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Cambridge Credit Counseling debt relief review

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This nonprofit focuses on keeping you out of debt — but fees may be steep.

Cambridge Credit Counseling aims to educate the public on overcoming debt through credit counseling and financial resources. Its debt management services can help you consolidate loans and get started on a single-payment path to financial freedom.

Cambridge Credit Counseling details

  • Free consultation. Schedule appointment online
  • Costs. Average $40 startup and $25.22 monthly
  • Types of debt accepted. Unsecured
  • Services offered. Credit counseling, debt consolidation, debt management, housing counseling, reverse mortgage counseling, foreclosure intervention, student loan counseling and bankruptcy counseling
  • Minimum debt considered. None
  • Typical turnaround. 48 months
  • Ratings, accreditation and memberships. A+ BBB rating, 9.1 Trustpilot rating; FCAA
  • Direct or third-party negotiations. Direct
  • Service limitations. Not available in Virginia, Wisconsin and Minnesota
  • Free resources or tools. Financial education articles and videos, quarterly newsletter, budgeting worksheets
  • Customer service options. Phone, email
  • Other details. Nonprofit since 1996 and DHUD–approved

How much does it cost?

Most Cambridge debt management plans cost an average of $40 to get started, with a $75 cap on how much you’re charged. Average monthly fees are about $25 and are capped at $50. And it doesn’t impose a minimum for the debts it takes on.

But while fees may not sound high on paper, they could be too steep for what you owe. Calculated over the average four to five years you’ll be on a plan, you might end up paying $2,400 to $3,000 for Cambridge’s help. If you owe only $3,000 to begin with, you may find it’s not worth the cost.

How much can I save with Cambridge Credit Counseling?

Cambridge claims the average client on a debt management plan can save 25% on their monthly credit card payments — with a 64% reduction in interest rates — resulting in savings of about $142 a month. Most clients are free of debt in four to five years.

What you save ultimately depends on how much debt you carry, the types of debt you owe and your personal circumstances.

What are the pros and cons of Cambridge Credit Counseling?

Pros

  • Easy account access. Track your debt progress, view payment disbursements and print detailed payment reports from your online account.
  • Comprehensive help. Stay on the right path with financial education, including help with a realistic budget and accessible goals for the future.
  • Work with a nonprofit. Cambridge is generally trusted throughout the industry as an honest financial educator that’s not only interested in profits.

Cons

  • You must close your accounts. You won’t have access to credit cards and other unsecured debt enrolled in the program, which could limit your financial flexibility in an emergency.
  • Limited availability. If you live in Wisconsin, Minnesota or Virginia, you’ll need to find another service.
  • Only one physical office. With only one office in Massachusetts, your opportunity for in-person counseling is limited, leaving you to phone or email.

What is Cambridge Credit Counseling?

Established in 1996, Cambridge Credit Counseling is a nonprofit credit and housing counseling agency focused on helping clients get out of debt and stay out. It prides itself on being a one-stop shop for financial education beyond just debt management plans — including budgeting help, investing strategy and retirement planning.

What does the Internet say about Cambridge Credit Counseling?

Customer reviews of Cambridge Credit Counseling are generally positive as of January 2019. Most people say they were able to get out of debt, even if it took a few years to get there.

It earns an A+ rating from the Better Business Bureau (BBB), with 79% of people calling it “excellent” and only 2% choosing “poor” or “bad.” On Trustpilot — where it has a 9.1 rating out of 10 — Cambridge’s customer service team has taken the time to reply to every negative review, listing facts behind why a specific client didn’t find success with their plan.

Most complaints focus on confusing communication. One reviewer claimed they never received a call from Cambridge, and another appeared to not understand the details of their plan.

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Before you sign up with a debt relief company

Debt relief companies typically charge a percentage of a customer’s debt or a monthly program fee for their services. And they aren’t always transparent about these costs or drawbacks that can negatively affect your credit score. You might pay other fees for third-party settlement services or setting up new accounts, which can leave you in a worse situation than when you signed up.

Consider alternatives before signing up with a debt relief company:

  • Payment extensions. Companies you owe may be willing to extend your payment due date or put you on a longer payment plan if you ask.
  • Nonprofit credit counseling. Look for free debt-management help from nonprofit organizations like the National Foundation for Credit Counseling.
  • Debt settlement. If you can manage to pay a portion of the bill, offer the collection agency a one-time payment as a settlement. Collection agencies are often willing to accept a lower payment on your debt to close the account.

Is it safe to use Cambridge Credit Counseling?

Cambridge is approved by the IRS as a charitable organization, which implies a mission to do good. And it adheres to strict rules of operation as a creditor agency of the Association of Independent Consumer Credit Agencies (AICCA), employing only fully certified counselors for your case.

It’s also registered as an ISO 9001 organization, adhering to worldwide quality standards for its services.

How do I get started?

Schedule a free consultation with a certified counselor by completing a short form on Cambridge’s site and clicking Get help now.

You’ll need to enter:

  • Your name, phone number and ZIP code
  • How you heard about Cambridge

A Cambridge certified counselor will reach out by the next business day. They’ll take a look at your income, monthly expenses and debt to determine if you’re a good candidate for debt management services.

To schedule an appointment by phone, call 800-235-1407.

I’ve signed up. What’s next?

Cambridge Credit Counseling claims that it recommends a debt management plan only if a certified credit counselor assesses your unsecured debt and determines it’s in your best interest. If they give you the green light, here’s what to expect:

    1. Pay the appropriate startup fee.
    2. Cambridge begins contacting your creditors to negotiate a settlement arrangement, including lower interest rates.
    3. After all parties agree to the plan, Cambridge closes your individual accounts.
      You begin your monthly payments to Cambridge Credit Counseling, which Cambridge distributes to your creditors.
    4. After your plan is successfully completed — generally within four to five years — you’re free of your debts and can focus on future financial health.

Contact customer service at clientservices@cambridgecredit.org with any questions along the way.

Tips to make the program a smart move financially

If you’re serious about staying out of debt, take these three steps to help ensure long-term success:

      • Prepare for the long haul. A debt management plan isn’t a quick fix for financial difficulties.Work with your counselor to create a budget, and stick to it avoid missing a monthly payment.
      • Close your cards. If you have an account that isn’t closed by Cambridge, consider putting it on ice. Taking on more debt will only make things harder to stay debt free.
      • Be a lifelong learner. Most people aren’t taught about personal finance in school, making it essential for you to take control of your own financial education.

Bottom line

If it feels like a black cloud of debt hangs over your future, a service like Cambridge Credit Counseling might help you find the light. A debt management plan can potentially save you 25% on monthly payments and cut interest rates in half, as long as you’re prepared to do it all through online and phone communication.

If you like the option of working with an in-house counselor, look for an alternative in our guide to debt relief companies.

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