Where to get free help to manage debt in 2019 | finder.com
Man talking with a financial counselor

Where to get free help to manage debt

We value our editorial independence, basing our comparison results, content and reviews on objective analysis without bias. But we may receive compensation when you click links on our site. Learn more about how we make money from our partners.

Free credit counseling is available — but it might not be enough for serious debt.

If you need help figuring out how to manage your debt, a credit counseling service can help. But if you have more debt than you can afford to pay, you might be better off signing up for a consultation with a professional debt management company.

How does debt management work?

It depends on how much debt you’re in, how much you can afford to pay and how much help you need. Debt management can include setting up realistic payment plans, personal finance counseling, renegotiating interest rates, debt consolidation loans, balance transfer cards and debt settlement.

Debt management also includes curbing unnecessary expenses and borrowing and revising your budget so you can meet your financial obligations.

Freeing yourself from debt – for free

Here are a few resources that offer free financial counseling:

National Foundation for Credit Counseling (NFCC)

Founded in 1951, this nonprofit offers several different services for debt relief, and you can take advantage of a handful of free tools:

  • Consultations. NFCC offers a free first-time free consultation on how to get your finances back under control. You can schedule an appointment online or call and speak to a representative at 1-800-388-2227.
  • Videos. Learn about money management when it comes to credit or buying a house in a series of 101 videos.
  • Budget planner. Use the online budget planner combined with one of the budget calculators to craft and track a realistic budget.
  • Not all services are free — call and speak with a counselor before signing up for anything online.

Credit.org

Credit.org, a nonprofit website, has been educating Americans on debt management since 1974. They offer online education as well as personal finance coaching. It can offer:

  • Consultations. Credit counseling over the phone or in person is free. Call at 1-800-431-8157 to speak to representative or head over to the website.
  • Information. Free webinars, classes and articles are available on the site.
  • Not all services are free — call and speak with a counselor before signing up for anything online.

Are these services really free?

Yes — to an extent. Both NFCC and Credit.org are nonprofits whose aims are to improve the financial lives of those in need of assistance. While both offer free online educational tools and resources, if you want to meet with a credit counselor you may have to pay a charge. Some nonprofits offer in-person classes or schedule one-on-one sessions for free while others may offer these services at a small charge.

Debt relief options based on income and credit score

Debt-free for a fee

If you’re in a lot of debt and advice alone isn’t enough to get you out, consider using a debt settlement company to help you negotiate with your creditors. Some companies will offer a free consultation to help you decide if debt settlement is right for you, including:

National Debt Relief

This accredited company offers debt settlement services with direct negotiations. It typically charges between 18% and 25% of your enrolled debt, but you could stand to save more if you’re consolidating a large amount. You must have at least $7,500 in debt to qualify.

  • Debt settlement can have a severe negative impact on your credit. Talk to a credit counselor before signing up.

Read our review of National Debt Relief

Freedom Debt Relief

This accredited company works to relieve you of unmanageable debt by enrolling you in a debt settlement program. You’ll pay a monthly fee for the service and could save between 15% and 35% depending on the debt enrolled. You must have at least $15,000 in unsecured debt and live in an eligible state to qualify.

  • Debt settlement can have a severe negative impact on your credit. Talk to a credit counselor before signing up.

Read our review of Freedom Debt Relief

How to spot a scam

Not all debt relief companies have your best interests at heart. Stay safe by working with a company accredited by the American Fair Credit Council or the International Association of Professional Debt Arbitrators.

Be aware that a reputable company will never ask for payment up front or advertise impossible or inflated claims, like instant results or debt settlement that won’t damage your credit score.

Compare top debt relief providers

Updated April 22nd, 2019
Name Product Costs Requirements
Monthly payment based on enrolled debt, no upfront fees
Must have at least $7,500 in unsecured debt and live in a serviced state.
Freedom Debt Relief is a debt settlement company that works to help people with unmanageable, unsecured debt get back on their feet.
18–25% of total enrolled debt
Must have a legitimate financial hardship which is preventing the ability to pay creditors and a minimum of $7,500 in debt.
Get back on your feet with a top-rated debt relief company that works with multiple types of debt.
Fees regulated by client's state of residence, can range from
$0 to $69 with an average monthly fee of $35. No upfront or contingency fees.
Debt must not be payday loans or secured loans.
This debt settlement alternative can help you find a path to financial freedom.
20% of enrolled debt or less, no upfront fees.
Must have verifiable income and more than $10,000 in unsecured debt or tax debt — excluding payday loans.
This company claims to significantly reduce your consumer and tax debt.
Charges and fees vary by the company you're ultimately connected with
Must be at least 18 years old and a legal US resident; additional terms may apply based on services and products used.
This A+ BBB-rated service offers free consultations to lower your monthly payments help you get out of debt faster.

Compare up to 4 providers

Should I use a free or paid service?

Consider a free service if …

  • You’re on top of your payments and just want a little help to speed up the process
  • You want to learn more about credit options and building credit but aren’t ready for a full debt settlement plan
  • You’re looking for personalized advice on managing your finances

Consider a paid service if …

  • You have over $10,000 in debt from various sources and want to consolidate them quickly
  • You’ve experienced financial hardship and are having trouble getting back on track on your own
  • You want someone to negotiate with creditors on your behalf to lower your balances

Bottom line

Nonprofits offer free, accessible and legitimate expert advice on managing finances and debt. If you need more help, paid services like debt relief companies are available for those who want to get out of debt more quickly and have their balances negotiated by a professional.

Frequently asked questions

Image: Shutterstock

Was this content helpful to you? No  Yes

Ask an Expert

You are about to post a question on finder.com:

  • Do not enter personal information (eg. surname, phone number, bank details) as your question will be made public
  • finder.com is a financial comparison and information service, not a bank or product provider
  • We cannot provide you with personal advice or recommendations
  • Your answer might already be waiting – check previous questions below to see if yours has already been asked

Finder.com provides guides and information on a range of products and services. Because our content is not financial advice, we suggest talking with a professional before you make any decision.

By submitting your comment or question, you agree to our Privacy and Cookies Policy and Terms of Use.

Questions and responses on finder.com are not provided, paid for or otherwise endorsed by any bank or brand. These banks and brands are not responsible for ensuring that comments are answered or accurate.
Go to site