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What’s better than free? Someone who listens.

In this age of the online review — from Amazon to Yelp — it’s easy to forget the original. It’s called the Better Business Bureau, and while many folks have heard the name, few have an idea what it can really do for them. For free, of course.

The Better Business Bureau is a nonprofit with more than 100 branches located around the country. These branches are independently incorporated — and because its employees live in the area, the BBB is a national organization that’s found a way to connect on a local level.

But the BBB isn’t just a source of business reviews. It’s also an arbiter of consumer complaints. You can tell the BBB about your problems with a business, and it will investigate. Still for free.

Brody White is a former president of two BBB territories — one in Colorado and the other in Florida. In this era of new online review sites going up (and coming down) all the time, the true aim of the BBB can get drowned out in the noise.

“I find there are a lot myths concerning the Better Business Bureau,” says the now-retired White, who sits on’s advisory council. “We’re not a consumer advocacy group, and we’re not a business group.”

So what is the BBB? Just this.

More than just reviews

“We’re a neutral third party, and our main goal is to bring the parties together and resolve their disputes,” White says. While that includes reviews, the BBB offers much more…

How to avoid scams

“Another aspect of the Better Business Bureau is our background data research,” White says. “We do pro-active investigations. We monitor advertising. We produce business reviews, so consumers can make informed purchasing decisions.”

That helps you avoid a scam, instead of simply reporting it after you’ve been ripped off…

BBB shortcuts

Based on all the research the BBB collects, it’s able to give its members a grade — A-plus being the highest. These aren’t haphazard grades but “deeply researched decisions,” White says… — which is accredited by the BBB — offers advice on how to spend wisely and save more. What if you’re in serious debt and need serious help? Call one of our certified credit counselors at 1-800-810-0989. The call and a professional debt analysis are FREE.

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About the Author’s writers are journalists, personal finance experts, and certified credit counselors. Their advice about money – how to make it, how to save it, and how to spend it – is based on, collectively, a century of personal finance experience. They’ve been featured in media outlets ranging from The New York Times to USA Today, from Forbes to FOX News, and from MSN to CBS.

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