In this post:
- What Is Credit Counseling?
- Credit Counseling vs. Debt Management Program
- 9 Best Credit Counseling Services
- How To Choose the Right Credit Counseling Service
Credit makes up a significant portion of a person’s overall financial picture. Without a decent credit score or credit history, consumers can find it challenging to request loans, buy a vehicle, or purchase their first home. If you need help with debt management or credit repair, a credit counseling service could offer guidance that gets you back on track.
9 Best Credit Counseling Services in 2023
- InCharge Debt Solutions
- National Foundation for Credit Counseling (NFCC)
- GreenPath Financial Wellness
- Consumer Credit Counseling Service (CCCS)
- Advantage Credit Counseling Service
- American Consumer Credit Counseling (ACCC)
- Cambridge Credit Counseling Corp.
Did you know that a landlord can check your credit report before they decide to let you rent a home? You may also need a credit check before being offered a job or given a new rate for your car insurance. And, lenders and creditors for student loans, private loans, or mortgages will always want to review your credit to look for debt, bankruptcy, and other indicators that you might be a risky borrower.
One of the most beneficial ways to improve your credit is through education, which credit counseling provides. Rather than focus on one aspect of your credit report or ways to boost your income, you can connect with credit counseling agencies that offer a more holistic approach to financial wellness.
What Is Credit Counseling?
Credit counseling can be an effective strategy for improving your financial health. Sometimes, people confuse credit counseling with debt relief, bankruptcy, or other forms of financial services. However, credit counseling is a more well-rounded approach that deals with financial literacy and financial counseling.
When you sign up for credit counseling, a certified credit counselor will connect with you to learn more about your financial struggles, needs, or goals. Then, they can guide you toward a plan that might include debt counseling, debt consolidation, credit growth, and financial education. Each credit counseling agency tailors its plans to its clients, so you’ll always get a personalized plan that fits your financial situation.
Credit counseling can be for more than people seeking a debt relief company or assistance with a negative financial situation. Counseling can be for anyone at any stage of their personal finance journey, whether they’re just beginning to build credit or they’re in the middle stages of their careers and are looking to plan for their futures. When combined with other services, like a credit monitoring service or an investment plan, credit counseling can become a helpful part of an individual’s financial wellness.
Credit Counseling vs. Debt Management Program
Learning how to get out of debt takes time and connections to the right services. Knowing the difference between a debt management program and credit counseling is helpful before choosing a service.
Although credit counseling can include a debt management program, this isn’t always the case. Debt management is more of a standalone service, while credit counseling typically involves multiple financial services provided by a credit counseling agency.
On its own, a debt management program creates a workable strategy for paying off debts. These programs can help you find a monthly payment that fits your budget to pay the debt as quickly and efficiently as possible. Using this plan, you may be able to avoid debt collection and negative marks on your credit report.
Credit counseling often includes a debt management plan, but it also usually includes budgeting, strategies for increasing income or lowering expenses, tips for reducing interest rates on loans or credit cards, and other aspects of personal finance.
If debt settlement or management is your ultimate goal, starting with a credit counseling service could be a good way to get there. Credit counseling can not only devise a debt management plan, but it will also help you understand your full financial picture to help you make wise financial decisions in the future.
9 Best Credit Counseling Services
The following credit counseling services are a few of the best to consider regarding affordability, services, and effective help.
Anyone can begin their credit counseling with Apprisen using the online Iris tool, which is a virtual credit counselor you can access at any time. Answer the questions Iris asks, and you’ll find out what solutions might best fit your financial situation. A financial specialist will look over your answers to offer your in-depth analysis. It’s 100% free and secure.
After learning what Iris recommends, you can decide what services you’d like to pursue, such as bankruptcy counseling, financial education, housing counseling, financial coaching, or a debt management plan. A unique service Apprisen offers is Propel, a monthly subscription program that enhances your overall financial wellness. Work toward each financial goal you have while Propel gives you an annual financial check-up, personalized recommendations, and on-demand financial coaching.
DebtWave Credit Counseling, Inc., more commonly known as DebtWave, has helped consumers reach financial health since 2001. In addition to its various free online resources to help you pay off loans, brush up on financial literacy, and find out your debt-to-income ratio, DebtWave has paid financial wellness services tailored to each client.
For its debt management program, you’ll typically pay an upfront fee and monthly administration fee that covers DebtWave’s services, like contacting creditors and reconfiguring your plan as needed.
Pre-bankruptcy and post-bankruptcy counseling are also popular DebtWave services designed to make the bankruptcy process as smooth as possible for those who need to use it.
3. InCharge Debt Solutions
With InCharge Debt Solutions, consumers can understand more about their debt and how to climb out of it. The company’s services include debt management plans, credit counseling, foreclosure prevention counseling, and student loan debt counseling.
Some credit counseling services with InCharge Debt Solutions are free. However, the company states that some services incur fees, like its debt management program. Consumers with a debt management plan through InCharge Debt Solutions pay $33/month, on average, and a $75 setup fee.
Anyone looking for credit counseling can start for free. The company will complete a soft pull of your credit report to understand your debt history and offer custom solutions that fit your situation best.
4. National Foundation for Credit Counseling (NFCC)
The National Foundation for Credit Counseling (NFCC) is an agency specializing in financial counseling. It also contracts with other financial wellness and counseling agencies, like GreenPath Financial Wellness and the Consumer Credit Counseling Service, to certify credit counselors and programs.
NFCC Certified Financial Counselors work with each client to provide customized solutions for their unique financial needs. For instance, some credit counselors are experts in offering faith-based credit counseling for clients rooted in their religions. Self-employed individuals can also get help through the NFCC with its small business financial consulting services.
Clients working with the NFCC can expect various fees for its different services. Debt management plans include an initial setup fee of up to $50 and ongoing monthly fees of about $50. However, some clients may qualify for a waiver based on their financial needs.
5. GreenPath Financial Wellness
GreenPath Financial Wellness includes some of the most comprehensive financial services to get you on track with your credit, debt, housing, and more. GreenPath uses NFCC-certified counselors that can assist you as you make financial decisions that affect your present and future.
Start by taking the quick online assessment that gauges where you stand with your debt and what services might help. Then, connect with a credit counselor who specializes in your unique situation, like foreclosure prevention, bankruptcy support, or debt management.
Although credit counseling sessions don’t cost anything, GreenPath does charge fees based on the type of services you use. For example, pre-purchase counseling for homebuyers costs $150, while debt management plans cost up to $50 initially and up to $75/month thereafter for continued maintenance and services.
6. Consumer Credit Counseling Service (CCCS)
The Consumer Credit Counseling Service (CCCS) is a part of the National Foundation for Credit Counseling (NFCC). The nonprofit credit counseling service includes separate agencies, some of which operate under the NFCC and some of which are their own separate entities.
Each CCCS agency provides a range of services for those seeking financial education and credit counseling. On its website, consumers can find personal finance classes in different subject areas, like budgeting and planning each paycheck. The free classes include quizzes and videos.
Consumers can also connect to financial coaches to help them with more personalized issues, like creating a debt management plan or saving to buy a house. CCCS also coaches renters to teach them about Fair Housing laws, budgeting, and how much they can reasonably afford in monthly rent.
7. Advantage Credit Counseling Service
Advantage Credit Counseling Service offers completely free, nonprofit online counseling for consumers who would like extra guidance with their financial situation. You can learn more about finding the right debt management plan to reach your financial goals by clicking the “Get Started” button and navigating through the online financial tool.
The web-based tool walks you through each step to learn more about your financial situation and needs to develop a customized plan for budgeting and debt relief. This service is ideal for people who have the motivation to take control of their finances and debt without the help of a credit counselor.
However, you can also opt for credit counseling by phone or in person with a certified credit counselor. Either option is also free. Credit counselors are available 24/7 to help you whenever you need it.
8. American Consumer Credit Counseling (ACCC)
American Consumer Credit Counseling (ACCC) provides a full range of services for consumer credit. Individuals can start with a credit counseling session with a credit specialist to determine specific needs and potential solutions. The initial consultation is free. After ACCC outlines your personalized plan, it will let you know if any services require you to pay a fee. For example, its debt management program is a paid service that asks for a monthly fee of $7, and student loan counseling can cost up to $199, depending on the service you choose.
ACCC does much more than debt consolidation or payoff plans. You can also reach out to the company for budgeting advice, housing counseling, and bankruptcy counseling. Or have ACCC help you contact creditors to negotiate interest rates or payment plans on your behalf. ACCC is available throughout the week and some hours on weekends for its services.
9. Cambridge Credit Counseling Corp.
Use Cambridge Credit Counseling Corp. for nonprofit credit counseling to help you manage debt and be on your way to a brighter financial future. This company prioritizes debt relief through lowered interest rates and smart payment plans for loan and credit card debt that can help you pay off debt faster and more affordably.
Fill out the website form to speak with a credit counselor and learn what services might be best for your financial situation and goals. In addition to debt management, Cambridge Credit Counseling Corp. provides housing counseling, foreclosure intervention, bankruptcy counseling, and student loan counseling to consumers. You can also access free resources, guides, and financial tools on the website as you begin your financial wellness journey.
How To Choose the Right Credit Counseling Service
The best credit counseling services included on this list are vetted agencies with established histories and trustworthy testimonials. Still, one company won’t be the best solution for everyone, so it’s crucial to do some research to find the right option for yourself.
First, look at the included services to determine whether an agency offers what you need. Then, contact the company to learn more about its fees. Be sure to ask about initial fees and any monthly fees, if applicable.
You can also vet companies by asking if they’re certified to provide financial help in your state and requesting information about their counselors’ credentials.
There are certain laws in place to protect you. Financial service companies are required to disclose their fees and fine print before you sign up for any credit counseling or debt management services. By law, they also cannot require you to pay a fee before you’ve agreed to the debt management plan and you’ve made at least one payment to your debt collector under the terms of your payment agreement.
Use the free consultation that most companies provide to compare companies and services, but be careful about agreeing to anything over the phone or without a contract in place.