PROS / There is no setup fee for this agency's debt management plan.
CONS / ClearPoint does not offer financial workshops as one of its services.
VERDICT / With low fees, highly available counselors and a broad range of resources, ClearPoint is one of the best options for credit counseling.
ClearPoint Credit Counseling Solutions is an Atlanta, Georgia-based consumer credit counseling agency. In addition to credit counseling, it offers other financial services including bankruptcy, student loan and housing counseling. ClearPoint has lower fees than other services, makes its services available to a broader audience than most, and has useful education resources and financial tools. For these reasons and more, ClearPoint receives our Top Ten Reviews Gold Award.
One of the main services a credit counseling agency provides is a debt management plan. These plans are a good option if you're struggling with a heavy debt load. Under a debt management plan, the credit counseling agency negotiates with your creditors for a reduction in interest rates or a lower monthly payment.
When you enroll in a debt management plan, you close your existing accounts and make a single monthly payment to the credit counseling agency, in this case ClearPoint. ClearPoint then distributes the appropriate amount to each of your creditors. A debt management plan usually lasts from between three to five years. Initially there is a small impact to your credit score since you close accounts, but in the long term, a debt management plan carries lower risk than debt consolidation.
Advisory & Education
The first counseling session is one of the most important aspects of any credit counseling service. This session is always free and most often takes place over the phone. The counselor goes through your income and expenses, so you may want to have that information at hand before you call. As part of this first session, the counselor asks to pull your credit to get a better idea of your debt and to see if ClearPoint can work with your creditors on a debt management plan. This is a soft pull and has a small impact on your credit report.
The counselor from ClearPoint our reviewer spoke to offered multiple options for dealing with heavy debt problems, including better budgeting and debt management plans. ClearPoint was not as thorough as other counseling agencies were when breaking down income and spending and helping to create a budget, nor did it send follow up material to our reviewer. For these reasons, ClearPoint scored slightly lower for its initial advisory period, but your experience may vary depending on the counselor you speak to.
The best counseling services serve as more than just a place to call for advice and to sign up for debt management plans. Their websites should be repositories of financial information and advice. ClearPoint offers educational resources that are frequently updated, cover a broad range of topics and come in a variety of styles.
In addition to blogs and FAQs, which are fairly standard in the industry, ClearPoint also has downloadable eBooks and podcasts. Topics covered include basic financial areas, like saving and budgeting, but also how to make a five-year plan and what to do if your lose your job. This combination of thoroughness and variety was nearly unmatched in our review.
ClearPoint's website also features a variety of calculators and financial tools to help you learn about your financial situation and put it into a larger context. The three most important tools are a debt-to-income ratio calculator, a debt payoff calculator and a financial health quiz. These tools are simple to use and provide clear recommendations on next steps to take if your financial situation needs them. Other tools ClearPoint offers include budget planners, a net-worth calculator and a tool to help you find affordable cars in your price range.
ClearPoint also offers online courses through its ClearPoint University, including a personalized learning program that allows you to customize it for your needs. ClearPoint also participates in NerdWallet's Ask and Advisor series.
Fees & Availability
ClearPoint is licensed to provide its services in all 50 states. In addition to phone counseling, it has 45 locations in 15 states where you can get in-person counseling. The states where these offices are located are California, Florida, Georgie, Illinois, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Missouri, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia and Washington.
In addition to its many offices, ClearPoint's counselors are available over the phone on nights and on Saturday. Counselors are available from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. EST Monday through Friday and 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. EST on Saturday. These extended hours allow you to speak to a credit counselor if regular business hours don't work for your schedule.
If you sign up for a debt management plan, you have to pay a setup fee and a monthly maintenance fee. ClearPoint stands apart from other credit counseling services in our review by not charging a setup fee. Other services can waive this fee if your income is 150 percent of the poverty line, but ClearPoint does not charge this fee at all. The monthly maintenance fee varies depending on where you live and your level of debt, but this fee cannot exceed $50.
Support & Accreditations
ClearPoint is accredited by the National Foundation for Credit Counseling. As part of being accredited by the NFCC, ClearPoint must comply with requirements for consumer disclosure, have annual audits and provide a detailed financial overview as part of its debt management programs.
If you need support, ClearPoint can be contacted by phone and email, but it does not have live chat on its website.
ClearPoint Credit Counseling Solutions rates as the top credit counseling agency in our review. It has offices in 15 states where you can meet in-person with a counselor. You can contact a counselor by phone on weeknights and on Saturday. ClearPoint doesn't charge a setup fee for its debt management plans and has excellent tools and educational resources to help you better understand your financial situation.