|Accredited||An outside body ensures standards of practice among counselors and oversight for agencies.||Accredited by the National Foundation for Credit Counseling.|
|Online support||Counseling services and educational resources are available on Clearpoint’s website.||Yes|
|Completion rate of debt management plans||This is the percentage of clients who complete the program after enrolling.||61%|
|Availability||The agency operates in all 50 states.||Yes|
Clearpoint Credit Counseling Solutions is the third-largest nonprofit credit counseling agency in the country, offering services online, over the phone and in person.
Clearpoint is accredited by the National Foundation for Credit Counseling, the industry’s leading certification body. That accreditation means that the agency meets certain standards of practice and is properly licensed, and the counselors receive NFCC-approved education on financial counseling.
NFCC-accredited credit counseling agencies typically offer budgeting advice, debt management plans and bankruptcy counseling. The main differences among them are the fees they charge and how they deliver their services.
Note that Clearpoint is merging with the credit counseling agency Money Management International, which may lead to some changes in how services are managed and priced in the coming months. Before entering a program with Clearpoint, ask how this merger could affect your experience.
In this review:
Clearpoint’s services and fees
Credit counseling agencies help consumers manage and improve their finances. You might seek one out if you are struggling with debt, want to optimize your student loans or just need general budgeting advice. All agencies offer an initial session at no charge, so you can learn about the offerings and see if they could help you.
In the initial session at Clearpoint, you and a counselor spend roughly an hour assessing your finances, including income, expenses, debt and credit history. Then you set goals and discuss how the agency’s services might help you meet them. Afterward, the agency will send you an “action plan” detailing the information, which can be useful even if you decide not to proceed.
Counseling services available at Clearpoint:
|General budgeting and advice||
|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: A counselor walks you through 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 homebuyers; those struggling with mortgage or rent payments; homeowners considering a reverse mortgage.||
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Clearpoint’s access and resources
In addition to services available in person and over the phone, Clearpoint has online resources that make it more accessible than some other agencies. Many services are offered in Spanish as well as English.
Clearpoint’s online resource center offers:
- Interactive tools and educational materials available to anyone.
- Intake for new clients.
- Counseling services.
“Clearpoint is one of the few agencies that allows people to start the intake process whenever they like online,” says Clearpoint spokesman Thomas Nitzsche.
That means if you find yourself awake at 2 a.m. because you’re stressed about your finances, you can fill in the details of your finances to jump-start the credit counseling process. A counselor will follow up during business hours and talk you through your options. Once you’re registered with the agency, you can use an online dashboard to keep track of your progress and communicate with credit counselors.
Clearpoint’s debt management plan
A debt management plan can help you get a handle on problem debt, primarily from credit cards. Your various consumer debts are consolidated into one monthly payment, and your interest rate is cut; you agree to a set payment plan, usually for three to five years. In that time you likely won’t be able to open new lines of credit.
A DMP isn’t always the best route for debt relief. It is primarily for credit card debt; other debt, such as mortgages, car loans, most medical bills and student loans, are not covered. Once you’re enrolled in a DMP, agencies generally give little room for missed payments, which can result in termination of your program and leave you to contend with debt on your own.
Only 12% of Clearpoint clients end up on debt management plans.
When to consider a DMP:
- You are struggling to make monthly payments on debt.
- Your consumer debt is between 15% and 50% of your annual income.
- You think you can pay off your debt within five years.
- You don’t qualify for a debt consolidation loan.
Before you choose this path, think through your other debt relief options. Bankruptcy, for example, may be better if your debt is more than 50% of your annual income and you see no way to pay it off within five years. A debt consolidation loan, if you have good enough credit to qualify, can gather debts into a single loan at a lower interest rate. You have more control over the length of loan and payment size, and preserve your ability to get new lines of credit in an emergency.
Clearpoint DMP clients on average have six to seven lines of credit and around $26,000 in debt. They pay a startup fee of up to $75, which can be waived or reduced for financial need, plus a monthly program fee of up to $50, though the average is $28.
On average, Clearpoint customers get a cut in annual percentage rate from 22% to 10%. The DMP takes an average of 47 months to complete, and the company says 61% of those who enroll complete the program.
A debt management plan can save you more time and money than paying off the debt on your own. Here’s an example based on the average Clearpoint client profile:
|Debt management plan||DIY debt paydown
|Amount of debt||$26,000||$26,000
|Monthly payment||$698 ($670 to debt, $28 to average monthly program fee) ||$698|
|Time to pay off||47 months||63 months
|Cost||Interest: $5,538.95 |
*Figured at the average monthly fee of $28. Includes $75 startup fee.
This is just an example; if you choose debt management, the monthly payment and plan length will be tailored to your needs.
“There’s no way to tell someone what their plan is going to look like before getting their initial consultation,” Nitzsche says.
A previous version of this article misstated the amount of the startup fee. This article has been corrected.