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Debt Management vs Debt Settlement: Which One’s For You?

When your credit card debt becomes too much for you to handle on your own, you might start looking into different debt relief options. You may have heard the terms “debt management” and “debt settlement.” Though they sound interchangeable, they are actually quite different. Let’s dive in and explore the difference between debt management vs debt settlement so you can decide  which one is best for you!

What you need to know about debt management vs debt settlement.

What you need to know about debt management vs debt settlement.

Debt Management

A debt management program is administered by a nonprofit credit counseling agency. In this program, your debts are combined into one monthly payment to the credit counseling agency. From there, they disburse your payment to your different creditors. Having one monthly payment makes things easier for you in that you don’t have to remember to pay every credit card bill individually. The credit counseling agency does it for you. Also, because these agencies negotiate lower interest rates and fees with the credit card companies, your payments in a debt management program are lower than they would be otherwise. You still pay off the principal amount you owe, so your credit score is not negatively impacted.

In order to get enrolled in a debt management program, you first must go through a credit counseling session. A credit counselor will ask you about your income, expenses, assets, and liabilities. With that information, they work with you to create a realistic budget. From there, they determine if a debt management program is the best option for you.

Debt Settlement

Debt settlement, on the other hand, is administered by for-profit companies. They will also consolidate all your debts into a single payment, but in a different way. Unlike a credit counseling agency, they negotiate with your creditors to allow you to pay less than the principal amount you owe. Your credit score can take a massive hit after that because it shows future lenders that you aren’t a reliable borrower. Additionally, any money you save from debt settlement can be counted as income by the IRS. This means you will have to pay taxes on it. Debt settlement companies also charge high fees, so in the end, you may not be saving as much money as you thought you were.

Debt Management vs Debt Settlement: Which Option to Choose?

With all the above information, which option will you choose? Debt management programs are better for long-term financial health. They help you pay down your debt without dropping your credit score. Many credit counseling agencies, like ACCC, also offer financial education materials. This helps clients can learn how to better manage their money. Check out our financial resources at consumercredit.com!

If you’re struggling to pay off debt, ACCC can help. Sign up for a free credit counseling session with us today! 


Madison is a Marketing Communications & Programs Associate at ACCC. She is excited to share her tips on saving money and being financially responsible here on the Talking Cents blog!

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