1. Finance
  2. Debt Management
  3. Best Credit Counseling

Best Credit Counseling Services

Author pictureAuthor picture
Author picture
Written by
Author picture
Edited by
Companies considered
Companies selected
Reviews analyzed
Features compared

Credit counseling agencies are nonprofit firms that help consumers manage their finances, from basic budgeting to avoiding bankruptcy. While the specific services you can get vary, all credit counselors will offer you an initial consultation for free. They'll review your finances and help you develop an action plan.

If you have a lot of credit card debt or other unsecured debt, your credit counselor may suggest a debt management plan (DMP), which could lower your rates and fees and help you fully repay your debt in three to five years.

To make our top picks, we considered 17 companies offering credit counseling services and narrowed them down based on factors including fees, types of debts serviced, additional services and number of states available. For more information, read our full methodology.

Our picks may be Authorized Partners who compensate us. This does not affect our recommendations or evaluations but may affect the order in which the companies appear.

Our editor's top picks

Why trust ConsumerAffairs?
  • Our recommendations are based on what reviewers say.
  • 4,314,214 reviews on ConsumerAffairs are verified.
  • We require contact information to ensure our reviewers are real.
  • We use intelligent software that helps us maintain the integrity of reviews.
  • Our moderators read all reviews to verify quality and helpfulness.

Compare our top 5 credit counseling companies


Choose what information you want to see across each brand. At least one option must be selected.

More details about our top 5 picks

As you’re browsing credit counseling agencies, make sure the company is a nonprofit entity, as you may pay lower fees than you would with a for-profit debt relief company. Also ensure it’s a member of at least one reputable trade organization with no recent legal actions against it. All the credit counseling services included on our list meet these essential criteria.

If you need housing or bankruptcy counseling, look for counselors specifically approved by the government to offer this.

Our pick for low debt minimum
Debt minimum
No minimum
Program length
48 months (average)
Monthly fee
$30, on average

Cambridge Credit Counseling Corp. is a nonprofit firm founded in 1996 that offers credit counseling services in all 50 states. A search revealed no recent legal actions against the company, and it is associated with several reputable programs and industry trade organizations:

  • Member of the National Foundation for Credit Counseling (NFCC), the Financial Counseling Association of America (FCAA) and the Partnership for Financial Education (PFE)
  • Multiple housing counseling certifications from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and NeighborWorks America
  • Approved by the U.S. Department of Justice’s Executive Office of the United States Trustee Program (EOUST) to provide bankruptcy counseling

Unlike many debt relief companies, Cambridge Credit Counseling has no debt minimums to enroll in its services. You can get traditional credit counseling (e.g., help with budgeting and debt management), as well as housing and bankruptcy counseling to help you better understand your rights and options.

You can also enroll in a DMP with Cambridge Credit Counseling, which can help you pay off all your enrolled unsecured debts (e.g., credit cards, collection accounts) in an average of 48 months. You’ll pay an average one-time fee of $40 to enroll (up to no more than $75) and an average monthly fee of $30 (capped at $50) while enrolled.

Some of the things we like about Cambridge Credit Counseling are:

  • No debt minimums
  • Certified/approved by several reputable organizations
  • Available in all 50 states

Some of the things to consider with Cambridge Credit Counseling are:

  • Monthly fee up to $50

In an online review of Cambridge Credit Counseling, Chris of Dalton, Georgia, said: “Everything was extremely streamlined and easy. If I ever had any issues, all I do is make a very simple phone call. If I ask to delay this payment or if I get to skip a payment and try to pay it back, they help me with that. They didn't harass me to make sure everything was done. Every single time, the person that handled the call was friendly and polite. I'm very satisfied with the service. I'm not buried in debt, which is pretty great. It was much easier to reach that goal using Cambridge. If I ever find myself in that situation again, or if I needed it, I would absolutely 100% try them.”

Our pick for military and veterans
Debt minimum
Program length
36 to 60 months
Monthly fee
$33, on average

InCharge Debt Solutions is a nonprofit credit counseling agency founded in 1997 that offers debt relief services in 16 states (Arizona, Colorado, Delaware, Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Michigan, Mississippi, Nevada, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont and Virginia).

A search revealed no recent legal actions against the company. It’s a member of the NFCC, approved by HUD to provide housing counseling and approved by the EOUST to provide bankruptcy counseling.

While InCharge Debt Solutions can provide credit counseling services to anyone in its service areas, it also has several specific programs designed to help military members and veterans. For example, it offers financial literacy programs designed to help with unique needs like preparing for deployment, using the GI Bill and getting VA loans.

Beyond credit counseling, bankruptcy counseling and housing counseling, you can also enroll in a DMP with InCharge Debt Solutions. You need at least $1,000 in eligible debt to enroll (e.g., credit cards, personal loans, medical bills), and it takes an average of three to five years to complete.

While fees vary by state, you’ll pay a one-time enrollment fee of no more than $75 and a monthly fee of $33, on average.

Some of the things we like about InCharge Debt Solutions are:

  • Specific resources for veterans and military members
  • Monthly fees are relatively low
  • Bankruptcy and housing counseling available

Some things to consider with InCharge Debt Solutions are:

  • Services aren’t available nationwide
  • $1,000 debt minimum to enroll in its DMP

As of publishing, there are no reviews from ConsumerAffairs readers about InCharge Debt Solutions.

Our pick for low fees
Debt minimum
No minimum
Program length
Less than five years
Monthly fee
$25 on average

Money Management International is a nonprofit credit counseling agency founded in 1958 and provides debt relief services in all 50 states (although in-person services are only available in 25 states). A search didn’t reveal any recent legal actions against the company. It’s a member of the NFCC, approved by HUD to offer housing counseling and approved by the EOUST to provide bankruptcy counseling.

Not only can you get a variety of services from Money Management International, like credit, housing and bankruptcy counseling, but the fees you pay for its debt management plan are low, with average enrollment fees of $33 and average monthly fees of $25.

Like all credit counseling agencies, the maximum fees you’ll pay on a DMP are determined by your state. Plus, you may be eligible for reduced or waived fees if you have a financial need or hardship.

It takes Money Management International’s clients an average of 48 months to finish a DMP, with a maximum of 60 months. There’s no debt minimum to enroll.

Some of the things we like about Money Management International are:

  • Average enrollment and monthly fees are low
  • No debt minimum to enroll in a DMP
  • Phone and internet services available in all 50 states

Some things to consider with Money Management International are:

  • In-person support not available in all states

As of publishing, there are no reviews from ConsumerAffairs readers about Money Management International.

Our pick for housing debt
Debt minimum
Program length
36 to 60 months
Monthly fee
$40 on average

Consolidated Credit Solutions is a nonprofit credit counseling agency founded in 1993 and offers debt relief services in all 50 states. A search didn’t reveal any recent legal actions against the company. It’s a member of the FCAA and a HUD-authorized housing counselor.

Some services you can receive from Consolidated Credit include credit counseling, housing counseling and debt relief by enrolling in a DMP. One of the things Consolidated Credit is best for is its housing counseling. As a HUD-approved housing counselor, you can get advice on various housing topics, such as becoming mortgage-ready, avoiding eviction as a renter, preventing foreclosure as a homeowner and more.

Besides these services, businesses can offer free financial literacy resources to their employees via Consolidated Credit’s corporate financial wellness program. You can check with your employer to see if it participates in its Knowledge of Financial Education (KOFE) program.

You need at least $1,000 in eligible debt (e.g., credit cards, personal loans) to enroll in its DMP, which you can expect to fully repay in 36 to 60 months. The fees you’ll pay for a DMB will vary based on your state and financial situation (e.g., fees may be waived or reduced if you have a financial need or hardship). While the average enrollment fees weren’t disclosed, the average monthly fees are $40 (not to exceed $79).

Some of the things we like about Consolidated Credit are:

  • You can meet with a housing counselor and get free advice online
  • Available nationwide
  • Free financial literacy program for employers

Some things to consider with Consolidated Credit are:

  • Minimum $1,000 in eligible debt to enroll in a DMP
  • It’s only a member of the FCAA, not the NCAA

In an online review of Consolidated Credit, Prance of Morgan Hill, California, said: “The program has helped me so much in my time of need. I was able to pay off my debt earlier and put me in a great spot financially in my life. Everything has been simple and easy as well with every single representative I’ve spoken with the past 3-4 years. Never had a single issue. Thanks again!”

Our pick for additional services
Debt minimum
Program length
Up to 60 months
Monthly fee
Small fee (amount not disclosed)

Debt Management Credit Counseling Corp. (DMCC) is a nonprofit debt relief company founded in 1999. A search for recent lawsuits or legal actions didn’t reveal any findings. DMCC is a member of the FCAA, and its credit counselors become certified through the National Association of Certified Credit Counselors (NACCC). When you work with a CCC, there’s a good expectation that the person is well-trained. DMCC has also adopted the National Industry Standards for Homeownership Education and Counseling.

What sets DMCC apart from its competitors is the extra services it offers. Besides traditional credit counseling and DMPs, it also has a payday loan assistance program that may help you repay these in as little as six to 12 months with a 0% annual percentage rate (APR) and no fees. Since payday loans can carry extremely high rates and fees, this is very helpful.

To sign up for a DMP, you must have at least $5,000 in unsecured debt (e.g., credit cards). You can expect to fully repay the debts you enroll in 60 months or less. While DMCC doesn’t disclose fees on its website, state law establishes maximums. So, you’ll likely pay no more than $0 to $75 to enroll and monthly after that.

It’s unclear in how many states DMCC offers services, but it’s headquartered in Florida and reports licenses on its website for nine other states (Arizona, Illinois, Maryland, Michigan, Mississippi, New York, Oregon, South Carolina and Virginia). If you reside outside these states, you’ll need to confirm with the company if services are offered in your area.

Some of the things we like about DMCC are:

  • Unique extra services like the payday loan assistance program
  • Participates in the NACCC program
  • Adopted the National Industry Standards for Homeownership Education and Counseling

Some things to consider with DMCC are:

  • Services only offered in some states
  • Minimum $5,000 in unsecured debt to enroll in a DMP
  • Fees aren’t clearly disclosed

As of publishing, there are no reviews from ConsumerAffairs readers about Debt Management Credit Counseling Corp.

Read reviews of credit counseling agencies

  • Best Rated
  • Most Reviewed
  • Highest Rated

What is a credit counselor?

A credit counselor is certified or trained to provide consumers with expert financial advice and education. Depending on their training and certifications, they can provide guidance on topics such as debt management, housing, bankruptcy and budgeting. Your credit counselor should be able to share their credentials and experience with you before you agree to proceed.

In most cases, credit counselors work for nonprofit credit counseling agencies. As nonprofit entities, they can often provide services at a lower cost than a for-profit company. For example, you can receive preliminary credit counseling free of charge, such as a financial review, budgeting advice and a debt management strategy.

Fees are often limited by the state where you reside. You may not pay any fees if you have a financial hardship or need. Fees usually max out around $75 a month if you enroll in a service like a DMP. You may also need to pay an enrollment fee, which often falls in the same range.

» MORE: How to get out of debt

How does credit counseling work?

Credit counseling is designed to help individuals with their finances, whether they need help with creating a budget or are on the brink of bankruptcy. Credit counseling companies range in which services they offer, but typically you can expect to find money management advice, debt handling, budgeting and bankruptcy counseling. Some companies offer specialized counseling for those facing preforeclosure, too.

For many of the companies we reviewed, the budget counseling services are free. However, many companies charge an initial setup fee and flat monthly fee for a DMP. Under a DMP, the credit counseling agency works with you and your creditors to develop a plan. The goal is to become debt-free. Some individuals will qualify for reduced or waived fees based on their income.

Individuals stay on a DMP until their enrolled debt is resolved. You can contribute more money each month toward your debt to make the process go faster, or you can cancel your DMP at any time.

» MORE: Is debt management a good idea?

Pros and cons of credit counseling

One of the most significant advantages of credit counseling is the ability to work with a financial expert for free or at a relatively low cost.

“Credit counseling can provide clients with valuable financial education and resources,” said Levon L. Galstyan, a certified public accountant at Oak View Law Group. “This can include budgeting tips, debt repayment strategies and credit management advice. For example, a person who lacks knowledge of how to manage their finances may benefit from credit counseling and learn valuable skills for managing their finances.”

Despite the pros, credit counseling does not come without drawbacks. While some people pay no fees for credit counseling, this is only sometimes the case. And there’s no guarantee your creditors will be willing to lower your costs or payments. Plus, your credit score could take a hit.

“Enrolling in a DMP can have a negative impact on a person's credit score in the short term,” said Galstyan. “This is because the DMP requires a person to close their credit accounts and make regular payments to the credit counseling agency, which can show up as a negative mark on their credit report. However, this negative impact is generally temporary, and a person's credit score can improve over time as they make regular payments on their debts.”

» MORE: What affects your credit score?


  • Work with an expert to get free or low-cost financial advice
  • You can get a DMP even with bad credit
  • You may be able to get bankruptcy and housing counseling
  • Experts can help you negotiate lower payments, interest rates and fees


  • You may need to pay a monthly fee
  • No guarantee your lender will agree to a DMP
  • It might take several years to get out of debt
  • Your credit score might temporarily decline if you’re required to close any accounts

How to choose a credit counselor

When choosing a credit counseling service, consider the reputation of the company and its agents. You can read online reviews to get a feel for what other people think about it. Plus, you can search for any recent legal actions against the company for deceptive or unfair practices.

Here are some other factors to consider:

  • Company certifications and accreditation: Look for companies that are accredited by reputable nonprofit organizations like the National Foundation for Credit Counseling (NFCC) or the Financial Counseling Association of America (FCAA). Counselors should also be certified in consumer credit, money and debt management and budgeting.
  • Services offered: If you have unique financial needs that you need help with, look for credit counseling companies that excel in those areas. Additionally, if you are military-connected, a company that works closely with military members and veterans will have a better idea of your unique situation and might also give you a specialized discount. Be wary of organizations that push a DMP as your only option before they spend significant time analyzing your financial situation.
  • Fees: Reputable credit counseling agencies often provide free or low-cost services. Be sure to get a clear understanding of any fees involved, and ask if the agency offers fee waivers or reductions based on financial hardship.
  • Transparency: The company should be upfront about what they will and will not be able to do for your situation. All fees and the estimated time frame should be laid out clearly. Avoid companies that promise quick results.
[Credit counseling] can include budgeting tips, debt repayment strategies and credit management advice.”
Levon L. Galstyan, Oak View Law Group

The counselor should talk about your finances in an easy-to-understand way, provide several options for you to consider (including costs and savings) and give you time to review before making a decision.

A credit counselor should never coerce you to sign up for services. If this happens, report the behavior to the Federal Trade Commission or Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

Nonprofit vs. for-profit credit counselors

Both nonprofit and for-profit companies can assist you in your financial journey.

  • Nonprofit credit counseling agencies are typically funded through voluntary contributions from creditors and may also receive grants from government agencies or private foundations.
  • For-profit credit counseling agencies operate as profit-driven businesses and can sometimes charge higher fees or push paid services harder than nonprofit organizations.

Can I do credit counseling on my own?

After you’ve evaluated the options, costs and potential savings, consider if what you’ll pay is worth the services you’re receiving. For example, if you’re comfortable with budgeting and making payments on your own, you might be able to pay off your debt without signing up for a DMP, potentially saving you money over time.

» MORE: How to choose a certified credit counselor

Alternatives to credit counseling

While credit counseling can be a great option for some people, it’s not always the right choice. Some alternatives are:

  • Debt consolidation: With a debt consolidation loan, you may be able to consolidate your higher-rate debt, like credit cards, into a lower fixed-rate debt. This can be a good option if you can afford to pay off the debt over a relatively short period and don’t have ongoing credit issues like active collections.
  • Debt settlement: If you can’t afford to make your monthly payments, a debt settlement plan is an option. This is riskier than credit counseling or debt consolidation since the goal is to pay less than you owe. However, it can sometimes be a way to avoid filing for bankruptcy.
  • Bankruptcy: After you’ve exhausted all other alternatives, you might decide to file for bankruptcy. This should be a last resort, as it can hurt your credit for years. Bankruptcy courts require you to meet with an approved credit counseling agency before filing. You can confirm if your credit counselor is approved by reviewing this list maintained by the Credit Counseling Unit at the Executive Office for U.S. Trustees (a division of the DOJ).


Does credit counseling work?

Whether credit counseling works depends on your situation and your chosen counselor. If you choose a reputable credit counselor who gives you solid financial advice that you adhere to, credit counseling can help you get into a better financial situation.

However, if you fall for a credit counseling scam or fail to follow through with your plan, credit counseling may not work.

Does credit counseling hurt your credit score?

Meeting with a credit counselor will not hurt your credit score, but your score may be lowered temporarily or reduced for a long time, depending on your chosen actions. For example, your score might be hurt for years if you pursue debt settlement or bankruptcy.

If you opt for a DMP or a debt consolidation loan, your score might temporarily decrease if you close older accounts, but establishing good payment history and reducing your total debt should increase your credit score over time.

Are credit counseling programs scams?

Many credit counseling programs are not scams. If you decide to file for bankruptcy, you must meet with an approved credit counseling agency before doing so. The U.S. Department of Justice maintains a list of credit counseling agencies approved to provide bankruptcy counseling; see if your agency is on this list to avoid scams.

Is credit counseling the same as debt settlement?

Credit counseling is not the same as debt settlement. With credit counseling, you’ll usually work with a nonprofit organization that will review your finances and provide initial budgeting help and financial advice for free. Plus, it might offer a DMP to help you pay off all your debt for a cost of $0 to $75 a month.

With debt settlement, you’ll work with a for-profit debt relief company that might also provide free financial advice, but its primary goal is to help you pay off unsecured debt for an amount less than you owe. Settlement fees can be 15% to 25% of the original debt balance.

How much does credit counseling cost?

The cost of credit counseling will depend on the company, the financial services you choose and which state you reside in. Initial counseling sessions are usually free with a charge for DMPs. These fees are typically capped at $79 per month nationwide, so no matter where you live, you can expect to pay that amount or less.


To make our top picks for best credit counseling companies, we collect 24 individual data points from 17 well-known companies. We then compared them on features including:

  • Types of debt serviced: We considered the types of debts a credit counseling company works with and gave higher consideration to those that work with more than credit card debts.
  • Rates and fees: We gave preference to companies with clear rates and easy-to-access information about fees, including money-back guarantees and cancellation policies.
  • Availability: Companies that are available to customers in all 50 states were given more consideration for top picks, but we did not exclude those with limited availability (based on other criteria).
  • Additional services: We looked at other services a credit counseling company provided, including bankruptcy counseling, housing counseling, military member support and credit report reviews. Higher weight was given to companies that offer a variety of services, but we did not exclude from consideration companies that only provide credit counseling.
  • Debt minimums: More preference was given to companies that had lower debt minimum requirements ($5,000 and below), but we did not exclude companies requiring a higher minimum if they excelled in other areas.

Since customer feedback is a critical indicator when evaluating companies, this was an important consideration when selecting our top picks. However, for those companies on our list with no ratings on ConsumerAffairs, there were other variables that made them stand out as good options for debt relief, and we factored those into our decisions.

ConsumerAffairs writers primarily rely on government data, industry experts and original research from other reputable publications to inform their work. Specific sources for this article include:
  1. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, “Submit a complaint about a financial product or service.” Accessed Sept. 8, 2023.
  2. Federal Trade Commission, "Report to help fight fraud!" Accessed Sept. 8, 2023.
  3. FINRA, "Certified Credit Counselor (CCC)." Accessed Sept. 8, 2023.
  4. Homeownership Done Right, "National Industry Standards for Homeownership Education and Counseling." Accessed Sept. 8, 2023.
  5. National Association of Certified Credit Counselors, “Certification Process.” Accessed Sept. 8, 2023.
  6. The United States Department of Justice, "Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) - Credit Counseling." Accessed Sept. 8, 2023.
  7. The United States Department of Justice, "List of Credit Counseling Agencies Approved Pursuant to 11 U.S.C. 111." Accessed Sept. 8, 2023.
  8. Experian, "How Much Does Debt Counseling Cost?." Accessed Sept. 8, 2023.

Not sure how to choose?

Get buying tips about Credit Counseling delivered to your inbox.

    By entering your email, you agree to sign up for consumer news, tips and giveaways from ConsumerAffairs. Unsubscribe at any time.

    Thanks for subscribing.

    You have successfully subscribed to our newsletter! Enjoy reading our tips and recommendations.

    Want your company to be on this guide?

    Yes, continue