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Is debt settlement a good idea?

If you're carrying a lot of debt or high credit card balances, you've probably seen the advertisements from debt settlement or credit card settlement companies that promise to help you settle debt for a tiny fraction of the amount of money you owe to creditors. But is debt settlement a good idea? And what are the benefits of debt settlement over other ways of resolving your financial difficulties? Here's a short introduction to "Is debt settlement a good idea?" that offers a quick overview of this debt relief strategy.

Is debt settlement a good idea?

The short answer: reviews are mixed. Debt settlement can help some people get out of debt at a cost that is less than what they owe. For others, debt settlement proves to be a costly mistake.

Here's how debt settlement works: you stop making payments to your creditors for a period of time, often six months or more. Once your accounts are significantly overdue and your creditors are starting to get worried, you make a debt settlement offer of a small lump sum payment in exchange for erasing your debt. If your creditors believe this is the best they can get, they may be inclined to accept your offer. Alternately, they may choose to sue you or turn your case over to a collections agency.

If your offer is accepted, you'll have to pay your debt settlement agency as much as 25% of your savings, and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) may take another 25%, leaving you with a much smaller windfall than you planned on.

Is debt settlement a good idea in terms of your credit rating?

Because it requires you to stop making payments on your bills and because you won't be paying your debts in full, debt settlement will severely damage your credit rating. It may take up to seven years for you to restore enough credit to apply for credit cards, loans, rental agreements, and mortgages.

Is debt settlement a good idea if you can't pay anything on your debt?

If your financial situation is so difficult that you can't make any payment on your debt, debt settlement is not a good option. You need to be able to offer lump sum payment for debt settlement to work – even the best debt settlement agreements are at least 25% of the total amount owed.

Is debt settlement a good idea for paying off debt fast?

When you apply for debt settlement, it will take several months before you can make a settlement offer. If your debt settlement plan is successful, you may be able to erase your debt more quickly than by making regular payments over time, but it's not an ultrafast fix.

Is debt settlement a good idea compared to bankruptcy?

Conventional wisdom is that bankruptcy should be a last resort for people in financial trouble. Filing for bankruptcy will likely mean you'll have to give up some of your assets, and your credit rating may be damaged for up to 10 years. One positive note: bankruptcy can be a quick process, enabling you to start a new financial life and begin rebuilding your credit more quickly than other options.

Is debt settlement a good idea instead of consolidation?

Debt consolidation is a way of simplifying your finances and reducing the amount of interest you're paying on loans and credit cards. It will not adversely affect your credit rating, but it likely won't help you pay off your debt quickly.

Is debt settlement a good idea compared to debt management?

Debt management is another strategy for paying down debt that does not involve stopping payments to your creditors. Consequently, your credit will not be significantly impacted under a debt management program. Debt management is essentially a way of managing your financial life more carefully to allow you to pay down debt more quickly, while getting help from financial professionals to learn to live debt-free in the future.

To learn more about debt management, call for a free credit counseling session with American Consumer Credit Counseling, a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping consumers find the best way out of debt.

American Consumer Credit Counseling (ACCC) is a nonprofit agency that offers free credit counseling and low-cost financial services to consumers nationwide. Before consumers apply for debt settlement or make a debt settlement offer, our counselors can provide information about the pros and cons of settlement services and working with a debt settlement company. We can also discuss the advantages of bankruptcy vs settlement and consolidation and provide information about debt management as an alternative to credit card debt settlement. At ACCC, consumers can learn how to settle with credit card companies most successfully and explore a variety of options in addition to credit settlement. Our counselors can also answer questions like “What is a debt settlement program?” and “How does debt settlement affect your credit?”

American Consumer Credit Counseling - Consolidate Debts - Better Business Bureau American Consumer Credit Counseling - Consolidate Debts - Mass Housing Approved National Industry Standards for Homeownership Education and Counseling American Consumer Credit Counseling - Consolidate Debts  - Council on Accreditation American Consumer Credit Counseling - Consolidate Debts  - NFCC Member