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Americans have taken on record levels of credit card debt at a time when rising interest rates make such debt more expensive. The combination of excessive debt and high interest can overwhelm your personal finances, but if you’re struggling to pay off credit cards or other unsecured debt, you have options.
One of the best credit counseling services, American Consumer Credit Counseling can help you pay off your balances over time without ruining your credit or adding to your financial burdens. See if ACCC and its debt management plan is right for you.
American Consumer Credit Counseling Overview
American Consumer Credit Counseling – Product Name Only (ACCC) is a non-profit agency offering credit counseling, debt relief and financial education services. Operating since 1991, the agency helps clients deal with unsecured debts such as credit cards and store cards, medical bills, installment loans, and collection accounts. Beyond debt management and credit counseling, ACCC provides counseling on bankruptcies and housing-related issues, as well as debt settlement and debt consolidation services.
ACCC is headquartered in Auburndale, Massachusetts, and has 26 offices across 17 states and Washington, D.C. The agency also provides online services nationwide. According to its most recent annual report (for 2021), ACCC conducted over 26,000 counseling sessions and helped thousands of customers pay off debt and improve their financial literacy.
ACCC is a member of the National Foundation for Credit Counseling, and is accredited by the Council on Accreditation. The agency has an A+ rating from the Better Business Bureau, with an average customer rating of 4.96 stars out of five, and only four complaints filed in the last three years. Its brick and mortar locations have over 13,000 combined reviews on Google, of which over 99.5% provided ratings of four or five stars.
How American Consumer Credit Counseling Works
Before enrolling in ACCC’s debt management program, you’ll meet with one of their credit counselors for a free consultation. Your counselor will review your finances (including income, expenses, assets and liabilities) and present personalized options to resolve your financial issues.
If you opt into the debt management program, ACCC will negotiate with creditors to reduce your monthly payments by waiving fees, extending repayment periods, and lowering interest rates. The balance of your accounts won’t change, but negotiating more favorable terms makes paying them off easier. They might also ask your creditors to re-age accounts so they show as current instead of delinquent. However, this can only be done once every five years.
After creditors accept proposals for repayment, ACCC will inform them about your debt management plan and become the payer on your accounts. Instead of paying creditors individually, you’ll pay all your bills at once by transferring funds to an account with ACCC. Those funds will then be passed on to creditors, ensuring all your payments are made on time. You’ll receive a monthly statement to keep you apprised of the status of all your accounts.
The debt management program is designed to last roughly four years, though how long it takes depends on how much you owe, how much you can pay, and the terms ACCC is able to negotiate with creditors. Completing the program as designed will generally eliminate all your enrolled debt.
How Much Does American Consumer Credit Counseling Cost?
ACCC provides a free consultation with a certified counselor before you enroll in a debt management or other program. There’s no obligation to enroll in any ACCC services following your consultation.
If you decide to proceed with the debt management program, you’ll pay a one-time $39 enrollment fee. After enrollment, you’ll pay a monthly maintenance fee of $7 per account, which is capped at $70. Both the enrollment fee and monthly maintenance fee may be reduced or waived entirely based on your state’s regulations or if you are experiencing financial hardship.
ACCC claims its debt management program lasts three to five years in most cases. Enrolling a single account at $7 per month for four years would cost a total of $375 (including the $39 enrollment fee). Enrolling three accounts would cost $1,047, while enrolling ten or more accounts would cost $3,400.
While those are the only fees associated with the debt management program, you may incur additional costs for using ACCC’s other services.
How Does American Consumer Credit Counseling Compare?
ACCC’s debt management program stands out for its low fee structure. Beyond the $39 enrollment fee, the most you’ll pay is $70 per month, but the average enrollee pays much less. By comparison, other top debt management and settlement services charge 15-25% of the amount of debt settled, and may also charge monthly fees and setup fees. That percentage can easily outstrip ACCC’s monthly fees for larger debts, especially when you’re enrolling only a few accounts.
Unlike a debt settlement program, debt management does not reduce the amount you owe, but it also doesn’t put your credit at great risk of further damage. That makes ACCC a good fit if you have good credit and are confident you can make monthly payments on time. That said, if you miss a payment, your creditors may break off their agreements, ending your debt management plan.
Also unlike most debt settlement programs, there is no minimum debt required to enroll. You can participate in ACCC’s debt management program even if your debts and number of accounts are relatively small, though your credit counselor may recommend a different course of action in that case.
Finally, ACCC stands out for offering service in all 50 states (including its network of brick and mortar offices), and for its highly favorable reviews.
Does American Consumer Credit Counseling Affect Credit?
Signing up for ACCC itself will not have a direct effect on your credit. However, your credit score may change as a result of actions taken over the course of a debt management program.
When you sign up for ACCC, you are encouraged, but not compelled, to close your lines of unsecure credit so you do not accrue additional credit while enrolled in your debt management plan. Closing those lines may cause an initial drop in your credit score, lowering your credit utilization ratio. However, the plan should boost your credit score overall as you pay off your existing debts.
As you pay off your debts and keep tabs on your credit reports, you may notice a “CC” added to your lines of credit. This indicates that your debt is being managed through a credit counselor. This notation doesn’t affect your credit score, but a creditor may look on this notation negatively when they consider your credit application.
However, this mark is removed from your credit reports once you wrap up your debt management plan. Since you shouldn’t be opening new lines of credit while paying a debt management program, the CC should be of little concern. If the mark remains on your credit report after your plan is over, dispute the inaccurate information with the credit bureaus.
American Consumer Credit Counseling Frequently Asked Questions
Is American Consumer Credit Counseling a good company?
ACCC is accredited by the Council on Accreditation and the Better Business Bureau, where it has an A+ rating. The agency is also a member of the National Foundation for Credit Counseling, and is highly rated by customers online.
How does ACCC work?
ACCC helps you pay down your debt by negotiating with creditors to reduce monthly payments and keep your financial obligations manageable.
Does debt counseling hurt your credit?
Enrolling in a debt counseling and management program like the one offered by ACCC will not negatively impact your credit so long as you continue to make on-time payments.