|Accreditation||An outside body ensures standards of practice among counselors and oversight for agencies.||Accredited through the National Foundation for Credit Counseling.|
|Online support||Counseling services and educational resources are available on GreenPath's website.||Yes|
|Completion rate of debt management plans||The percentage of clients who complete the program after enrolling.||53%|
|Availability||The agency operates in all 50 states.||Yes|
GreenPath Financial Wellness is one of the country’s largest credit counseling agencies, with branches in 18 states and services available nationally over the phone and online.
Its free online educational resources are competitive, while GreenPath’s monthly fees for its debt management plans are on the higher end and its fees for bankruptcy services are lower than average. It offers its student loan counseling at no charge to clients on a debt management plan.
GreenPath is a member of the National Foundation for Credit Counseling, the nation’s largest organization of nonprofit credit counseling agencies. This means GreenPath counselors receive a standard of education, and the agency is properly licensed and follows best practices as enforced by the accrediting body.
In this review:
GreenPath’s services and fees
Credit counseling agencies generally provide a number of services to help people manage their finances, including budgeting, student loan counseling and debt management plans. Because NFCC members meet the same education requirements, the main differences among them are fees and accessibility of services.
If you think credit counseling might be right for you, GreenPath offers an initial consultation where you spend roughly an hour talking with a counselor to assess your overall financial situation. You’ll cover topics including income, expenses, debt and financial goals. From there, the counselor can help you determine if GreenPath’s services are right for you. Or, if you know you want a specific service, like bankruptcy counseling, you can cut to the chase.
Counseling services available at GreenPath:
|Service||Fee, time commitment||Access
|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; people struggling with mortgage or rent payments; homeowners considering a reverse mortgage.||
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GreenPath’s access and resources
GreenPath is licensed nationally, but a lack of robust online counseling services limits its accessibility.
The counseling services available online at GreenPath are pre-filing and pre-discharge bankruptcy courses, plus an online portal for managing debt management plans.
It does, however, have extensive free online educational materials through a hub called GreenPath University. The courses, webinars and calculators there are available to everyone, not just GreenPath clients.
CEO Kristen Holt says GreenPath takes a comprehensive approach to its clients’ financial lives. “The main thing that sets us apart is our focus on each individual client and taking a holistic approach with them to understand the root cause of their issues,” she says.
GreenPath’s debt management plan
A debt management plan is a debt relief option that helps people get a handle on consumer debt, primarily credit card bills. Debts are consolidated to create a single monthly payment at a lower interest rate.
In return, you agree to a payment plan that fits your budget, usually for three to five years. You likely won’t be able to use credit cards or open new lines of credit for the duration of the DMP. There’s little room for missed payments once you’re enrolled in a plan; a slip-up can result in termination of your program, ending the lowered interest rate and leaving you to deal with debt on your own.
When to consider a DMP:
- You’re struggling to make monthly payments on your consumer debt.
- Your consumer debt is between 15% and 50% of your annual income.
- You think you can pay it off within five years.
- You don’t qualify for a debt consolidation loan.
A DMP isn’t always the best option; only about 5% of GreenPath clients use one. If your problem debt is mostly from a mortgage, car loans, student loans or medical bills, you should consider other routes to debt relief.
If your credit is good enough, you could qualify for a debt consolidation loan, which can combine your debts into one loan at a lower interest rate. With this option, you’ll have more control over the length of the loan and payment size, and you may still be able to get new lines of credit in an emergency and use credit cards.
If your debt is more than 50% of your annual income and you can’t reasonably pay it off within five years, you should seriously consider filing for bankruptcy.
GreenPath DMP clients on average have around $16,885 in debt. They pay a startup fee of up to $50, which may be waived or reduced because of financial need, plus a monthly program fee of up to $75, though the average is $36.
On average, customers get a cut in annual percentage rate from 21% to 10%. GreenPath DMP clients generally take around three and a half years to complete their program, and the agency says 53% of those who enroll in a plan complete it successfully.
A debt management plan can save you time and money over paying off the debt on your own. Here’s an example based on the average GreenPath client:
|Debt management plan||DIY debt paydown
|Amount of debt||$16,885||$16,885
|Monthly payment||$511 ($475 to debt, $36 to monthly program fee)||$511|
|Time to pay off||42 months||50 months
|Cost||Interest: $3,222.47 |
*Figured at the average monthly fee of $36. Includes startup fee of $50.
This is just an example; if you choose debt management, the monthly payment and plan length will be tailored to your needs.
This article was updated Jan. 26, 2018.