8 Best Credit Counseling Services and Agencies

America has a debt problem. The average American has over $90,000 in debt, and many Americans are buried in high-interest credit card debt that seems to grow faster than they can pay it off. Many desperate people resort to payday loans or other high-interest loans and sink even deeper into the debt trap. Credit counseling can be a step out of that trap.

At a Glance: Best Credit Counseling Services

Best for…Nonprofit?BBB ratingAccreditation
Consolidated CreditExperienceYesA+FCAA
Money Management InternationalNo minimum debt requirementYesA+NFCC
InCharge Debt Solutions96% customer satisfactionYesA+NFCC
Cambridge Credit CounselingExtensive resourcesYesA+NFCC and FCAA
American Consumer Credit CounselingOffering services in all 50 statesYesA+NFCC
GreenPath Financial WellnessVirtual consultationsYesA+NFCC
DebtWave Credit CounselingSpecializationYesA+None disclosed

Disclosure: The counselors we rate are national in scope and deliver their services online, by phone or at physical offices in some locations. It’s also worth considering local services in your area because bigger doesn’t always mean better. Online searches or local directories will point you toward local counseling services if you prefer to go local.

To learn more about each one, read on.

Featured Alternative: DebtHammer

Our Top Pick for Help With Debt
  • Can help with many types of debt, including payday and credit card
  • Extremely transparent process, no shadiness
  • Friendly and helpful customer support – no judgment

The Best Consumer Credit Counseling Services

Reputable credit counseling services will be accredited by the National Foundation for Credit Counseling (NFCC) or the Financial Counseling Association of America (FCAA). Not all of their services will be free, but they offer a free initial counseling session and never pressure you to take on a paid service.

Pro tip: Many nonprofit credit counseling organizations are subsidized by credit card companies. This means their programs are usually designed favor those same companies. You’ll repay your credit card debt in full and credit counseling won’t be particularly effective if you have other types of debt, like student loans or personal loans. But if most of your debt is credit card debt, this can be a low-cost and effective way to end up debt-free.

READ MORE: Debt management vs. debt settlement

Here are our top picks:

Best for Experience: Consolidated Credit

Is it a nonprofit? Yes
Is it BBB-accredited? Yes, with an A+ Rating

  • BBB: 4.92/5
  • Trustpilot: 4.7/5

Consolidated Credit is based in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., providing services nationwide. They are members of the FCAA and a HUD-approved housing counseling provider. They have been in business for 28 years and claim to have worked with over 10.2 million clients.

Consolidated Credit is heavily engaged in financial education, much of it offered free of charge. They have partnered with over 500 government agencies, municipal groups, and government agencies to provide financial education resources to those in underserved or financially challenged communities. They also work with schools to provide financial education to young people.

READ MORE: Consolidated Credit review

Best for No Minimum Debt Requirement: Money Management International

Is it a nonprofit? Yes
Is it BBB-accredited? Yes, with an A+ Rating

  • BBB: 4.9/5
  • Trustpilot: 4.6/5

Money Management International (MMI) is a nonprofit counseling service based in Stafford, Texas. They have been in business since 1958, making them one of the oldest credit counseling firms in the country. They are an NFCC member and a HUD-approved provider of housing counseling services.

MMI has offices in 25 states. Counselors are available 24/7 to serve clients anywhere in the country by phone or online.

Best for Customer Satisfaction: InCharge Debt Solutions

Is it a nonprofit? Yes
Is it BBB-accredited? Yes, with an A+ Rating

  • BBB: 3.15/5
  • Trustpilot: 4.7/5

InCharge Debt Solutions is a nonprofit credit counseling service based in Orlando, Fla. They provide credit counseling and financial education nationwide by telephone and online. They provide financial education services to U.S. service members through the InCharge Education Foundation. InCharge Debt Solutions is a NFCC member and accredited by the Council on Accreditation.

InCharge offers a range of credit counseling, education, and financial management solutions. Your initial consultation will be a free financial review to help you identify your problems and select further services.

Best for Extensive Resources: Cambridge Credit Counseling

Is it a nonprofit? Yes
Is it BBB-accredited? Yes, with an A+ Rating

  • BBB: 4/5
  • Trustpilot: 4.9/5

Cambridge Credit Counseling is a nonprofit credit counseling company based in Agawam, Mass. They provide services nationwide by telephone. They are a member of both NFCC and FCAA and provide HUD-approved housing counseling services. The company has been in business for 25 years.

Cambridge works with various financial issues and provides extensive financial literacy resources, including regular publications for children, young people, and adults.

All Cambridge counselors are fully certified by independent third parties and have an average of 14 years of experience. They are available for free initial consultations to help you clarify your issues and needs and decide the best approach for your financial problems.

Best for Offering Service in All 50 States: American Consumer Credit Counseling

Is it a nonprofit? Yes
Is it BBB-accredited? Yes, with an A+ Rating

  • BBB: 4.97/5
  • Trust Pilot: N/A

American Consumer Credit Counseling (ACCC) is an NFCC-member nonprofit credit counseling group based in Auburndale, Mass., and offer nationwide financial planning and management services. Their website also offers a complete range of financial education resources, covering budgeting and college planning to identity theft and tax debt.

ACCC complies with all state regulations and licensing requirements and provides services in all 50 states. They have offices in Massachusetts, California, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Texas and provide services by phone and online anywhere in the USA. Offices are open for in-person sessions, but masks and appointments may be required.

READ MORE: American Consumer Credit Counseling review

Best for Automation: Apprisen

Is it a nonprofit? Yes
Is it BBB-accredited? Yes, with an A+ Rating

  • BBB: 4.87/5
  • Trustpilot: N/A

Apprisen was founded in 1955 as The Economy Budget Service Company, the first credit counseling service in the U.S. They adopted the name Apprisen in 2009 as they expanded beyond their base in Ohio to provide nationwide service. They provide phone-based and online services to clients anywhere in the U.S.

Apprisen takes a somewhat different approach to an initial consultation. You can submit your information to an automated system called IRIS, and within 24 hours, you’ll receive a personalized action plan developed by an NFCC-accredited financial specialist. You can also choose a traditional free financial review session. Apprisen is a HUD-approved housing counseling provider.

Best for Virtual Consultations: GreenPath Financial Wellness

Is it a nonprofit? Yes
Is it BBB-accredited? Yes, with an A+ Rating

  • BBB: 2.64/5
  • Trustpilot: 3.7/5

GreenPath Financial Wellness is a national nonprofit in business for over 60 years. Counselors are NFCC accredited. The company is based in Farmington Hills, Mich., but has over 50 offices nationwide. Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, all services have been offered by phone or online.

GreenPath offers a free initial consultation. This will help you clarify your needs and decide which ongoing services, if any, will help you most. GreenPath offers a full range of financial counseling services.

Best for Specialization: DebtWave Credit Counseling

Is it a nonprofit? Yes
Is it BBB-accredited? Yes, with an A+ Rating

  • BBB: 4.98/5
  • Trustpilot: N/A

DebtWave is a San Diego-based provider of credit counseling services. They state that their counselors are certified through the Center for Financial Certification, but their website does not mention NFCC or FCAA membership or accreditation. They are licensed to provide credit counseling services in 46 states and Washington D.C. They cannot serve residents of Idaho, Kansas, Maryland or New York.

DebtWave offers a narrower set of services than some providers. They focus on helping consumers get out of debt and gain the financial knowledge they need to stay out of debt and manage their finances effectively. This may not be the service you need if your situation requires housing counseling or other specialized services.

Tips for Choosing a Credit Counseling Agency

Here’s what to look for in a credit counseling service:

  • It should be nonprofit: Most reputable credit counseling services are registered nonprofit organizations. If you aren’t sure, ask.
  • It should be accredited: Look for NFCC or FCAA membership.
  • It should provide a free initial session: Reputable credit counselors should provide you with an initial consultation at no charge.
  • Find a certified credit counselor: There are countless ways to qualify for certification, so be sure to ask for credentials and research the credit counseling organization offering the certification.
  • There should be no sales pressure: Look elsewhere if a counselor pressures you to take on a paid service. Reputable counselors may recommend a paid service, but they will explain it clearly and be sure it’s your free choice.

Run internet searches on the agency and check prospective organizations with your state attorney general and local consumer protection agency. Check the Better Business Bureau page and search for complaints. Having zero complaints does not guarantee a legitimate service; even good services may have some complaints.

READ MORE: What you need to know about credit counseling

What Services Do Credit Counseling Agencies Provide?

Credit counseling agencies provide a range of services. The most basic is the credit counseling session. A trained counselor will review your financial situation, discuss your needs and goals, and recommend steps that you can take to achieve your goals This session is typically provided free of charge.

Most credit counseling services provide other services as well. Your counselor may recommend one or more of these. NFCC and FCAA member agencies typically provide these services:

  • Debt Management Plans
  • Debt counseling
  • Student loan counseling
  • Financial coaching for small business owners
  • Educational materials
  • Credit report reviews and how to improve your credit score
  • Homeownership counseling
  • Reverse mortgage counseling
  • Foreclosure prevention
  • Bankruptcy counseling

Pro tip: A Debt Management Plan (DMP) is set up and managed by your credit counselor after a thorough review of your finances. You make a monthly payment to the counselor, and they will create a repayment plan to ensure your creditors get paid. In exchange for establishing and setting up the debt management program, you’ll pay a monthly fee ranging from $25 to $75 per month.

Some of these services may be required in some situations: for example, bankruptcy counseling is mandatory if you are filing for bankruptcy.

READ MORE: How to build credit

Credit Counseling Fees

Credit counseling — the initial service provided by credit counseling agencies — should always be free. Additional services, including debt management programs, may have costs.

Debt Management Plans (DMPs) will have an initial and ongoing monthly fee. These fees may vary with your situation and debt load. The initial fee will typically be less than $50. Monthly fees may range up to $79 but are often less.

Bankruptcy, housing, and student loan counseling fees may vary.

A reputable credit counseling agency will disclose all fees upfront, so if you want to know what a specific agency charges for a given service, ask.

Pro tip: Always be careful when looking for a consumer credit counseling service (sometimes called a CCCS). May are legitimate and professional, others may be fronts for credit repair scams. Check the company’s reputation, and don’t let yourself be pressured into any service.

READ MORE: How to deal with debt collectors

Other Questions to Ask

It’s important to ask questions before committing yourself to work with a credit counseling agency.

  • What services do you offer?
  • Are educational materials available for free? Avoid organizations that charge for basic information.
  • Will you help me develop a plan for avoiding problems in the future?
  • What are your fees? Get a quote in writing.
  • What if I can’t afford to pay your fees?
  • Can you help me fix my credit score?
  • Will I have a written agreement or contract?
  • Are you licensed to offer your services in my state?
  • What are your counselors’ qualifications?
  • How are your employees paid? (commission or salary)
  • What are your completion rates for Debt Management Plans?

A reputable credit counselor should be able to answer these questions directly and without hesitation.

READ MORE: Need money now? 40+ ways to get some quick cash

Other Debt Relief Options

Credit counseling and debt management plans are not the only way to get out of debt. You can do much of the same work yourself; there are other methods for addressing a serious debt problem.

Here are some other options you can try:

  • Hire a debt settlement company: Debt settlement companies negotiate with creditors to reduce the amount you owe. They will not just try to get better terms; they will try to get the creditor to settle for less than the original debt. They will typically charge a percentage of the reduction they achieve in your debt loan.

READ MORE: Best debt settlement companies

  • Try DIY debt settlement: You can negotiate with your creditors directly, and you may get better terms. Be aware that unless you are a skilled and experienced negotiator, achieving the same results as a professional counselor supported by a reputable institution will be difficult.

READ MORE: Is debt settlement the fastest way to get out of debt?

  • Debt consolidation: This involves getting a new loan and using it to pay off your other debts, leaving you with one monthly payment.

READ MORE: Best debt consolidation companies

  • File for bankruptcy: Bankruptcy is a solution if you owe more than you could ever possibly pay back. It’s the last option you want to consider, but in some cases, it’s the only option that makes sense. A free credit counseling session can help you decide whether bankruptcy is the right option for you. You could also consult with a bankruptcy attorney.

READ MORE: Bankruptcy

The Bottom Line

If your debts are causing you severe stress, it’s worth talking to a credit counselor. If you are worried that your debts might cause you serious stress, it’s worth talking to a credit counselor. The earlier you start, the better!

Remember that your first session will be free, and there is no obligation to take on any further services. There’s nothing to lose: you get free professional advice, and everything else is optional.

You may or may not decide to start a debt management plan or take on any other service offered by a credit counseling agency. Still, it’s at least worth considering a session with one of the best credit counseling services if you’re experiencing financial difficulty.

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