Cambridge Credit Counseling Review 2020

Sean PylesAugust 19, 2020
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If you’re looking for money management help over the phone or online, Cambridge Credit Counseling Corp. might be the agency for you.

The Massachusetts-based nonprofit credit counseling agency offers a variety of credit counseling services over the phone in 47 states (Minnesota, Wisconsin and Virginia don’t make the cut).

Cambridge may be a good fit if you:

  • Prefer counseling services over the phone

  • Want free online educational resources

  • Are looking for student loan counseling; Cambridge’s services are more affordable than other credit counseling agencies.

Cambridge’s services and fees

Cambridge provides common services available at most nonprofit credit counseling agencies. The difference between one agency and the next generally comes down to cost and accessibility. These services include:

General budgeting and advice: A free service where you and a counselor run through your budget and analyze your overall finances.

Debt management plan: A counselor creates a plan to consolidate your consumer debts and lower the interest rate, setting up one monthly payment to erase the debt over three to five years.

Bankruptcy counseling: Two court-mandated sessions: one before you file and one before your debts are discharged.

Student loans: A counselor outlines your repayment options and may contact your issuer on your behalf for an additional fee.

Housing counseling: Help for home buyers, homeowners considering a reverse mortgage, and people struggling with mortgage or rent payments.

Service

Fee

General budgeting and advice

Free

Debt management plan

Startup and monthly fees vary by state

Average startup fee is $42; average monthly fee is $30

Bankruptcy counseling

Pre-filing: $39

Pre-discharge: $39

Student loans

Free overview of student loans and repayment options. More advanced assistance varies based on financial situation, but generally costs $49 or less per month with a maximum of $249.

Housing counseling

Free to $125, depending on the service

How Cambridge compares

Most credit counseling agencies offer the same services. How they differ generally comes down to where and how they offer those services. Here's how Cambridge stacks up.

Accreditation: Cambridge is accredited through the Financial Counseling Association of America, an outside body that ensures standards of practice among counselors and oversight of the agency.

Online support: Cambridge has limited offerings. Clients can access their accounts, but no counseling is done online.

Completion rate: 59% of clients who enroll in a debt management plan with Cambridge complete the program.

Availability: The agency operates in all states except Minnesota, Wisconsin and Virginia.

Cambridge’s debt management plan

If your debt is mostly from credit cards, a debt management plan can help you get a handle on what you owe. You likely won’t be able to use credit cards or open new lines of credit in this time.

Under a DMP, your various debts are rolled into one monthly payment with cut interest rates. In return, you agree to a set payment plan, usually for three to five years. Note that interest rate cuts are standardized across credit counseling agencies, based on your creditors' guidelines and your budget.

Depending on the year, between 12% and 20% of Cambridge clients use DMPs. Here’s a breakdown how of an average DMP at Cambridge compares with a DIY debt payoff:

DMP

DIY debt paydown

$16,000 debt

$16,000 debt

9.6% interest rate

22% interest rate

$480 monthly payment

($450 goes to debt, $30 to program fee)

$480 monthly payment

43 months to pay off

52 months to pay off

$2,901 paid in interest

$1,332 paid in fees*

$8,954 paid in interest

*Figured at the average $30 monthly fee plus $42 startup fee.

When to consider a DMP

DMPs aren’t for everyone. Mortgages, car loans, most medical bills and student loans are generally not covered in such a plan.

  • If you are struggling to make monthly payments on debt

  • If your consumer debt is between 15% and 50% of your annual income

  • If you think you can pay it off within five years

  • If you don’t qualify for a debt consolidation loan

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