Is CountryWide Debt Relief legit? April 2019 review | finder.com

CountryWide Debt Relief review

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CountryWide Debt Relief

Enroll as little as $5,000 of unsecured debts in this straight-forward program.

CountryWide Debt Relief offers a debt settlement program with competitive fees, a low minimum amount to qualify and the potential to negotiate your debt down to at least 80% of its original value. But there are a few red flags to watch out for: It doesn’t have the most transparent website, and its customer service team can be difficult to reach.

CountryWide Debt Relief details

  • Free consultation. Yes, by phone after filling out an online form.
  • Costs. Settlement fee of 18% of debt at time of enrollment.
  • Types of debt accepted. Unsecured debts.
  • Services offered. Debt settlement, debt consolidation loans, legal aid.
  • Minimum debt considered. $5,000.
  • Typical turnaround. .
  • Memberships. American Fair Credit Council (AFCC).
  • Ratings. BBB: A+.
  • Direct or third-party negotiations. Direct negotiations for debt settlement program, third-party debt consolidation loans and legal assistance.
  • Free resources or tools. None.
  • Customer service options. Phone.
  • Other details. Fees only apply to debts negotiated to 80% of original value or lower, can connect you with legal services and debt consolidation lenders.

How much does it cost?

It depends on how much debt you enroll. CountryWide charges a flat 18% fee on your enrolled debt at the time you sign up. You don’t pay this fee until it settles your debts. Plus, CountryWide guarantees it can negotiate your debt down to below 80% of its value. If it can’t, you won’t be charged a fee at all.

How does this work? Say you enroll $10,000 of credit card debt. No matter how much your debt accumulates, your fee will always be $1,800 — unless it’s unable to negotiate some of your debts below 80%. In those cases, you won’t be charged a fee — though you’ll still have to find another way to pay off that debt.

How much could I save with CountryWide Debt Relief?

How much you save depends on how much CountryWide is able to negotiate your debt down, how much debt you originally enroll and how much your debt accumulates during your enrollment.

Say you start with $10,000 of enrolled credit card debt with an interest rate of 17%. CountryWide’s able to negotiate all of it down to 50% of the original value over two years. While you were enrolled, your debt would have ballooned to $14,016. You would end up saving $7,008 minus the $1,800 fee for a total savings of $5,280. That’s almost a 50% savings from your original amount.

What are the benefits and drawbacks of CountryWide Debt Relief?

Benefits

  • Flat fee based on debt at time of enrollment. CountryWide Debt Relief charges a flat rate of 18% of your debt at your time of enrollment — not when your debt is settled.
  • May be able to negotiate your debt down. CountryWide may be able to negotiate your debt down to less than 80% of its value. If it can’t, you won’t have to pay its flat fee.
  • Can talk to a counselor in person. If you live in California and are close to one of its branches, you can call and make an appointment to talk to a debt relief counselor in person.

Drawbacks

  • Not fully accredited. While CountryWide is a member of the American Fair Credit Council (AFCC), it doesn’t have accreditation through the International Association of Professional Debt Arbitrators (IAPDA).
  • Not much info on website. CountryWide’s website doesn’t contain clear information about exactly who qualifies for its debt settlement program, how long it takes or how much it typically negotiates your debts down. You’ll need to call customer service to get more details.
  • Spotty customer service. You won’t always get an answer when you call CountryWide Debt Relief.

What’s debt relief accreditation?

Most legit debt relief companies are accredited with the American Fair Credit Council and the International Association of Professional Debt Arbitrators which set and maintain industry standards.

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What exactly is CountryWide Debt Relief?

CountryWide Debt Relief is primarily a debt settlement company — though it’s sometimes referred to as debt consolidation — which negotiates with creditors to reduce your debts in exchange for a one-time payment. It also connects you with debt consolidation lenders and even provides legal assistance if bankruptcy is a better option for you.

CountryWide Debt Relief — like any debt relief company — is not for people who simply want to reduce the amount they owe. You must be able to prove you’re facing serious financial hardship in order to qualify. Qualifying hardships might include losing your job, divorce, death of a spouse or family member or a medical emergency.

What does the Internet say about CountryWide Debt Relief?

Mostly good things. As of December 2018, the Better Business Bureau (BBB) gives CountryWide an A+ rating, though it isn’t accredited. It only has two customer complaints filed against it, despite being in business for a decade. It receives a 5-star rating based on over 40 customer reviews, though some sound suspiciously like they were written by the same person. It doesn’t have a page on Trustpilot, though it gets 4 stars on its Yelp page based on 17 reviews.

Customers were mostly pleased with how much CountryWide was able to settle, the customer service and its flexibility when they needed to make adjustments to the enrollment schedule. Some complained that customer service representatives started to act rudely toward them after they enrolled, but this didn’t appear to be the norm.

Is it safe to use CountryWide Debt Relief?

It’s relatively safe. Its application uses a secure connection and McAfee software to monitor the site for malware, phishing and other attacks. The rest of its site doesn’t always have a secure connection, however.

The fact that it’s not an accredited member of the International Association of Professional Debt Arbitrators (IAPDA) is also worrying. The debt relief industry has a shady history and this trade organization was created to help enforce standards and protect consumers from scams — which are less of a problem than they were a decade ago, but still exist.

With that said, CountryWide Debt Relief does meet most basic standards set by the Federal Trade Commission: It doesn’t guarantee anything or charge fees until at least one of your debts has been settled.

How do I sign up?

You can sign up for CountryWide Debt Relief’s program online by following these steps:

  1. Go to the CountryWide Debt Relief website and click See If You Qualify.
  2. Select the amount of debt you want to enroll and click Continue.
  3. Select how far behind you are on your payments and click Continue.
  4. Select your credit rating and click Continue.
  5. Enter your contact information, select your state and uncheck the box at the bottom if you don’t want CountryWide to contact you just yet. Click See Your Results.

If you’re preapproved, you should get a message telling you to contact CountryWide Debt Relief by calling 800-594-3362 for your free consultation. After discussing your situation, they’ll send you an email with the application and a list of documents you need to provide if they think you’re eligible for the program. Otherwise, they might put you in touch with one of its partners that provides debt consolidation loans or legal services that can help you out through the bankruptcy process.

A representative will call you after you submit your debt settlement application to finalize your payment plan before enrolling your debt.

Step-by-step application with screenshots

I signed up. What happens next?

After you enroll in CountryWide’s debt settlement program, it requires you to stop using credit. This means you shouldn’t sign up for any loans or, more importantly, use your credit cards. You can then expect to go through the follow steps:

  1. Continue to make repayments on your debts. You’re still responsible for monthly repayments until CountryWide comes to an agreement with your creditors.
  2. Start making monthly payments into a third-party account. This will help you save up for your debt settlement fund, based on the payment plan you agreed to before signing up.
  3. CountryWide starts negotiating with your creditors. Your negotiator will present you with a settlement offer from your creditor, asking your permission to withdraw from your settlement fund to pay it off.

CountryWide repeats this process with all of your creditors until the program is complete.

4 tips to make debt settlement a smart financial move

Think debt settlement can help you get your finances back on track? Follow these pointers to make the most of it:

  • Continue making as many repayments as you can. Just because you’re enrolled in debt settlement doesn’t mean you should stop making repayments. The more you’re able to repay, the less your debts will increase while you’re enrolled.
  • Make a budget. Keep track of what you spend and make your monthly payments to your settlement fund — and your creditors — a priority as high as rent, food and other essentials.
  • Contact customer support. If something happens and you aren’t able to afford your payment plan, reach out to customer service by calling 800-594-3362. You’ll likely be able to draw up another plan that better suits your new situation.
  • Have a Plan B. Debt settlement isn’t guaranteed to work — in fact, it usually doesn’t. Be prepared to take other actions, like filing for bankruptcy or applying for a debt consolidation loan.

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Bottom line

CountryWide Debt Relief could be a good resource if you’re facing an extreme financial hardship you weren’t prepared for. It offers relatively competitive rates and more comprehensive services than most other debt relief companies.

If you’re just struggling to repay your bills and not facing bankruptcy, you might want to consider other debt relief options.

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