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What is a Debt Settlement Company?

In the ever-evolving financial landscape, consumers have a plethora of options when it comes to managing overwhelming debt. Among these is the debt settlement route, facilitated by companies specializing in negotiating debt amounts with creditors. However, is opting for a debt settlement company the cheapest way to get out of debt? This article aims to shed light on the function of debt settlement companies and analyze their pros and cons.

Deciphering the Role of a Debt Settlement Company

Debt settlement companies act as intermediaries between debtors and creditors. Their primary objective is to negotiate a deal with one or all of a debtor's creditors, settling the outstanding debt for less than what is owed. This, however, does not come without its downsides. It can take up to three years to reach an agreement, during which the debtor continues to accumulate more debt, fees, and potentially detrimental credit ratings.

Moreover, debt settlement can significantly impact an individual's credit score, leaving a mark on their public record for seven years. It's also essential to understand that the forgiven debt amount is often considered as income by the IRS and may be taxed accordingly.

Distinguishing between Debt Settlement Companies, Credit Counselors, and Debt Consolidation Companies

While debt settlement companies, credit counselors, and debt consolidation companies all aim to aid individuals grappling with debt, their approaches significantly differ. Credit counselors work out agreements with creditors upfront to prevent further penalties or charges, providing a more structured payment plan to the debtor.

On the other hand, debt consolidation companies pay off various debts on behalf of the debtor and treat the combined amount as a single loan, often with a lower interest rate than the debtor's original rates.

Is Debt Settlement the Cheapest Way Out of Debt?

According to the American Fair Credit Council (AFCC), debt settlement provides, on average, $2.64 in consumer savings for each $1 fee assessed. Moreover, more than 98% of offered settlements resulted in a client’s debt decrease greater than the accompanying fees.

However, the affordability of debt settlement largely depends on the amount owed and other factors such as the time it takes and the stress it might impose on the debtor. Offering a lump-sum payment to a creditor in exchange for debt forgiveness, debt settlement amounts typically range from 10% to 50% of what is owed.

The Impact of Debt Settlement on Credit Score

While potentially saving on the total debt amount, debt settlement can have a profound negative impact on your credit score. It's crucial to consider that many debt settlement programs require monthly deposits into a specified savings account for 36 months or more. Hence, before signing up, ensure that these deposits are within your financial capacity for the entire duration of the program.

In some cases, debt settlement can indeed be the least expensive way to get out of debt. However, it requires careful consideration of the potential drawbacks, particularly the impact on credit scores and tax implications. Consumers need to understand that creditors are under no obligation to accept a settlement offer, even when dealing with a reputable debt settlement company. Therefore, the best approach for struggling debtors is to explore all options. Speak with a credit counseling agency, a debt settlement expert, and even a bankruptcy attorney to understand the full spectrum of possibilities. This comprehensive exploration will aid in making an informed decision, tailored to your unique financial circumstances and long-term goals.


A debt settlement company is a company who specializes in helping people with overwhelming debt settle with their creditors. Debt settlement companies can help individuals with debt issues settle with their creditors for less than they owe.

Of course, this will give the individual’s credit score a significant dent that stays on public record for seven years, but at least it gets people out from under their crushing debt. A settlement company will attempt to negotiate a settlement deal on your behalf with one or all of your creditors.

This can actually take a while; up to three years in some cases. In the meantime, you have no guarantee that the creditor will accept whatever lump sum you manage to scrape together to offer them, and you are racking up more fees, debt, and disadvantageous credit ratings all the while.

Credit counselors are different than debt settlement companies, and they will actually enter into agreements with creditors at the outset that no further penalties or charges will be levied against the debtor while he is in credit counseling.

This agreement is not in place with debt settlement companies. Any amount that they convince a credit card company may be used in the calculation of their fees, and this forgiven amount may also be considered gains by the IRS, and taxed.

So if you waited 2 years while debt continued to pile up, and finally settled for an amount less than that, but paid taxes and fees on the forgiven amount, you probably wouldn’t come out ahead, especially with the tarnished credit score.

Debt consolidation companies use a different sort of arrangement, often where they pay off the various debts and credit cards on behalf of the debtor; this is treated as a single loan to the debtor, and the interest rate charged is likely to be less than he or she was paying to the credit card companies.

How Long Will It Take Me to Pay Off Debt?
Should I consolidate my debt?

Disclaimers and Limitations

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