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Pay Down Your Debt Challenge

Debt Management vs. Debt Settlement: Which Is Best?

Need help getting out of debt? Here's expert advice on two options

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Getting professional help to manage your debt isn't always easy.

See also: Find extra money to pay off debt.

For starters, federal authorities and consumer advocates often warn people in debt about scam debt relief agencies that promise assistance, but do nothing more than take your money. Even if you manage to avoid the con artists, how do you know the differences between debt management programs and debt settlement firms? And what should you expect if you choose to utilize either of these options?

Here is some guidance on the differences between debt management agencies and debt settlement companies, along with the pros and cons of using each.

Services Offered
Debt management firms and debt settlement companies both generally offer to help you eliminate unwanted or unmanageable debt, such as credit card bills and medical expenses. To reduce your debt, both types of agencies will negotiate with your creditors to do any of the following: 

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— Photo by: Colin Anderson/Getty Images

  • Lower your payments 
  • Reduce outstanding balances
  • Get late fees or penalty charges eliminated

One difference in services offered is that debt management firms often double as credit counseling agencies. That means debt management firms offer financial education services, such as teaching you about budgeting, cash management, and the proper use of credit and debt.

Next: How these companies operate. >>

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