Best Debt Management Plans of 2024

We compared 8 brands and chose the top debt relief companies

  • Money Management International
  • GreenPath Financial Wellness
    4.8(884)
  • Apprisen

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    Best Debt Management Plans of 2024

    17
    Companies considered
    6
    Companies selected
    84K+
    Reviews analyzed
    24
    Features compared

    If you’re struggling to make payments on your unsecured debt and your interest rates are sky-high, a debt management plan (DMP) may help. With a DMP, a credit counselor will set a fixed payment plan that will allow you to fully repay your debts in three to five years. Plus, they may negotiate lower interest rates or fees with your creditors.

    If you are considering a DMP, make sure the agency is a member of at least one reputable trade organization and doesn’t have any recent legal actions against it. You’ll also want to check for required debt minimums and monthly enrollment fees to ensure it’s suitable to your particular situation.

    To make our top picks, we considered 17 companies offering debt management plans 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.

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    More info about our top debt management plan companies

    Our pick for low fees
    Debt minimum
    No minimum
    Program length
    Up to 60 months
    Monthly fee
    $25 on average

    Money Management International was founded in 1958 and is a nonprofit credit counseling agency that provides DMPs in all 50 states. A search for recent legal actions against the company didn’t reveal any issues.

    It’s a member of the National Foundation for Credit Counseling (NFCC), is approved by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to provide housing counseling and is approved by the U.S. Department of Justice’s Executive Office for U.S Trustees (EOUST) to provide bankruptcy counseling.

    The company offers various services, including credit, housing and bankruptcy counseling. Plus, it offers a DMP with relatively low average fees of $33 to enroll and $25 a month after that. These low average fees set it apart from many of its peers.

    If you enroll in a DMP with Money Management International, you can expect to repay all your enrolled debts in an average of 48 months and in no more than 60 months. You don’t need to meet a debt minimum to enroll, which is a nice feature.

    Some things we like about Money Management International are:

    • Low average enrollment and monthly fees for its DMP
    • No minimum debt requirement
    • Available in all 50 states

    Some things to consider with Money Management International are:

    • You won’t be able to use the credit cards you enroll in the DMP
    • Closing your accounts could temporarily lower your credit score

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

    Our pick for customer service
    Debt minimum
    None
    Program length
    36 to 60 months
    Monthly fee
    Up to $75

    GreenPath Financial Wellness is a nonprofit credit counseling agency that was founded in 1961 and offers DMPs in all 50 states. An online search didn’t reveal any recent legal actions against the company, and it’s a member of the NFCC and the Homeownership Preservation Foundation (a nonprofit with a mission to help homeowners).

    One thing that sets GreenPath apart from its peers is its level of customer service. You get customer service support every day of the week except Sunday. Plus, you may be able to book an in-person appointment, and you can view its website and resources in Spanish.

    If you enroll in its DMP, you’ll be able to fully repay your enrolled debts in no more than three to five years. You’ll pay a one-time enrollment fee of $0 to $50 and a monthly fee of $0 to $75. It doesn’t specify if you need a minimum level of debt to enroll.

    Some things we like about GreenPath Financial Wellness are:

    • Customer service support available six days a week, with Spanish resources
    • Virtual services available in all 50 states

    Some things to consider with GreenPath Financial Wellness are:

    • Unclear if you need to meet a debt minimum to use the DMP
    • While it has physical locations in many areas of the U.S., not all are open

    In an online review of GreenPath Financial Wellness, Gavin of Hallsville, Texas, said:  “GreenPath’s program was the most outstanding thing I have ever been through. It is super simple to set up and then just forget about it and let it run in the background. There's a website that keeps you informed of every single penny and wherever every single penny goes, you never have a question where a dollar is going and when something's not paid off. It is awesome.”

    Our pick for low debt minimum
    Debt minimum
    $100 to $250
    Program length
    36 to 60 months
    Monthly fee
    Up to $45

    Founded in 1955, Apprisen is a nonprofit credit counseling agency that offers DMPs in all 50 states. A search for recent legal actions didn’t uncover any issues, and it’s a member of the NFCC.

    You’ll often be able to use the DMP offered by Apprisen if you have as little as $100 to $250 in unsecured debt, which sets it apart from many of its peers. Plus, its one-time enrollment and monthly fees are low, at a maximum of $45 each. If you can’t afford to pay the fees, Apprisen won’t deny you services.

    You’ll repay all the debt you enroll in no more than 36 to 60 months.

    Some things we like about Apprisen are:

    • DMPs are available even if you only have $100 to $250 in debt
    • Maximum enrollment and monthly fees are relatively low
    • Services available in all 50 states

    Some things to consider with Apprisen are:

    • Customer service is sometimes offered by an AI called IRIS Support rather than a human
    • In-person meeting availability is limited

    As of publishing, there are no reviews from ConsumerAffairs readers about Apprisen.

    Our pick for military and veteran services
    Debt minimum
    $1,000
    Program length
    36 to 60 months
    Monthly fee
    Up to $75

    Founded in 1997, InCharge Debt Solutions is a nonprofit entity that offers credit counseling and DMPs in 16 states, including Arizona, Colorado, Delaware, Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Michigan, Mississippi, Nevada, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont and Virginia.

    A search for recent legal actions against the company did not reveal any issues, and it’s a member of the NFCC, a HUD-approved housing counselor and an EOUST-approved bankruptcy counselor.

    Besides traditional credit counseling services and DMPs, InCharge Debt Solutions offers a variety of financial literacy resources to military members and veterans, which sets it apart from its peers. These resources are targeted to the unique needs and situations these people face, such as preparing for deployment, using the GI Bill for your education and getting a VA loan to purchase a home.

    If you enroll in a DMP with InCharge Debt Solutions, you’ll need at least $1,000 in eligible debt, like credit cards and personal loans. You can expect it to take three to five years to repay your debt entirely. It’ll cost you no more than $75 to enroll (paid one time) and $33 a month, on average, for the duration of the program.

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

    • Financial literacy resources specifically address the needs of military members and veterans
    • Approvals from HUD and EOUST show its housing and bankruptcy expertise
    • DMP fees are relatively low

    Some things to consider with InCharge Debt solutions are:

    • You may not be able to use its services in every state
    • You need at least $1,000 in eligible debt to use its DMP

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

    Our pick for extra services
    Debt minimum
    $5,000
    Program length
    Up to 60 months
    Monthly fee
    Small monthly fee (amount not disclosed)

    Founded in 1999, Debt Management Credit Counseling Corp. (DMCC) is a nonprofit that’s a member of the Financial Counseling Association of America (FCAA), has adopted the National Industry Standards for Homeownership and Counseling and encourages its credit counselors to obtain and maintain certification from the National Association of Certified Credit Counselors (NACCC), a well-known credentialing organization.

    When you work with a certified credit counselor, you know they underwent training to get the certification and also complete ongoing training to maintain their certification. A search for legal actions did not uncover any recent issues.

    Besides offering credit counseling and DMPs, DMCC offers extra services that set it apart from its peers. For instance, DMCC has a payday loan assistance program. If you sign up for this program, you might be able to fully repay your payday loans in six to 12 months with no fees and 0% interest. Payday loans typically carry extremely high costs, so the savings you realize through this program could be significant.

    You’ll need at least $5,000 in eligible debt to enroll in a DMP with DMCC, which you can expect to fully repay in no more than 60 months. Although DMCC doesn’t disclose its enrollment or monthly fees, the maximums are set by state law and are typically no more than $0 to $75 (one time to enroll and monthly until the plan ends).

    Some of the things we like about DMCC are:

    • Its payday assistance program has the potential to offer significant savings
    • Work with well-trained certified credit counselors

    Some things to consider with DMCC are:

    • You’ll need to check if services are offered in your state
    • $5,000 minimum debt to use its DMP
    • Average fees aren’t disclosed

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

    Our pick for types of debts serviced
    Debt minimum
    $1,500
    Program length
    36 to 60 months
    Monthly fee
    $25 on average

    Consumer Education Services, Inc. (CESI) was founded in 1998 and is a nonprofit credit counseling company offering a DMP in all 50 states. A search for recent legal actions didn’t reveal any issues and the company is a member of the NFCC and the FCAA.

    You can use the DMP offered by CESI to get help with many unsecured debts, including credit cards, department store cards, personal loans, collections, medical bills and repossessions. However, secured loans and payday loans aren’t eligible.

    To enroll in the DMP offered by CESI, you’ll likely need at least $1,500 in eligible debts. You can expect to fully repay your enrolled debt in no more than three to five years.

    On average, you’ll pay an average one-time enrollment fee of $37 and a monthly fee of $25. While the fee you’ll need to pay varies by state, each fee won’t exceed $75.

    Some things we like about CESI are:

    • Many unsecured debts are eligible for its DMP
    • Average fees are relatively low
    • Member of both the NFCC and FCAA

    Some things to consider with CESI are:

    • $1,500 debt minimum to enroll in the DMP
    • Customer service agents only available on weekdays

    As of publishing, there are no reviews from ConsumerAffairs readers about Consumer Education Services Inc.

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      What is a debt management plan?

      A debt management plan (DMP) is a type of debt relief offered by credit counseling agencies. You’ll repay your entire debt balance at a potentially reduced interest rate or payment amount. You can enroll most types of unsecured debt in a DMP (excluding federal student loans), and it usually takes three to five years to complete.

      Since you’ll make timely payments to repay everything you owe with a DMP, your credit score will typically improve over time. In contrast, debt settlement plans will often lower your credit score as you may be asked to make late payments (or stop making payments) and forgiven debt is reflected negatively on your credit report, potentially for many years.

      » MORE: What affects your credit score?

      How debt management plans work

      DMPs are designed to help you repay all your enrolled debts over a relatively short period of no more than five years. You’ll work with a credit counselor and you can enroll most unsecured debts, like credit cards, personal loans, private student loans and medical bills.

      If you sign up for a DMP, this is how it typically works:

      1. Get a free financial consultation. You’ll meet with a credit counselor, who will review your finances and offer advice. If you have a lot of unsecured debt, a DMP may be recommended. To sign up, you may need to pay a one-time fee of up to $75.
      2. Choose which debts to enroll. You’ll benefit the most by enrolling debt with high interest rates or without structured repayment plans, like credit cards. You can’t enroll secured debt like mortgages and car loans, or federal student loans.
      3. Start making payments. Once you’ve enrolled, you’ll begin making a single monthly payment to your credit counseling agency for all your enrolled debts. The agency will take its monthly fee out of your payment and distribute the rest to your creditors.
      4. Possibly improve your rates and terms. The credit counseling agency may work with your creditors to negotiate lower monthly payments, reduced interest rates or fee waivers. This can allow you to put more money toward your principal.
      5. Pay off everything in full. DMPs typically take three to five years to complete, assuming you make all payments on time and as agreed. If you don’t think you can make the payments, you’re better off not signing up, as the benefits negotiated on your behalf will be voided.

      Once you’ve signed up for a DMP, you can often get ongoing support and advice from your credit counselor so you can manage your finances more effectively in the future.

      “The credit counselor will continue to work with you over time to monitor your progress and make adjustments to your plan as needed,” said Levon L. Galstyan, a certified public accountant at Oak View Law Group.

      Alternatives to debt management plans

      If you’re not sure a DMP is right for you, there are alternatives.

      Note that you shouldn’t use your 401(k) or other retirement accounts as an alternative. Not only might you have to pay a tax penalty to access these funds, but you may set yourself back from your retirement plans.

      Also, you might turn to a debt settlement plan in a worst-case scenario. However, this type of plan is risky because the goal is to settle your debt for less than you owe. While in some cases, debt settlement may be a good alternative to bankruptcy, it’s important to carefully evaluate other alternatives before considering debt settlement.

      Debt consolidation loan
      You can use a debt consolidation loan to refinance your high-rate unsecured debt into a single lower-rate loan. Your rate will typically be fixed for the entire loan term.

      You’ll need to show you have a stable job history and enough income to support the payments. While you’ll get the best interest rates and repayment terms if you have good or excellent credit, some lenders are willing to offer financing to individuals with bad or fair credit.

      If this is your situation, you’ll need to demonstrate that your credit issues aren’t ongoing, will be improved with the debt consolidation loan and aren’t likely to be repeated. For example, if your credit score is low because of a one-time medical collection you’re clearing up with the loan, your lender may be willing to overlook this issue.

      Credit card balance transfers
      If you have a lot of high-interest credit card debt that you think you can pay off quickly, a balance transfer might be a viable alternative to a DMP. With a balance transfer, you’ll receive a low introductory rate for a specified period, typically up to 21 months.

      However, keep in mind you might forfeit these savings if you don’t make your payments on time or don’t repay the amount you transfer before the introductory rate expires. Depending on how the balance transfer is structured, you may owe the extra interest you saved for the entire introductory period on any amount you didn’t repay.

      For example, if you received a rate of 0% during a 12-month balance transfer period and the normal rate is 20%, you might owe 20% on the remaining unpaid balance when the 12 months end.

      DIY methods
      If you feel skilled enough with your budgeting and self-discipline, you may be able to DIY your repayment plan instead of relying on a DMP set up by a counselor. Two common payoff strategies are the debt avalanche and snowball methods.
      • Avalanche: Focus on paying off your highest-rate debt first. Make the minimum payments on all other debts so you can put most of your money towards the high-rate debt. You’ll pay less interest costs in the long run this way.
      • Snowball: Focus on the smallest amount of debt. As soon as each debt is repaid, add the money you were paying on it to the next debt, and continue until all debts are fully repaid. This method may be better for keeping you motivated as you watch debts disappear.

      » MORE: How to manage your money

      Home equity loan
      If you have a lot of equity in your home, another option is a home equity loan . Since your home secures this type of financing, you’ll often receive a lower rate than you might on a debt consolidation loan. However, you may have to pay additional fees, like title and appraisal fees, so factor these into your cost-saving equation.

      A home equity loan is only viable if you have enough equity in your home to pay off your debt and keep an equity cushion acceptable to your lender (e.g., 10% to 20%). It’s also riskier than the other alternatives since your home is at risk of foreclosure if you don’t repay the loan as agreed.

      Plus, if you take a long time to repay the funds, you may end up paying more interest than you would if you paid off the higher-rate debt over a shorter period. Carefully evaluate how much you think you’ll save and if you can easily afford the payments before putting your home’s equity on the line.

      How to choose a debt management plan

      When choosing a DMP, the first step is to find a credible credit counseling agency. Read reviews, search for any recent legal actions against it and note the certifications held by it or its agents, such as designation as a certified credit counselor.

      Also, consider how much you’ll pay in fees, when you pay the fees and the types of services you can receive. You should never be asked to pay for an initial consultation with a credit counselor; this first consultation should be free.

      Once you agree to sign up for a DMP, you’ll pay a small enrollment fee of up to $75 and an ongoing monthly fee (also up to $75). State law often dictates the maximum fees these agencies can charge, which your credit counselor should disclose to you.

      If the company is unwilling to provide you with disclosures or pressures you to sign up, these could be signs the company isn’t legitimate. You should be given time to consider your options, and the company should be readily able and willing to answer your questions.

      ounseling agency is operating a scam or engaging in fraudulent practices, you can file a complaint with either the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) or the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB).

      FAQ

      When is a debt management plan a good idea?

      A DMP can be a good idea if:

      • You want regular advice and support from a credit counselor.
      • You would rather make one monthly payment versus several.
      • You want help negotiating lower interest rates or payments with your creditors. 
      • You are comfortable paying a monthly fee of up to $75.

      Before you sign up, ensure the services are worth the cost or that the potential interest savings will outweigh the fees.

      Will a debt management plan hurt my credit score?

      Over time, a DMP should improve your credit score. There may be a negative impact temporarily as you close some of your older accounts, which reduces your credit history length. However, your credit score should improve over the long run if you make consistent on-time payments and reduce your debt balances.

      How do I know if a debt management company is legit?

      Search for reviews online and see if the government has taken recent legal action against the company. You can also ask the company if it’s a nonprofit entity and if it or its agents are certified by reputable companies like the NACCC.

      How long does a debt management plan take?

      It usually takes no longer than three to five years to complete a DMP. The length will depend on your debt level and the monthly payment you can afford. The more debt you owe or the smaller the monthly payment, the longer the plan will take.

      Is a debt management plan expensive?

      The cost of a DMP will depend on your financial situation and the state in which you live. State law varies but often limits the amount that agencies can charge, typically up to $75 a month. Fees are often waived entirely if you have a financial hardship.

      Methodology

      To make our top picks for best debt management plans, we collected 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 (e.g., medical debt, payday loans, personal loans).
      • Rates and fees: We gave preference to companies with clear rates and easy-to-access information about fees and policies, including money-back guarantees and cancellation policies.
      • Accreditations: Since industry accreditations are crucial to a company’s legitimacy, we only considered companies with at least one professional accreditation, and more weight was given to those companies with more than one.
      • 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, housing and/or student loan counseling, veteran and military debt relief, 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.


      Guide sources
      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. FINRA, " Certified Credit Counselor (CCC) ." Accessed April 10, 2023.
      2. Homeownership Done Right, " National Industry Standards for Homeownership Education and Counseling ." Accessed April 10, 2023.
      3. National Association of Certified Credit Counselors, “ Certification Process .” Accessed April 10, 2023.

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