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Best Debt Settlement Companies

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Debt settlement is a type of debt relief program for consumers who want to reduce the amount of their existing debt that they're required to repay. You may want to consider debt settlement if you've fallen behind on your required debt payments or if you feel overwhelmed by creditors or debt collectors.

The best debt settlement companies offer transparent pricing, have low debt minimums and provide a wide array of financial education resources. A debt settlement company should also be thoroughly knowledgeable of the regulations governing the industry.

There are many risks associated with debt settlement, and it should only be considered as a debt solution after investigating other options, including credit counseling and debt consolidation.

In selecting our top picks, we looked at factors including debt minimums, fees, program lengths and types of debt services. The American Fair Credit Council (AFCC) sets the standards in debt settlement, so looking for a company that holds AFCC membership is a good place to start. Accreditation with the International Association of Professional Debt Arbitrators (IAPDA) is another good sign.

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

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Freedom Debt Relief logoFreedom Debt ReliefCuraDebt logoCuraDebtNew Era Debt Solutions logoNew Era Debt SolutionsNational Debt Relief logoNational Debt ReliefPacific Debt Inc logoPacific Debt IncCountryWide Debt Relief logoCountryWide Debt Relief
# of reviews29,86058950,343543490
Our pick for Low debt minimum Tax debt Variety of debts Additional services Low fees Debt consolidation
Debt minimum $7,500 $5,000 $750 per creditor $10,000 $10,000 $10,000
Program length 24 - 48 months 24 - 48 months Up to 48 months 24 - 48 months 24 - 48 months 24 - 60 months
Enrollment fee 15% - 25% 16% - 25% 14% - 23% 15% - 25% 15% - 25% 25%
Read Reviews Read Reviews Read Reviews Read Reviews Read Reviews Read Reviews
All information accurate as of time of publication.

Compare our top 6 choices for best debt settlement companies

Best for low debt minimum Freedom Debt Relief
  • Debt minimum: $7,500
  • Repayment term: 24 - 48 months
  • Fees: 15% - 25% of enrolled debt

Freedom Debt Relief (FDR) has been in the debt settlement industry for over 15 years and has resolved over $15 billion of debt. Additionally, it is a founding member of the AFCC. The company has an impressive number of experts, too — over 550 certified debt consultants and over 200 debt negotiators.

Freedom Debt Relief will negotiate a minimum of $7,500 in unsecured debts, though that amount varies by state. Unlike some of the other debt settlement companies, Freedom Debt Relief can sometimes help settle business and private student loan debt. This is evaluated on a case-by-case basis.

Clients pay no fees until after they’ve authorized a settlement and have made their first payment as part of that settlement. The fees range from 15% to 25% of your enrolled debt, and your specific fee percentage is determined by the state you live in.

There is an online dashboard that allows you to track your progress at any time. Plus, you can contact customer service seven days a week.

Some aspects of Freedom Debt Relief that we like include:
  • No upfront fees
  • Online progress dashboard
Some things to consider before choosing Freedom Debt Relief include:
  • Fees as high as 25%
  • Not available in all states
The vast majority of ConsumerAffairs reviewers report positive experiences with Freedom Debt Relief, with many noting that the company helped them significantly reduce the debt amounts they owed. “A friend referred me to FDR and I called them. They asked if I was okay with $348 per month and I agreed,” said Ellen from Alpena, Michigan. “Within a few months, they had the first credit card settled for 53% less than what I owed. A few months later, they were able to settle with the second credit card company for 50% less.”

Some reviewers who had negative experiences felt like they didn’t save enough money with Freedom Debt Relief to justify the damage that the debt settlement process did to their credit scores. Others felt that the debt settlement process was dragged out longer than necessary, and some regretted that they didn’t attempt to settle their debts independently.

Best for tax debt CuraDebt
  • Debt minimum: $5,000
  • Repayment term: 24 - 48 months
  • Fees: 16% - 25% of enrolled debt

CuraDebt has been helping customers with credit card debts, personal loan debts, business debts and more since 2000. A special service that CuraDebt offers is tax debt relief. CuraDebt says that its enrolled agents (EAs) can help resolve a wide range of tax debt amounts.

CuraDebt charges a fee that’s a percentage of your enrolled debt, ranging from 16% to 25%. The higher your enrolled debt amount, the lower your fee percentage. Additionally, it does not charge any upfront fees, nor does it charge for its free counseling session.

CuraDebt requires a low debt minimum of only $5,000, though that varies depending on what state you live in. While the company is available in all 50 states for either standard debt relief or tax debt relief, it offers only one or the other in certain states. For example, tax debt relief is not available in Pennsylvania, and standard debt relief is not available in Connecticut, Hawaii, Idaho, Kansas, Louisiana, Maine, Montana, New Hampshire, Nevada, Oregon, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont or West Virginia.

Some of our favorite things about CuraDebt include:
  • Low debt minimum
  • Variety of debt relief services offered
Consider these factors before hiring CuraDebt:
  • Limited services in select states
  • Limited weekend support
Relatively few ConsumerAffairs readers have left reviews of their experience with CuraDebt. But the majority of those that did report on their experience with CuraDebt were impressed by its customer service. Sean from Temecula, California, said: “I received friendly and helpful service. They seemed to have a genuine caring for my situation and helped me understand everything.”

Negative feedback we received about CuraDebt included complaints that the company’s debt settlement process and fee structure were confusing.

Best for variety of debts New Era Debt Solutions
  • Debt minimum: $750 per creditor
  • Repayment term: Up to 48 months
  • Fees: 14% - 23%

New Era Debt Solutions has helped clients settle over $275 million of debt since it was founded in 1999. It offers a free debt analysis and does not charge upfront fees. Fees can range from 14% to 23% of the original debt amount you enrolled in the program. While New Era Debt Solutions is available in most states, it does not operate in Iowa, Maine or Oregon.

New Era Debt Solutions can help clients settle debts from credit cards, department store cards, medical bills, personal loans and private student loans, among other types of unsecured debt. Its clients have historically completed their debt settlement programs in an average of 27.73 months.

Some notable features of New Era Debt Solutions are:
  • Low average program completion time
  • Low debt minimum
Consider these drawbacks before choosing New Era Debt Solutions:
  • Fees not published on site
  • Not available in all states
Some ConsumerAffairs readers reported choosing New Era Debt Solutions because its fees were more affordable than competitors’ fees. Other customers praised the company’s impressive level of knowledge. “Their customer service is outstanding; their fees are very reasonable, collecting only when a debt is settled, and they are beyond knowledgeable,” said Samuel from Little Rock, Arkansas. “They settled all my debts, and now I am debt-free!”

New Era Debt Solutions has received a relatively limited amount of negative feedback on our site. Some customers complained about communication issues with New Era Debt Solutions and noted that the details of its debt settlement programs were unclear to them or difficult to ascertain.

Best for additional services National Debt Relief
  • Debt minimum: $10,000
  • Repayment term: 24 - 48 months
  • Fees: 15% - 25% of enrolled debt

National Debt Relief has helped over 400,000 individuals settle unsecured debt since 2009, including some private student loan and business debt. It can also help with repossessions, collections and medical bills. National Debt Relief claims to have established relationships with over 10,000 creditors. Eligible candidates should have at least $10,000 in unsecured debt.

The company is transparent about how much money a client can save, and clients pay no fees until their debts are settled. The average client can save 50%, but after National Debt Relief’s fee, that amounts to a savings of about 30%. Most clients will see debt relief between 24 and 48 months if they stick with the program.

You can request a free consultation online. There are no upfront costs, and there’s no cancellation fee. National Debt Relief hosts free calculators on its site to help you manage your money, and it also hosts a large library of educational personal finance resources.

Here are a few of our favorite things about National Debt Relief:
  • Works with private student loans and business debts
  • Offers a satisfaction guarantee
  • No upfront fees
Some things we don’t love about National Debt Relief are:
  • Not available in all states
  • Fees as high as 25%
A number of ConsumerAffairs reviewers appreciated that National Debt Relief’s debt coaches were sympathetic, helpful and uplifting. Veronica from Tupelo, Mississippi, said that the National Debt Relief employee she connected with “was very honest and upfront with my situation and found me a plan where I could pay back my debtors in a time frame and with a payment plan I could afford and be able to have money for groceries each month.”

Some of the negative reviews indicated that the debt settlement process took a long time and that it was hard to cancel and recoup funds after debtors decided to leave the program.

Best for low fees Pacific Debt Inc
  • Debt minimum: $10,000
  • Repayment term: 24 - 48 months
  • Fees: 15% - 25% of enrolled debt

Based in San Diego, California, Pacific Debt Relief has settled over $300 million in debt. To qualify, customers must have at least $10,000 of unsecured debt. Payday loan debts and business debts are eligible. It can also settle some student loan debts. Its fee can be as low as 15% of your enrolled debt.

Pacific Debt Relief is available in 29 states and in Washington, D.C. On its website, you can find specific debt collection information and laws for each state.

Pacific Debt Relief is clear that debt settlement is not the right move for everyone and that enrolling in its program can hurt your credit score, send debt accounts into collections and have tax ramifications.

Some reasons to consider Pacific Debt Relief are:
  • No upfront fees
  • Free consultation
  • Can help with some business and student loan debts
Some things to consider include:
  • Not available in every state
  • Relatively weak website navigation
Many ConsumerAffairs reviewers found Pacific Debt Relief’s employees to be accessible, knowledgeable and reassuring. Ls of Brooklyn, New York, loved working with Pacific Debt Relief’s director of client experience and characterized her as being “dedicated and professional, with so much insightful information. … Her communication is precise, consistent and personable!”

While most reviews are positive, some customers felt that the debt settlement process took too long. Others indicated that the settlement process hurt their credit scores more than they’d anticipated.

Best for debt consolidation CountryWide Debt Relief
  • Debt minimum: $10,000
  • Repayment term: 24 - 60 months
  • Fees: 25% of enrolled debt

CountryWide Debt Relief works with debt from credit cards, payday loans, installment loans, medical collections, deficiency balances on auto loans and personal lines of credit. Its programs take 24 to 60 months to complete.

The company charges a fee of 25% of enrolled debt, and it says that dedicated customers who go through the program can expect to save 25% to 30% on their debt after its fee.

Unlike many other debt settlement companies, CountryWide also refers debtors to partner lenders offering debt consolidation loans.

We think that CountryWide Debt Relief has the following notable benefits:
  • No upfront costs
  • Free consultation
  • Online qualification check
Individuals should consider the following before choosing CountryWide Debt Relief:
  • Not available in all states
  • Not accredited through the IAPDA
A number of ConsumerAffairs reviewers felt that CountryWide was able to help them get out of debt and avoid legal issues or harassment from collection agencies. “They had a computer program that told them what the minimum was that I could pay per month and set up an automatic debit out of my account. The program worked for me in handling the legal issues and negotiating for me,” said Carol from Fresno, California.

Some of the comparatively few negative reviews expressed frustration with the amount of time CountryWide took to negotiate with creditors. Other negative reviews complained about communication issues with CountryWide, as well as challenges navigating the company’s website.

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    What is debt settlement?

    Debt settlement is when a creditor agrees to settle a debtor's balance for less than the full amount owed. The debtor makes a lump-sum payment (or several payments) amounting to a portion of their debt owed, and the creditor agrees to forgive the remainder of their debt.

    » READ MORE: Debt settlement vs. bankruptcy

    How does debt settlement work?

    You can attempt to settle your debts independently, or you can hire a debt settlement company to negotiate with your creditors on your behalf. If you’re current on your bills, the debt settlement company will typically advise you to stop paying your creditors, which will theoretically motivate the creditors to settle the debts.

    Instead of paying multiple creditors individually, you’ll make one monthly payment to a savings account set up by the debt settlement company. Your funds can grow in that account until you have a large enough sum to pay off your debts per the terms negotiated by the settlement company. The whole process typically takes 24 to 48 months to complete.

    Debt settlement companies may start by negotiating your smallest debts first while leaving larger debts to accrue interest or late payment fees, so make sure you work with your debt settlement firm to prioritize debts instead of letting the firm choose on its own.

    Your credit score will likely take a hit during this process, and you’ll want to keep that in mind if you plan on taking out a major loan during the repayment period, like a mortgage or auto loan.

    Note that most debt settlement companies will only negotiate unsecured debts, like credit card balances, private student loans or medical bills. It’s important that you understand if your debt is secured or unsecured and whether or not it is eligible for settlement.

    Alternatives to debt settlement companies

    There are several alternatives to using a debt settlement company. Some of the most common ways to resolve debt issues include the following:

    While most people work with a debt settlement company, you can also choose to use a lawyer. Keep in mind that a debt settlement lawyer can bill by the hour, charge a percentage of your total eliminated debt or charge a flat fee per lender. A debt settlement lawyer can act as your personal debt settlement company, negotiating a settlement on your behalf, handling all the paperwork and fielding any phone calls from your lenders.
    It is possible to negotiate your debts on your own by contacting your creditors directly. You will want to come prepared with an explanation of why you need to negotiate your debts and a lump-sum offer. Make sure you’re forthright about why you can’t pay; if creditors believe you’re still financially capable of repaying your debts in full, they’re unlikely to be lenient with you.

    Some creditors offer hardship programs for people who are dealing with tough situations, like unemployment or a severe illness. Hardship plans might consist of lowered interest rates coupled with waived fees. These plans can last anywhere from a few months to a year and may be voided if you miss a payment.

    With debt consolidation, multiple debts can be paid off with one credit product that hopefully has a lower interest rate and better terms than your previous debts. You can consolidate debts through a debt consolidation personal loan, a low APR credit card or even a home equity loan or line of credit.
    Another option you might consider is filing for bankruptcy. While this might seem like the easiest way out of debt, it’s a choice that comes with serious repercussions. You should only file for bankruptcy as a last resort after considering options like debt consolidation or a debt settlement program.

    Bankruptcy can significantly damage your credit score and typically stays on your credit report for seven to 10 years. Bankruptcy cases are a matter of public record, so your current and future employers will be able to see if you filed for bankruptcy.

    » MORE: What is debt collection and how does it work?

    Debt settlement pros and cons

    While debt settlement programs have many benefits, it’s important to understand their drawbacks as well. Make sure to bring up any potential concerns or risks with the debt settlement firm before committing to a settlement plan.


    • Creditors will communicate with the debt settlement company and not with you.
    • Settlement may significantly reduce the debt that you owe.
    • It may help you get out of debt faster.
    • It may help you avoid bankruptcy.


    • Negotiations may take a long time.
    • Your credit score will likely drop initially.
    • Creditors can refuse a proposed settlement.
    • Debt settlement companies charge fees.


    What type of debts can be settled?

    Unsecured debts, like most credit card balances and medical bills, are the most common types of debt involved with settlement agreements. Other types of debt eligible for the debt settlement process include payday loans, private student loans and some business loans.

    How much does debt settlement cost?

    Debt settlement companies usually charge a fee of 15% to 25% of the amount of debt enrolled in their programs, i.e., the amount of debt they attempt to negotiate. It's also important to note that you'll likely incur additional fees and penalty interest rates from your creditors if you stop paying them during the negotiation process.

    How does debt settlement affect your credit score?

    Debt settlement can negatively affect your credit score and leave a negative mark on your credit report for up to seven years. Damage to your credit score may be further exacerbated if you choose to stop making payments to your creditors while a debt settlement company negotiates your debt.

    Is debt settlement a good idea?

    While paying off your debt for a fraction of the amount owed is appealing, keep in mind that debt settlement typically takes a significant toll on your credit. It could take years after debt settlement to rebuild your credit score to the level you need to get a good mortgage or auto loan.

    What percentage of my debt should I offer to settle?

    Depending on how behind you are on payments and how much you owe, your creditor might be open to settling for as little as 40% of your original debt. Negotiate with your creditors to get the most substantial settlement you can, but remember, they’re not obligated to agree to any settlement offer.


    To make our choices for the top debt settlement companies, we collected 25 individual data points from 18 companies, including over 83,000 reviews and overall ratings from ConsumerAffairs readers submitted between 2019 and 2022. We then used this data to examine the factors that have the most impact on borrowers:

    • Debt minimums: Most debt settlement companies require a minimum debt amount to enroll. Those that were transparent and required a lower minimum debt to enroll (for example, $5,000 versus $10,000) were given more consideration for our top picks.
    • Fees: We looked at fee structure, giving higher weight to companies that are transparent about their settlement fees.
    • Types of debts serviced: We gave greater consideration to companies that work with multiple types of debts, including credit card, medical, personal loan, business and tax debts.
    • Availability: We prioritized debt settlement programs that are available in a large number of states.
    • Program completion time: We examined how long it will usually take a debtor to complete a given debt settlement program. Most companies fell into the same range (typically 24 to 48 months), so this was not factored in as much as other variables.
    • Accreditation: Professional accreditation is an important factor to consider when deciding if a debt settlement company is legitimate. We prioritized companies that are accredited by at least one national organization.

    All of our top picks are forthright about their fees, service multiple types of debts, are available in most U.S. states and have relatively low debt minimums. They also have other appealing features, such as satisfaction guarantees, accreditation and accessible customer service.

    Since customer feedback is a critical indicator when evaluating companies, this was an important consideration when selecting our top picks. However, for those companies we considered that do not have ratings on ConsumerAffairs, there were other variables that made them stand out as good options for debt settlement, and we factored those variables into our assessments.

    Before picking a debt settlement company that fits your needs, make sure to do your due diligence to determine if the company is legitimate or potentially a scam. Read customer reviews, browse the company’s website and check if it has any legal actions against it (including for what and how recently). If a company asks you to do anything potentially illegal, don’t work with it. If you are not careful with debt settlement, you could ruin your credit and wind up in a worse financial situation than when you started.

    Not sure how to choose?

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