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Where to get free help to manage debt

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.

Freeing resources to help manage debt

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., 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 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.

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.

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

Name Product Costs Requirements
Accredited Debt Relief
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.
National Debt Relief
15–25% 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 company that works with multiple types of debt.
Freedom Debt Relief
Monthly payment based on enrolled debt, no upfront fees
Must have at least $7,500 in unsecured debt, have a hardship is preventing the ability to pay creditors, and live in a serviced state.
Freedom Debt Relief works to help people with unmanageable, unsecured debt get back on their feet.

Compare up to 4 providers

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 not all companies are transparent about these costs or drawbacks that can negatively affect your credit score. Depending on the company you work with, 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.

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.

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