There's no doubt that choosing the best debt consolidation company to help you with your debt problems is an important process.
Now, keeping in mind that your debt situation is unique (as are you), there is no single "best debt consolidation company" that will suit everyone. No "one size fits all" if you will. In fact, taking that thought a step further, there is no one single "best" option for getting out of debt. Debt consolidation may not even be your best option.
So before you get to the stage of choosing a company to work with, you should at the very least review all of your options, and then speak with an independent debt counselor to find out if debt consolidation is the best one for you.
Don't worry, this isn't as difficult or expensive as you may think.
The company I recommend the most to my readers offers their services completely free of charge and with no further obligation. Their services include the following: a free telephone consultation with a senior debt counselor, a complete evaluation of your financial/debt situation, development of a debt relief plan and, if warranted, a recommendation of a debt reduction option that may or may not involve debt consolidation. As I said, there are other debt relief options available, and one of those may suit your needs better. All of the companies that they refer people to are screened for quality, and "A" rated or better by the BBB. Get a free debt analysis from them now.
If, on the other hand, you are convinced that debt consolidation is the best avenue for you, and you would rather screen debt companies yourself, here is a checklist that you can follow to help with the process.
OK, on to the checklist...
When people start looking for advice on a specific debt relief program, whether it be bankruptcy, debt settlement, a debt consolidation loan or credit counseling, I tell them the same thing...
You do have options. And sometimes it requires the help of a debt professional to thoroughly examine your financial/debt situation and point you towards those options that best suit you. Who knows, the best solution for you may not be the one that you were considering in the first place. Which leads to my next point...
If they only offer debt consolidation, and your situation lends itself more to another solution, are they going to send you elsewhere (which they should) or try and sell you on a debt management plan that is clearly not in your best interests? I encourage you to make sure you choose a company that offers a variety of solutions so that you can feel confident that their advice is unbiased and that you end up on the right path.
As I mentioned above, an even better option is to discuss your situation for free with an independent debt counselor who can then point you in the right direction without trying to sell you on one particular option. Much like an insurance or mortgage broker, they will aim to match you up with the best company and option for you, not them.
In my opinion, the best debt consolidation company is one that offers the entire gamut of debt solutions from free credit counseling right through to Chapter 7 bankruptcy filing. That way you can be assured that you will be provided with the best solution to suit your needs.
Such a company will start you out with a free debt savings assessment and, if appropriate, provide you with an individually tailored debt consolidation program. Any initial advice should come completely "commitment free" on your part.
If your situation warrants more "extreme" measures that are beyond the scope of a debt consolidation/management plan, the next step (with your permission) would be to pass your file on to a law firm that does nothing but help people who are struggling with their debts. Typically the law firm will have representation across all 50 states and provide both debt settlement and bankruptcy services.
And along with that assessment, do they offer a detailed budget,
regardless of whether you
intend on entering their debt consolidation program or have the
ability to pay for that program? This is an important one. For some
folks, credit counseling, along with a clear budget and money
management education, is all they need to "right their debt ship" so to
speak. The best debt consolidation companies realize and respect this,
and will not recommend a debt consolidation program to someone that
does not need it.
How long have they been in business? How many people have they helped? Although these things don't guarantee that the company is legitimate or one of the "best", the ones that hide these facts have to make you wonder why they do.
And do they post a link on their homepage that goes right to their BBB ratings page? The debt business is rife with companies and people that are out to make a fast buck at your expense. And they usually leave a trail of unhappy customers in their wake. A solid BBB rating (I recommend "A" or better) will let you know whether the company has a clean track record.
A telltale sign of the best debt
consolidation company is a
customer list in the millions and an "A" BBB rating. This tells you
that their practices are consistently excellent over the long run.
How do you find these "A" rated companies. Start by getting a free debt savings estimate and analysis here and, if appropriate, you will be referred to a top tier, A rated company that can help you solve your debt problems.
Again, this is no guarantee that they are reliable, but it is one more positive "check" for the good companies.
How do you know what a "reasonable" debt
consolidation fee is? My
recommendation here is
to shop around and get a feel for what different companies charge for
what they offer. Speak to 3 to 5 companies. Find out what they offer,
what their fees are, and exactly how they charge those
don't want any surprises coming your way after you begin your
relief program. On that same note however, you don't want to sign up with the cheapest company simply because they are the cheapest. Use your common sense here.
Often times the best debt consolidation company will offer services beyond even the typical debt relief programs that we have discussed above. One such service that many people find very useful is housing counseling. If you are struggling with consumer debts, there is a good chance that you are struggling with your mortgage (if you own a home) as well. A HUD certified counselor can help you in this area of your finances.
There is a good chance that most of the top agencies have relationships with all of your unsecured creditors. (One particular one has relationships with over 220,000 creditors.) This allows them to quickly estimate the potential savings you may experience through a debt management program, based on their past experiences with your creditors. Their prior relationship with your creditors also allows them to negotiate the best interest rate reductions and increase the chances of eliminating any late fees and penalties on your accounts.
Licensed debt consolidation companies employing certified credit counselors typically will belong to one or more associations. One such associations is the AADMO or American Association Of Debt Management Organizations which is the largest such association. What associations does the company you are considering belong to?And last but not least (and maybe most importantly)...
Sometimes we just have to make decisions in life
based on our "gut feel". Remember, whichever debt consolidation company
you choose, there is a good chance that you will be working with them
for around 5 years. (Most debt consolidation programs are designed to
get you out of debt in about 60 months, if everything goes as planned. If it
happens faster, great. But to be on the safe side, I would expect a 5
year plan.) The "best debt consolidation company for you" is probably
the one that you feel most comfortable with from both a professional
and ethical level.
Following this checklist will certainly enhance your chances of not only finding the best debt consolidation company, but finding the best debt consolidation company for you.