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 49 states (all states except Minnesota).
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.
General budgeting and advice
Debt management plan
Startup and monthly fees vary by state
Average startup fee is $42; average monthly fee is $30
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.
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:
DIY debt paydown
8% interest rate
22% interest rate
$480 monthly payment
($450 goes to debt, $30 to program fee)
$480 monthly payment
41 months to pay off
52 months to pay off
$2,323 paid in interest $1,272 paid in fees*
$8,954 paid in interest
*Figured at the average $30 monthly fee plus $42 startup fee.
Note: In a debt management plan, individual creditors offer the same adjusted APR for all credit counseling agencies. The difference in average APR among credit counseling agencies is a reflection of their clients’ creditors and does not indicate one agency will offer lower adjusted APRs than another.
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.
DMPs aren’t for everyone. Mortgages, car loans, most medical bills and student loans are generally not covered in such a plan.