Free advice from credit counseling agencies is available. Several different organizations, all of which are non-profits, operate across the country. A number of agencies operate regionally as well. They provide a number of low cost or free debt reduction programs, offer ways to improve credit scores, can advise on filing for bankruptcy, offer budgeting services, and in general provide information on ways to gain control of your bills. Find a listing of non-profit credit counseling agencies.
Finally, if you do want to proceed with a debt settlement program I would always advise using somebody local or a debt settlement attorney who can help you in a similar fashion as National Debt Relief and likely save you on fees associated with the settling of your debts without the worry of thinking about whether you are being taken advantage of as attorneys are regulated by their states bar association and are subject to rules of professional conduct in order to maintain their bar license.  Additionally a local attorney can take creditor calls and assist with defending a debt collection lawsuit and settling the case prior to any judgment as part of services offered.

Avoid high monthly fees. Most debt management plans charge a nominal monthly fee to cover the administrative expenses. Depending on the number of creditors you have, the monthly fee may vary, but it generally should be between $2-5 per creditor or, at most, not more than $50 per month.[7] Make sure the agency doesn't charge any other maintenance fees (i.e. an annual fee) in addition to monthly fees.


Negotiating a debt relief plan. Trying to work with creditors should come first before bankruptcy. Let the lenders know you aren't able to pay your bills and are thinking about filing for bankruptcy protection unless they're willing to work with you. The creditors may allow you to repay a portion of your debt -- either in a lump sum or over time -- and forgive the rest. 
Debt settlement sounds like a sexy option to consolidate debt. Who wouldn’t want to pay half of what you owe on credit card debt? But this is considered a desperation measure for a reason. The ads boasting that settlement companies like National Debt Relief can get 50% of your debt forgiven, don’t tell the whole story. That figure doesn’t include the fees you will pay, the penalties you incur while settlement negotiations take place and whether a creditor will even accept the offers made. Do all the math before you choose this option.
I graduated college in 2014, spent a year in law school before realizing it wasn’t for me. Although I have a good paying job now, I didn’t realize how expensive law school really was! My credit card debt for networking and socializing was drastically higher than it was for undergrad (where I paid it off every month). I’m now confronted with this and working to pay it down (3 months in and $2,000 down!). But I’m trying to get even more so that I can start saving for a ring! I didn’t sell any of my textbooks back in college and posted them online last week. So far I’ve earned almost $600 off of them, all of which is going towards my credit card. Additionally, my security deposit from my old apartment is coming back. I don’t have my entire emergency fund built yet (about 1.5 months worth saved), so 1/3 of it is going towards that, the other 2/3 towards my debt. I should be able to pay off another $2,000 in the second half of August/first half of September.

Instead of diving into debt settlement, a better option might be to talk to a nonprofit credit counselor. Credit counseling organizations can help you better understand tactics for managing and reducing your debt, including creating and following a budget. Credit counseling may not have the negative impact of debt settlement (though if you choose a Debt Management Plan, it could appear on your credit report).
Debt settlement is a process by which you can greatly reduce or maybe even eliminate the total amount of debt you are currently paying or committed to pay in the future. Solutions are available for various types of accounts, including credit card, medical, and even personal loans. Learn about debt settlement companies as well as the process that is available.
What Does National Debt Relief Do? National Debt Relief is a leading debt negotiation company with a BBB A+ rating and thousands of positive client reviews. So what does that mean? We negotiate with your creditors to get a reduction of your outstanding credit card balances. We get your creditors to agree to a lump sum payoff amount and they will forgive the rest of your balance. Debt negotiation is one of the most effective choices available to consumers if you qualify. It’s a great choice if you have more debt than you can pay off in a 2 – 3 year time frame or are experiencing a financial hardship that has you falling behind (or just about to be) on your monthly payments.
Things to mention to get them on your side? Let them know how long you’ve been a loyal customer and that you would love to stick around. But, also share that other credit card companies are offering you lower rates, even 0% introductory rates for balance transfers, and that you can’t ignore the interest savings. Usually, they swing into customer retention mode, and they may be able to pull some strings.
Pardon me for being rude, but – are you insane, bad at math, or only joking? In what way do you believe “the tax code is better being self employed”? Unless you make over $127,200 the taxes are much HIGHER on self-employed individuals. I say this as a former employee, now an independent contractor and small business owner being taxed literally to death for the last 13+ years. Self employed people making under the Social Security cap pay an additional 7.65% tax. And yes, you can “give yourself a raise” but YOU are the one paying yourself, so…
Howard – The problem with Chapter 7s is that you must meet minimum income requirements (based on the minimum income threshold in your state). This means there’s a possibility that you may not qualify for a Chapter 7, so it may not be an option for wiping out credit card debt. Before you decide to go the bankruptcy route, have you considered a Debt Management Program? I know 45k is an huge burden and it’s stressful, but there are other options that may help. Before you decide on bankruptcy, we’d advise exploring all of your options. It’s worth contacting a consumer credit counseling service. They’ll be able to review your individual personal financial situation and debt load to determine whether or not you’d be a good candidate for a DMP. If you are a good fit, they’ll work with your creditors to lower you interest rate and lower your monthly payments to one monthly payment you can afford. If a DMP isn’t a good fit, and bankruptcy is your best option — they’ll be able to tell you that as well. A consultation is free, but make sure you choose a consumer credit counseling service that is accredited by the National Foundation for Consumer Credit Counseling.
Be VERY careful before you decide go with debt settlement and don’t believe the huge savings you will supposedly get. Lower but stretched payments with higher interest will cost much more on the end. These 30-50% so-called savings are in the fact money going into their pockets. Plus, your credit score will be so screwed up that nobody rent you a bicycle.

Consumers can apply for a debt management plan regardless of their credit score. Once they set up an initial consultation with a credit counseling agency, they will go over the details of their debts and their income with their agency who will come up with an action plan on their behalf. If the consumer decides to move forward with a debt management plan, it can take a few hours or a few weeks to get started. “Once the recommendation for a debt management plan is made, it’s up to you to decide how quickly to enroll,” said McClary.
Not sure where to find this information? Check your credit report for a complete listing of creditors. You can obtain a copy for free from annualcreditreport.com from each of three major credit reporting agencies. You're entitled to one report a year from each of the three major credit reporting agencies -- Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion -- so you can space out your requests and get a report once every four months. Sign into online accounts for each creditor if you have them, look back at your most recent statement, or give your creditors a call to get the info you need. 
I graduated college in 2014, spent a year in law school before realizing it wasn’t for me. Although I have a good paying job now, I didn’t realize how expensive law school really was! My credit card debt for networking and socializing was drastically higher than it was for undergrad (where I paid it off every month). I’m now confronted with this and working to pay it down (3 months in and $2,000 down!). But I’m trying to get even more so that I can start saving for a ring! I didn’t sell any of my textbooks back in college and posted them online last week. So far I’ve earned almost $600 off of them, all of which is going towards my credit card. Additionally, my security deposit from my old apartment is coming back. I don’t have my entire emergency fund built yet (about 1.5 months worth saved), so 1/3 of it is going towards that, the other 2/3 towards my debt. I should be able to pay off another $2,000 in the second half of August/first half of September.
You see, when you consolidate your debts or work with a debt settlement company, you’ll only treat the symptoms of your money problems and never get to the root of why you have issues in the first place. You don’t need to consolidate your bills—you need to delete them. To do that, you have to change the way you view debt! Even though your choices landed you in a pile of debt, you have the power to work your way out! You just need the right plan. 
If you want some early small victories, some people recommend the “snowball” method, where you pay minimums on the largest bills while you work at paying them off, smallest to largest. Once the smallest one is paid off, you put the money you had been paying toward the next-smallest and so on. Another way is to pay the highest-interest-rate balance first. Use the one that makes the most sense to you. Read more here: 5 Ways To Get Out of Debt: Which Will Work for You?
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Those who enroll make monthly deposits with a credit counseling organization, which then is used to pay the debts according to a predetermined payment schedule developed by the counselor and creditors. Your monthly payment is tailored to what the customer can afford, and you know before agreeing to take part in the program what that monthly amount is. An analysis of household income vs. expenditures determines the monthly payment.
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