issues arise during your debt settlement program

How DebtHammer works

DebtHammer offers a clear and straightforward process. We want to make this as easy for you as possible.

  1. You’ll start with a free consultation to review your situation.
  2. A company representative will break down a list of options
  3. You choose the option you prefer

Pro tip: Besides providing debt relief services, DebtHammer’s team will support you during the process, offering advice and assistance. 

There are no upfront fees. Though fees vary with the service selected, all fees will be disclosed well in advance. The total cost will depend on a number of factors, including:

  • Your total debt
  • The number of debts you have
  • Which debt relief method you decide to use

READ MORE: Debt settlement qualifications

The American Association for Debt Resolution (AADR) says that debt settlement programs like DebtHammer’s will save clients an average of 30% of their total debt, even after the company’s fee, which ranges from 15% to 27% of total enrolled debt.

Pro tip: The American Association for Debt Resolution was previously known as the American Fair Credit Council.

Real client results

Total enrolled debtSettlement amountSettlement percentage
Disclaimer: Settlements vary based on various factors including the amount of debt the client has already paid the creditor.

DebtHammer offers payday loan solutions in the following states: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Delaware, Florida, Hawaii, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia and Wyoming.

If you have more than just payday loan debt, DebtHammer also offers solutions for people with other unsecured debts. Residents of Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Kansas, Louisiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Montana, Nebraska, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia and Wyoming are eligible. Some service options may not be available in all states.

Customer reviews

Comparing other debt relief companies

If you’ve decided it’s finally time to address your debt problems, DebtHammer is the perfect place to start. We offer a caring, experienced team and a free consultation. But if you want to compare other options, there are ten other great debt relief companies.

Debt relief companyWho it works best forServicesMinimum debt to enroll
AlleviateBest if you’re facing financial hardshipDebt settlement and consolidation$7,500
Community TaxBest if you have tax debtTax debt settlement$10,000 or more in IRS debt
National Debt ReliefBest for simplicityDebt settlement and consolidation$10,000
Guardian Litigation GroupBest if you suspect your legal rights were violatedLegal help and debt settlement$7,500
UpsolveBest ultra-low-cost optionLegal helpNone
American Consumer Credit CounselingBest for transparent processesCredit counselingNot disclosed
ApprisenBest for automationCredit counselingNot disclosed
Cambridge Credit CounselingBest if you’re facing foreclosureCredit counselingNot disclosed
Consolidated CreditBest for active-duty military and veteransCredit counselingNot disclosed
GreenPathBest for financial counselingCredit counselingNot disclosed

Disclaimer: DebtHammer may be affiliated with some of the companies mentioned in this article. Credit Summit may make money from advertisements or when you contact a company through our platform.

Ten other top debt relief companies

Best if you’re facing emergency hardship: Alleviate Financial Solutions

Alleviate offers an array of services to solve your problems. The company has more than ten years of experience and a staff that makes the process stress-free. Alleviate offers debt consolidation loan options, debt settlement services and client protection in case you end up facing a lawsuit.

The company requires a minimum of $7,500 in unsecured debt to enroll in a program.

Alleviate operates in the following states: Alaska, Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, California, Colorado, Delaware, District of Columbia, Florida Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, North Carolina, North Dakota, Nebraska, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, West Virginia and Wyoming. Some service options may not be available in all states.

They’ve earned an A+ rating from the BBB.

Customer review

Best if you have a lot of tax debt: Community Tax

Community Tax has helped over 100,000 Americans break free of income tax debt totaling more than $800 million. They have a team of licensed tax practitioners, certified public accountants and IRS-enrolled agents to help you through even the most complicated federal tax situations.

Community Tax assists you with what the IRS calls an “offer in compromise.” This allows you to settle your tax debt for less than the full amount you owe. You can also do this independently, but the process can be long and complicated. The drawback is that Community Tax can be fairly expensive. There is an initial fee of $295. Then you’ll pay a percentage of the tax debt settled, ranging between $3,000 and $5,000.

The company has an A+ rating from the BBB.

Customer review 

Best for simplicity: National Debt Relief

National Debt Relief is a top-rated debt consolidation company. The program starts with a free quote, followed by a conversation with a certified debt specialist. The specialist examines the client’s outstanding debts and credit history to determine eligibility.

Once enrolled in the debt settlement program, it takes between 24 and 48 months to finish. Fees range between 15% to 25% of your total enrolled debt, depending on the amount you owe and your state. The company is a member of the International Association of Professional Debt Arbitrators (IAPDA.)

National is not available in these states: Connecticut, Georgia, Kansas, Maine, New Hampshire, Oregon, South Carolina, Vermont, and West Virginia.

The company has earned an A+ rating from the BBB.

Customer review 

Legal assistance

Best if you suspect your legal rights were violated: Guardian Litigation Group

Guardian Litigation Group is a law firm that offers debt settlement services. They can help if you suspect that debt collectors have violated your rights under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. The firm can also provide advice on bankruptcy and tax debt relief.

Guardian Litigation doesn’t disclose fees and attempts to collect that information were rebuffed. However, a review on the firm’s BBB page – where the company gets 3.83 out of five stars and an A+ rating – indicates that it was charging one customer 27% of the enrolled debt. 

Guardian offers service in the following states: Colorado, Delaware, Georgia, Illinois, Kansas, Louisiana, Maine, Minnesota, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, North Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, Wyoming

Guardian Litigation Group has earned an A+ rating from the BBB.

Customer review 

Best ultra-low-cost option: Upsolve

Sometimes bankruptcy is the only way out. If that’s the case, Upsolve is the place to go. Upsolve offers step-by-step guidance to the bankruptcy-filing process. Upsolve is often called “TurboTax for Bankruptcy.” It asks a few simple questions and uses that information to automatically complete the complex set of forms required for a bankruptcy filing. The app gives you warnings if it seems like the information you entered is incorrect. This is particularly important because filing incorrect paperwork can lead to the dismissal of your bankruptcy case.

The Upsolve app is free. However, there are some mandatory costs when filing for bankruptcy, including credit counseling and court fees. (The app will help you request fee waivers if you’re eligible.)

Pro tip: Upsolve will only work for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, which has strict income requirements. Not everyone will be eligible to file for Chapter 7. 

Upsolve has no reviews or complaints and is not rated by the BBB.

Customer review 

Credit counseling

Best for transparent processes: American Consumer Credit Counseling

American Consumer Credit Counseling is a nonprofit credit counseling agency that offers Debt Management Plans along with credit and bankruptcy counseling services. 

ACCC says it can take anywhere from two to ten years to complete one of their DMPs. The company charges a $39 startup fee and a monthly fee ranging from $5 to $50.

The agency has an A+ rating with the BBB.

Customer review

Best for automation: Apprisen

Formerly known as the Economy Budget Service Company, the Ohio-based company was founded in 1955 and was rebranded Apprisen in 2009. 

Apprisen is noted for its automated service, IRIS, which is particularly helpful for people who can’t – or don’t want to – complete a phone or video chat consultation. You can securely submit financial information to IRIS and get a personalized analysis. 

Apprisen’s fees are subject to state regulations but are capped at $45 for a one-time DMP setup and a $45 per month administrative fee. 

Apprisen has earned an A+ rating from the BBB. 

Customer review

Best if facing foreclosure: Cambridge Credit Counseling

Based in Massachusetts, Cambridge Credit Counseling is a nonprofit agency that offers credit, housing, reverse mortgage and bankruptcy counseling services. 

Cambridge’s counselors all have earned certification through an independent third party.

Cambridge says a customer enrolling $15,000 with an average APR of 18% into a DMP could save a total of $18,686.07 in interest and be debt free 322 months sooner. The average program completion time for our clients is 42 months.

The company charges a startup fee ranging from $35 to $75 and monthly fees ranging from $30 to $50.

The company has earned an A+ rating from the BBB.

Customer review

Best for active-duty military and veterans: Consolidated Credit

Consolidated Credit is one of the largest and oldest nonprofit credit counseling organizations in the United States. In business for over 30 years, Consolidated Credit says it has helped more than 10 million clients consolidate over $9.75 billion in debt.

Consolidated Credit partners with Army OneSource and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to help military service members and Veterans achieve financial stability and navigate the financial challenges they face when transitioning from deployment to civilian life.

The average client pays $40 monthly for a DMP through Consolidated and fees are capped at $79 a month.

The company has earned an A+ rating from the BBB and 4.7 of five stars from Trustpilot.

Customer review

Best for financial counseling: GreenPath Financial Wellness

GreenPath is widely accessible, with physical branches in several states. You can also access its services online. GreenPath also partners with hundreds of credit unions, banks and employers across the country to offer services to members or employees..

GreenPath offers free consultations and financial education services. The company’s primary debt relief service is a Debt Management Plan. GreenPath charges a $50 fee to start a program and then a monthly fee that depends on the complexity of the plan but is capped at $75.

Pro tip: Though most credit counseling agencies work exclusively with credit card companies, GreenPath will also occasionally work with online installment loan lenders.

GreenPath is a member of the National Foundation for Credit Counseling and it operates in all 50 states.

The company has an A+ rating with the BBB.

Customer review

What debt relief companies do

The name debt relief sounds relatively simple, but everyone has different circumstances and not every debt relief option will work for every debtor. 

Pro tip: Debt relief programs are also commonly referred to as debt resolution, debt negotiation or debt management programs.

They accomplish this through three primary methods:

  • Debt consolidation: This involves using a new loan to roll your existing debt into one larger loan, ideally with a lower interest rate
  • Debt settlement: A third-party company negotiates with your creditors to reach a settlement agreement through which you end up paying less than you owe
  • Debt Management Plan: These are administered by a nonprofit credit counseling agency. A credit counselor will negotiate new terms and lower interest rates on your credit card debts, but you’ll still repay the full amount owed

All three types of programs aim to make your monthly payments manageable and help get you out of debt faster. 

How debt relief companies work

Most debt relief programs will ask you to complete a free consultation to determine whether you’re a good fit for either consolidation or settlement. No commitment is required.

Once you agree to a plan, the debt relief company will establish a savings account, and you’ll make regular deposits to that account instead of paying your monthly credit card bills. You will be asked to stop making your minimum monthly payments, and late fees may accrue due to the missed payments.

Pro tip: You shouldn’t worry too much about this. Those extra fees will be part of the settlement negotiations. You may initially get some collection calls as well, but these will eventually stop once settlement negotiations begin.

Once your designated savings account has accrued enough money, the company will use those funds to negotiate with creditors and establish a repayment plan, then will make your debt payments on your behalf.

Debt settlement companies usually charge a lump-sum fee ranging from 15% to 27% of the total debt enrolled in the plan. However, you won’t be charged until your debts are resolved. You will pay no money upfront.

The program can be completed in as little as a year or as long as four years, depending on the amount of debt you enroll.

READ MORE: Debt settlement fees

Debt Management Plans work a bit differently.

Nonprofit credit counseling agencies charge a monthly fee to set up and administer a Debt Management Plan. The fee ranges from $25 to $75 per month.

A credit counselor will assess your financial situation, then will contact your creditors to negotiate lower interest rates. After that, they will set up a payment plan, and you will make a single monthly payment to the credit counseling agency.

The key difference between debt settlement and Debt Management Plans is that with a DMP, you will repay the total amount you owe in full, and while debt settlement companies will negotiate with multiple types of creditors, credit counseling agencies usually only work with credit card companies.

Pro tip: Debt settlement charges are based on your total debt. Debt Management Plans will charge based on how long you will pay off everything. In some cases, Debt Management Plans can be more expensive than debt settlement.

READ MORE: Debt settlement vs. debt management

Types of debt that can be settled

Most unsecured debt is eligible to be settled. This includes:

  • Credit card bills
  • Personal loans
  • Payday loan debt (over $1,000)
  • Medical bills
  • Some private student loans

Pro tip: Not all unsecured loans will be eligible. Child support, alimony and back taxes are not eligible for debt settlement.

Secured debts, including mortgages and auto loans, are not eligible for settlement.

How will debt relief affect your credit score?

A lot of information you’ll read will tell you that debt relief will do long-term damage to your credit score and for that reason, it should be considered a last resort. That’s usually false. The amount of damage – and how long it will last – will depend on many factors, including the type of debt relief and your current score.

READ MORE: How will debt settlement impact your credit score?

Your accounts will have to be closed

As a condition of both debt settlement and Debt Management Plans, your enrolled accounts must be closed, and that will affect your credit utilization. That’s where the credit score impact comes in. A “settled” notation on those closed accounts will not hurt your credit score, and your score will improve as soon as your credit report is updated to change the status of the charged-off accounts to “settled.” Debt settlement will not drag your credit score down for seven years.

Watch out for red flags

Unfortunately, the debt relief industry is filled with scammers who trick unsuspecting people by making promises that sound incredible but are almost always too good to be true.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) offers a list of scam warning signs:

  • If a company makes promises without speaking to its creditors first
  • They try to charge upfront fees
  • They don’t have a proven track record
  • They are new and don’t appear to have more than a year of experience
  • It isn’t easy to find information about the company
  • They don’t have Better Business Bureau (BBB) or Trustpilot pages or reviews (don’t worry about A+ ratings. Wade through the reviews and complaints and look for customer satisfaction and company responsiveness)

Carefully review any company’s website before you commit to working with them. You can even take time to search LinkedIn and GlassDoor to see if a company has a large number of disgruntled employees.

READ MORE: Do you need a debt settlement attorney?

Don’t pay until your debts are settled

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) forbids debt settlement companies from charging fees before debts have been settled, though Credit Counseling Agencies are allowed to charge a monthly administrative fee. 

Pro tip: Don’t trust any debt settlement company that demands money upfront unless it offers a money-back guarantee.

More debt relief options

  • Debt consolidation loans
  • Balance transfer credit cards
  • Bankruptcy

The bottom line

Most people consider debt relief programs a last resort, but they don’t need to be. If you’re struggling with debt, one of these programs could be the lifeline that you need to get a fresh start.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help, and don’t let the fees deter you. In most instances, the money you save in interest will be higher than the total amount you pay in fees, and in the end, you’ll become debt-free.

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