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Credit counseling services can be incredibly helpful to individuals who are struggling with debt, looking to improve their credit score, or simply need guidance on financial planning. However, with so many options available, it can be difficult to know where to turn for the best counseling services.
One of the primary benefits of credit counseling is that it can provide you with a comprehensive assessment of your financial situation. This assessment takes into account your income, expenses, debts, and assets, and helps identify areas where you may be overspending or under-saving. Based on this assessment, the credit counselor can provide personalized advice to you on how to create a budget that aligns with your financial goals.
Wednesday, October 4th
In operation since 1974, Credit.org is one of the longest-standing credit counseling services available today. They've earned multiple awards and certifications, ranging from the NFCC (who you'll find reviewed separately here) to the BBB, as well as serving as a HUD-approved housing counseling agency.
Simple to start
To start your credit counseling journey with Credit.org, simply fill out their online form with your name, email, phone number, zip code, and how much debt you owe. You can also call their toll-free number during their business hours (Monday to Friday, 7am to 7pm Pacific time) or use the convenient live chat feature on their website.
Free credit counseling services
The majority of services provided by Credit.org are free. Their counselors work individually with each client to assess their needs and identify potential solutions. Their goal is to help their clients get back on their feet and moving in a positive financial direction. The free services that Credit.org provides include:
Friendly, expert help
When you chat with one of their credit counselors, they'll ask you about the basics of your financial situation - your income, expenses, and debts. From there, they'll work with you to design a plan that meets your needs, and connect you with the resources you need to achieve your financial goals. We found their counselors to be really friendly and knowledgeable, and they were quick to answer our questions.
Wide range of affordable services
In addition to the free efforts listed above, Credit.org provides a number of very affordable financial services. The nominal fees associated with these may also be reduced or waived depending on a customer's particular hardship. These services include:
Plenty of resources on the site
If you're not yet ready to take the plunge, that's okay. We suggest checking out Credit.org's Educational Articles and Financial Resources pages first. Here, you'll find a variety of financial calculators, budgeting tools, educational videos, and more. These resources help you assess your current financial knowledge, and get you thinking about what you'd like to achieve through credit counseling - whenever you feel prepared enough to start.
New (and free) online courses
Another feature of Credit.org that they've added since our last evaluation is their Personal Finance Education and Classes section. You can sign up for virtual classes and events, or start an online course right away - whatever fits your schedule and your learning style. Topics include "Understanding Your Credit Report" , "Creating a Budget 101" , "Preventing Foreclosure" , and several others. There's no charge for any of these courses, and they're an excellent way to become more knowledgeable about credit and related topics.
One of the things we love about Credit.org is their great reputation. In addition to being a member of NFCC, they've also sustained an "A+" rating with the Better Business Bureau - for 40+ years! Other honors include serving as a founding member of the nonprofit organization Homeownership Preservation Foundation (which is endorsed by the HUD and the Treasury Department as well), accreditation by the Council on Accreditation, and approval from HUD as a counseling agency
Top rated service
Credit.org offers a comprehensive range of credit counseling services, covering everything from bankruptcy prevention to credit report reviews and beyond. The majority of their counseling efforts are free, and those that do have a fee are very affordable. Beyond that, they have a trustworthy reputation that literally spans decades. If you're looking for a reliable credit counseling service to help straighten out your financial picture, Credit.org should be your first place to start.
Money Management International (MMI) is a non-profit credit counseling agency that was founded in 1958. It provides a variety of services to help people manage their finances, with offices across the United States and providing services in both English and Spanish. MMI is accredited by the National Foundation for Credit Counseling (NFCC) and has helped over 8 million people with their financial challenges.
Wide range of credit counseling types
MMI has a team of certified credit counselors who work with clients one-on-one to provide customized solutions based on their specific financial situation. They strive to help clients achieve long-term financial stability and offer ongoing support and guidance throughout the process. This credit counseling provider offers a range of services to help individuals and families improve their financial well-being. Some of the services they offer include:
Unique counseling for disaster survivors
One service offered by MMI that we didn't see anywhere else is Disaster Recovery Counseling. If you've been affected by an earthquake, hurricane, tornado, or any other natural disaster, you can access this free service that will help you assess the impact, develop a recovery plan, give you assistance with FEMA and insurance paperwork, and provide monthly support from a recovery specialist.
Money Management International has an excellent reputation. The Better Business Bureau gives the organization a perfect "A+" rating and accreditation and only 13 complaints filed there over the last three years, all of which received an appropriate, timely response from MMI. When you jump over to client feedback on Trustpilot, it gets even more impressive: a 4.9 out of 5-star average across 1,700+ ratings - that's over 1,500 people who have given this service a flawless rating.
Excellent feedback from clients
People who have used this service for credit counseling say that the representatives are helpful and experienced, and they don't make you feel ashamed for being in whatever situation you're currently experiencing. Many people specifically mention how much they've saved through MMI's debt management plans - in the neighborhood of $25,000. Our favorite comment said that they recommend MMI to anyone who needs a "good second chance" when it comes to finances.
Great choice for many types of credit counseling
With decades of experience and millions of people helped through their credit counseling services, MMI is an easy choice for a top consumer credit service. They offer all of the services you'll find with their rivals, plus a few extras that are quite unique within the industry. You'll be in excellent hands if you reach out to Money Management International to get you started with the credit counseling you need.
American Consumer Credit Counseling (ACCC) is a non-profit credit counseling organization that was founded in 1991. The company has its headquarters in Newton, Massachusetts, and operates in all 50 states. The mission of ACCC is to empower consumers to take control of their financial lives through education and counseling.
4 overall types of credit counseling available
There are several different services offered by ACCC:
Accredited by the BBB and NFCC
ACCC is accredited by the National Foundation for Credit Counseling (NFCC) and is a member of the Financial Counseling Association of America (FCAA). The company has an "A+" rating with the Better Business Bureau (BBB) and has been recognized as a top credit counseling organization by industry publications.
Clients give this organization five stars
Beyond that, almost every single client review for ACCC is a perfect five stars, both on comments left on the BBB site as well as on ACCC's Facebook page and more. We like hearing that both new and long-term clients get friendly, helpful, and patient customer service. It's also wonderful to see that ACCC takes a no-pressure approach: clients say that the information is presented objectively and then they're allowed to take the time they need to decide how they want to move forward.
Fantastic choice for credit counseling
Overall, American Consumer Credit Counseling is a reputable non-profit organization that offers a range of services to help individuals and families improve their financial well-being. While fees may vary depending on the state of residence and the service required, the organization strives to keep its services affordable and accessible to those who need them. With a focus on education and counseling, ACCC can be counted on to empower you to take control of your financial life and achieve long-term financial stability. This organization earns one of our strongest recommendations among providers of credit counseling.
Apprisen is a nonprofit credit counseling agency that has helped over 750,000 individuals and families manage their finances since 1955. They offer a range of services, including credit counseling, debt management plans, bankruptcy counseling, student loan counseling, and financial education.
Use IRIS to get an initial action plan
In terms of credit counseling, Apprisen provides a free initial consultation to assess your financial situation and provide recommendations. To get started with Apprisen, you can either give them a call or use IRIS, their "financial health expert" (bot) that will gather information about your current financial situation and needs. The info you provide will be shared with a financial specialist at Apprisen, who will do a comprehensive analysis to create a customized action plan. You'll receive that plan in your inbox within 48 hours.
Fees waived if you qualify
Many services offered by Apprisen come at no cost, but even those that are fee-based can have those costs waived if you're unable to pay. That's one big benefit of working with any non-profit credit counseling organization: you're likely to get help no matter where you are on your financial journey.
Debt management program available
One fee-based service with Apprisen is their debt management plans, which involve negotiating reduced credit card interest and fees, then making a single monthly payment to Apprisen, who then distributes the funds to your creditors. You may be charged a one-time fee of $45 to set up your account, and then monthly fees of no more than $45. Those are service fees on top of your negotiated debt repayment amount.
Bankruptcy counseling before and after filing
If you are considering bankruptcy, Apprisen offers pre-bankruptcy counseling and debtor education courses, which are required by law before and after filing for bankruptcy. Expect to pay $25 per individual for pre-bankruptcy counseling for an online course session (though, again, that fee is income-based and can be waived if you qualify). If you live close to one of Apprisen's local offices, you can attend a group workshop for post-bankruptcy education for a fee of $50 (same fee whether it's attended individually or jointly).
Help for student loans
For those with student loans, Apprisen offers counseling and guidance on repayment options, loan consolidation, and deferment/forbearance programs. Student loan education sessions are free to access.
Check out the workshops and other educational resources
Finally, Apprisen provides a range of financial education services, including workshops, webinars, and online resources to help you improve your financial literacy and make informed decisions about your finances.
Apprisen has an excellent reputation, starting with an "A+" and accreditation from the Better Business Bureau. At the BBB, over 100 people took the time to leave a glowing review for this credit counseling service, averaging an impressive 4.9 out of 5 stars and zero complaints filed. Clients praise Apprisen reps for being courteous and knowledgeable, and they say that they were able to not only get out of debt but also make plans going forward for a solid financial future.
Well worth considering for most credit counseling needs
Overall, Apprisen's services are geared towards helping individuals and families get out of debt, manage their finances, and achieve long-term financial stability. We appreciate that they make their pricing transparent on any fee-based services, and that their clients have nothing but good things to say about the overall experience of getting help here. Apprisen earns our recommendation as a credit counseling provider to consider.
Advantage Credit Counseling Service (CCS) is a non-profit credit counseling agency that has been assisting individuals in managing their finances since 1968. Their services include educating consumers about debt management, bankruptcy, and proper credit management. Being a 501(c)3 organization, Advantage CCS provides confidential consumer education, credit counseling, and creates effective debt reduction programs for their clients.
Start the process 24/7 online
You can get started with free credit counseling online any time of day or night. You'll click on "Get Started" and enter your name, zip code, state, email address, and desired password. From there, you'll answer some questions about why you're looking for credit counseling: loss/reduction of income, divorce/separation, excessive credit card use, money management challenges, medical issues/disability, death of a family member, gambling, addiction/substance abuse, or other.
More information is better
On the next page, feel free to type any additional information in the free response box. You'll also be asked the year you were born, the number of adults/children in the household, whether or not you plan to include a spouse/partner's income, your own income, and so forth. The more details you provide, the more accurately the system can give you a preliminary determination on your best next steps.
Get a detailed action plan and advice - right away
While CCS definitely focuses on debt management programs, even if you don't qualify you'll still get a comprehensive action plan at the end of the process - all without ever having to speak to a representative. That's amazing.
Debt management program fees can be higher than average
Let's say you do qualify for a debt management program with CCS. You'll pay a one-time enrollment fee of $50 - higher than many competitors' fees, lower than some - and monthly fees ranging from $10 to $50 depending on where you live. We encourage you to read the FAQ on the Debt Management Program page if you'd like more detailed information about how these plans work and what the limitations are.
Most, but not all, types of credit counseling available here
You can also access other services through Advantage CCS. These include pre-filing bankruptcy counseling ($24.95 online, $50 over the phone or in person at one of CCS' five PA locations) and pre-discharge education classes ($25 online), credit report review ($65 individual/$70 couple), and several types of housing counseling (pre-purchase, foreclosure, reverse mortgage). You'll have to look elsewhere if you want credit counseling regarding student loans or post-bankruptcy advice, however.
Solid track record for client success
CCS has racked up decent numbers over its 50+ years in operation: over 400,000 clients counseled, with more than $1.2 billion in debt eliminated. That's not quite as many people served as some of our top credit counseling providers, whose clients number in the millions, but it's not bad either.
Needs more ratings from clients
Still, we would like to see more client feedback from CCS' clients beyond the handful of testimonials on the website. We had a hard time finding more than a few comments around the internet: just 15 reviews left with the Better Business Bureau (where, by the way, CCS has a perfect "A+" rating and accreditation), one review on Trustpilot, nothing on their Facebook page, you get what we're saying.
Good choice for most prospective clients
There are a lot of options for credit counseling, and we don't doubt that Advantage CCS is good at what it does. But is it better than our higher-ranked providers? That's hard to determine without more feedback from clients. The reviews out there are positive, but that's not quite enough to make CCS competitive with rival organizations who have thousands of five-star reviews to go by. Keep Advantage CCS as a backup possibility after you've looked at the top-rated credit counseling services on our list, or if you'd like an all-online first look at your finances and a preliminary set of action steps without having to speak to a credit counselor beforehand.
Credit card debt is a major issue in the United States, with Americans owing over $840 billion. However, most individuals aren't accumulating debt due to irresponsible behavior. Factors such as a lack of income, emergency expenses, and out-of-pocket medical bills contribute to credit card debt. Consolidated Credit, a nonprofit credit counseling agency, aims to address these challenges through education and counseling. Their mission is to provide financial freedom by helping families overcome financial crises and manage their money effectively. Consolidated Credit has been providing these services since 1993 and is one of the largest nonprofit credit counseling agencies in the country.
Take advantage of the complimentary consultation
What kind of credit counseling does this organization offer? The easiest route to finding out what Consolidated Credit can do for you is to have a complimentary phone call with one of their certified credit counselors. He or she will review your debts, budget, and credit; determine if you qualify for a debt management program; and, explore any other relief options that may be appropriate.
Fees are a little high
If you choose a debt management plan with Consolidated Credit, you can expect fees averaging $40 and capped at $79 - which is higher than what some of its rivals quote for their services.
Very informational website
One reason this site gets high marks from us is the wealth of resources that consumers can access at any time - no registration, sign-up, or fees required. We recommend going to the Resource Center link and browsing the topics that are of interest in your situation. Maybe you need some input on budgeting, or you'll benefit from using a calculator to set a strategy for buying a car. There are even online courses for kids and teens to learn more about credit and how to save for college - and retirement.
Over 7,000 five-star reviews
Consolidated Credit has an excellent track record, especially with respect to debt management plans. The organization maintains an "A+" rating and accreditation from the Better Business Bureau, and when you take a look at client feedback on Trustpilot, you'll see a 4.7-out-of-5-stars average - with over 7,000 five-star reviews. People say that working with Consolidated Credit has helped ease their debt burden, representatives are kind and helpful, and that the program is extremely effective at reducing what they owe.
Not as good for other types of credit counseling
While Consolidated Credit clearly does an amazing job of helping people manage their debt, particularly through their management program, some of its other services don't quite go as smoothly. For example, when we were looking into Housing Counseling, it came across as being directed strictly towards residents of Florida - which is fine, but we had no heads-up that it might be limited that way. Also, when we looked at the details to get started with a first-time homebuyer orientation, the next available class on the site... was three months prior. Then, when we reached out via live chat, we were told no one was available to help us - right before someone did join the chat, only to tell us that we should call for more information. Like we said: not the smoothest experience.
Terrific resource but slightly limited in some areas
Overall, we recommend the Consolidated Credit website as an excellent place to begin your self-education on all topics related to personal finance. You could easily spend hours on any area of interest without ever having to sign up for a phone call or even an account on the site. And, thousands of five-star client reviews also show that this organization gets the job done well when it comes to debt management plans. However, because every other type of counseling falls into the background here, Consolidated Credit lands a little shy of our highest ranking.
DebtWave Credit Counseling, Inc. is a non-profit organization that provides debt management and financial education services. The company was founded in 2001 and is based in San Diego, California.
Main focus is debt management plan
DebtWave's main service is debt management, which is a program designed to help individuals pay off their debts more efficiently. Clients make a single monthly payment to DebtWave, and the company works with their creditors to negotiate lower interest rates and fees. This can help clients pay off their debts more quickly and save money on interest charges. DebtWave's debt management program also provides clients with access to financial education resources and ongoing support from a team of certified credit counselors.
DMP fees are above average
While general credit counseling is free with DebtWave, you'll pay enrollment and service fees to use their debt management program: up to $75 to set up your account and up to $49 monthly. Your actual numbers will depend on where you live and how much debt you're working with, but DebtWave's fees are a little higher than some of its rivals.
Bankruptcy counseling is more affordable
You'll also pay a small fee if you decide to use DebtWave for pre- or post-bankruptcy counseling, but for those services this provider actually comes in a little more affordable than most competitors: just $25, whether you're filing individually or jointly.
Website could use some touching-up
Compared with other credit counseling options, DebtWave lacks a bit of polish. For example, at the bottom of the site, there was a typo in their own business name: "DebtWave Credit Couseling" . It also felt a little outdated to have a big "COVID-19 FAQs and Resources" tab at the top of the page, well after most of the world went back-to-new-normal.
Not all credit counseling is offered here
You also won't get some services from DebtWave that are available with other credit counseling services. For example, there's nothing specific to student loans here, though you're welcome to talk about your situation during your complimentary credit coaching sessions and see if DebtWave can make recommendations for the best timeframe and method of paying them back.
Still gets high marks from clients
On the other hand, DebtWave's reputation isn't anything to be concerned about. They've got an "A+" rating and accreditation from the Better Business Bureau, accreditation from the NFCC, and most of their feedback from clients averages 4.9 out of 5 stars. There aren't thousands of customer ratings to consider - we only found a few hundred scattered across the internet - but what's there paints a picture of credit counseling that is personalized, effective, and easy to access.
Good but not the best (yet)
DebtWave doesn't quite reach our highest level of recommendation compared with other credit counseling services. The site isn't as professional, and there are a few services offered by competitors that you won't find here. But, the organization overall can be counted on to provide honest, affordable help, so DebtWave certainly isn't a service to avoid either. Just check out your other options first.
NFCC, which stands for National Foundation for Credit Counseling, has been serving Americans since 1951. As the largest nonprofit organization of its kind, it has assisted millions of people in achieving financial control over the past 70 years.
Trustworthy and transparent
With a mission to provide individuals with the tools they need to manage their finances effectively, NFCC is a reliable, trustworthy, and transparent source of information. Their website offers a wealth of resources on various borrowing and credit situations, as well as what to expect from credit counseling through one of their member agencies. If you're seeking nonprofit, locally-based credit counseling that has been thoroughly vetted by a reputable organization like NFCC, you'll find their services to be an exceptional resource for getting connected.
Use this site to find a vetted provider of credit counseling
While NFCC is a fantastic resource for credit counseling, they don't make it to the top of our rankings because they don't actually provide credit counseling themselves. But, most of our top-ranked credit counseling providers are NFCC-affiliated agencies. To connect with a credit counseling provider through NFCC, fill out their online form (including details about what type of credit counseling you're seeking) and their system will then match you with one of their partner nonprofit agencies. You'll find the same process if you click on the live chat feature: the bot will gather your info and match you to a vetted credit counseling service.
Great resource before you choose
Take a look at the NFCC website to get a better idea of what you can expect from their partner nonprofits. Make sure to check out the Tools and Resources link at the top of the page for a wealth of resources. Want more information about debt management plans or tips for first-time homebuyers? You'll find that and more here. The NFCC has something for everyone, from students to distressed renters, so take advantage of their informative website.
Get answers to your questions
Two other places on the site that are worth checking out are "How we help" and the FAQ. If you'd like a no-pressure overview of the credit counseling process you'll experience with most of their partner non-profits, or you'd like to get a jump start on understanding questions like "What is on my credit report?" or "Can I be fired for declaring bankruptcy?" NFCC's got you covered.
No counseling offered but still a great resource
Overall, the NFCC website is a valuable resource for anyone doing preliminary research on credit counseling services, regardless of which one you choose. Being well-informed is key to being a prepared consumer, and the resources available on the NFCC site can help you gain a deeper understanding of credit-related issues and avoid potential pitfalls when seeking financial management services. We can't give it a high ranking because clients can't actually get credit counseling through NFCC, but we recommend it as a good source of information.
GreenPath Financial Services is a non-profit credit counseling agency that provides various financial services to help individuals and families achieve their financial goals. The organization was established in 1961 and has multiple offices across the United States.
Over 4.5 million people helped
GreenPath is accredited by the National Foundation for Credit Counseling and has helped over 4.5 million people with their financial challenges. They offer services n both English and Spanish. These include credit counseling, debt management plans, housing counseling, reverse mortgage counseling, and student loan counseling.
Plenty of options for credit counseling
GreenPath offers the usual panorama of credit counseling services. Those include:
Have to use the phone
To get started with any GreenPath credit counseling, you'll need to either call the toll-free number on the site or request a phone call. That's not as user-friendly as some options we evaluated. Other services let you walk through a series of questions beforehand and get an idea of what the recommended services will be - long before speaking to a representative.
Fees can be high
Also, GreenPath's fees are a little higher than many of its rivals in the credit counseling industry. For example, debt management plans here will have a one-time setup fee that could be as high as $50 and monthly fees that may go up to $75: compare that with some of the higher-ranked services in our evaluation and you'll see that GreenPath could be twice as expensive (for essentially providing the same service).
Not a lot of reviews from clients
This credit counseling option comes in a little lackluster when looking at client feedback. True, the Better Business Bureau gives GreenPath an "A+" rating and accreditation, and there were only a dozen complaints filed with the BBB over the last three years. But, beyond the complaints, we didn't find a lot of feedback from GreenPath clients other than the client stories featured on the website - which was surprising given how the organization helps about 80,000 clients every year. (And, for what it's worth, a lot of GreenPath employees take to sites like Indeed and Glassdoor to leave not-so-nice comments about the work environment as well.)
Room for improvement
Is GreenPath trustworthy? Sure. Could you get good credit counseling here? Probably. But with so many excellent choices to pick from, and especially ones that have lower fees and much more glowing feedback from clients, it's hard to find anything that makes GreenPath stand out in a positive way. We recommend looking at the higher-ranked sources of credit counseling in our evaluation before committing to what GreenPath offers.
Another benefit of credit counseling is that it can help you develop a plan to pay off your debts. This plan may involve consolidating debts, negotiating with creditors, or creating a debt repayment plan. By working with a credit counselor, you can develop a debt repayment plan that is tailored to your specific financial situation, which can help you achieve financial freedom more quickly.
In addition to debt repayment, credit counseling can also provide education and resources on how to manage credit and financial products. This education can help you make informed decisions about credit cards, loans, and other financial products, which can improve your credit scores and make it easier to access credit in the future. By learning about the different types of credit products available, you can choose the products that are best suited to your financial goals and needs.
The first step in finding the best credit counseling service is to identify your specific needs. Are you currently dealing with significant credit card debt? Are you looking for guidance on how to improve your credit score? Do you need help with financial planning or budgeting? Depending on your situation, you may need to seek out a credit counseling service that specializes in a particular area of financial counseling.
Once you have a clear understanding of your needs, you can begin your search for the best credit counseling service for you. A good place to start is by checking with non-profit credit counseling organizations, as they typically offer free counseling services and may also be able to direct you to resources that can help you better manage your finances.
There are also a number of for-profit credit counseling services available, many of which offer free consultations to help you determine whether their services are right for you. When considering a for-profit credit counseling service, it's important to do your research and make sure that the organization is reputable and has a solid track record of success.
When evaluating any credit counseling service, be sure to consider these factors as well:
Ultimately, the best credit counseling service for you will depend on your individual needs and situation. Top Consumer Reviews has done the hard work of researching all of today's most popular credit counseling providers, making it easy for you to choose the one that will best help you make better financial decisions and achieve your goals.
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