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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.
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.
An outside body ensures standards of practice among counselors and oversight of the agency.
Accredited through the Financial Counseling Association of America
Counseling services and educational resources are available on the website.
Limited. Clients can access their accounts, but no counseling is done online.
Completion rate of debt management plans
Percentage of clients who complete the program after enrolling
States in which the agency operates
All but 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:
Debt management plan
DIY debt paydown
Amount of debt
$480 ($450 to debt, $30 to monthly program fee)
Time to pay off
Interest: $2,901 Fees: $1,332*
*Figured at the average $30 monthly fee plus $42 startup fee.
DMPs aren’t for everyone. Mortgages, car loans, most medical bills and student loans are generally not covered in such a plan.
When to consider a DMP
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