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Nonprofit Credit Counseling vs For Profit Debt Settlement

There are many different options available to consumers struggling to pay off debt. Some may choose to do it on their own using the Debt Snowball or Debt Avalanche Method. Others may choose to get professional help. What kind of company can help you pay off your debt? There are both nonprofit and for-profit companies that do this, though their approaches are different. We’ll help you understand the kind of help you can get from a nonprofit credit counseling agency vs a for profit debt settlement company.

Paying off debt is more manageable with nonprofit credit counseling services.

Paying off debt is more manageable with nonprofit credit counseling services.

Nonprofit Credit Counseling

A nonprofit credit counseling agency administers debt management programs for consumers who need help with their debt. A debt management program combines all of the consumer’s debt into one monthly payment to the credit counseling agency. From there, the agency pays the creditors on the client’s behalf. This makes it easier for the consumer since they only have to worry about one bill rather than all of their separate credit cards, student loans, and unsecured debts. The payment is also lower than what the consumer would have been paying on their own. This is because the credit counseling agency negotiates lower interest rates and waived fees with the creditors. Additionally, they often provide consumers with free financial education materials to help them improve their personal finance habits. This can help to ensure consumers don’t end up with mountains of debt again.

For Profit Debt Settlement

Another option to deal with debt is debt settlement, which is administered by a for profit company. Similar to a nonprofit credit counseling agency, consumers pay the debt settlement company and they pay the creditors on behalf of the client. However, the key difference between the two is that debt settlement allows consumers to pay less than the principle amount they owe. For example, if a client has $10,000 in credit card debt, the debt settlement company might negotiate with the creditors so that they only owe $7,000. While this may sound like a great option in theory, you may not be saving as much money as you think.

Debt settlement companies sometimes charge high fees, and the amount of money you “save” is counted as income by the IRS. That means that in our example, the $3,000 you saved counts as income and you can be taxed on it. Also, settling on your debt can hurt your credit score. It shows future lenders that you are not a reliable borrower. This can make it difficult to apply for new credit accounts later. You may not be approved, and if you are, you may have to pay higher interest rates.

Which Option Is Better?

Everyone’s financial situation is unique. There is no one-size-fits-all solution to everyone’s individual debt problems. Working with a nonprofit credit counseling agency can make sense in many situations, but debt settlement can also be a good option for some consumers. Ultimately, you have to weigh the pros and cons yourself. Consider the following factors:

  • How much debt do you have?
  • Are you able to pay off your debt on your own?
  • Do you need to take out a new loan soon? (e.g. mortgage, auto loan, student loans, etc.)
  • How high is the interest on your credit cards and other debts?

No matter which option you choose, make sure you do your research before you commit to any debt management program or debt settlement agreement. It is important that you understand what you are committing to and how it will affect your finances overall.

If you are struggling to pay off debt, ACCC can help. Schedule 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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