Credit Card Debt: It’s Never Too Late

By Mike Peterson
In August 22, 2011

What happens when you fall (and stay) behind on your credit card payments?  And how do you fix it?

If you’ve ever struggled with credit card debt, you’ve probably played the “what if” game.  As in, “What if I just stopped sending payments?”  Or, “What if I just ignore that collections letter?”

It’s a tempting game to play – especially if you’ve got lots of credit card debt and not a lot of money.  But it’s also a risky game:  If you’ve fallen a little behind on your credit card payments, you could be looking at nasty letters, phone calls, and an increased interest rate.  If you’ve fallen a lot behind, you could be going to court.

In fact, in the last 12 months, around 15 percent of adults in the USA have been late in making a credit card payment; that is almost 34 million people!  In addition to this statistic, around 18 million individuals have failed to make a payment entirely.

The thing about debt is that you can’t outrun it and you can’t just ignore it until it goes away.  But, the other thing about debt is, there are always options – no matter how many payments you’ve missed, you can do something about it.

Whether your issue is that you are not making enough money and are spending too much, or you have recently lost a job, utilizing a debt management program can help change your life for the better regardless of the circumstances.

Here’s my handy guide to getting your debt back on track, whether you’re 30 days behind or six months into delinquency:

Days/Months past due: What you can expect from your credit card company: What you should do:
30 days
  • “Friendly” reminders via phone, email, regular mail.

NOTE:  Most credit card companies have some sort of “grace period” – usually 30 days.  That means that if you pay your bill within that grace period, your interest rate won’t be affected.

  • Pay your bill right away!  If you can’t pay, call your credit card company and explain — they’ll be much more likely to work with you if you’re direct and honest.

 

60 days
  • Less-friendly (and more frequent) reminders:  Expect more phone calls, emails, and letters.
  • Your credit card company will probably report you to the credit reporting bureaus.
  • Your interest rate will probably go up.

 

  • Call your credit card company!

If you’re having problems making your monthly payments, ask about setting up some kind of installment plan.  In most cases, your credit card company will be willing to work with you.

90 days
  • Your credit card company will still be calling, emailing, and writing letters, demanding payment ASAP.
  • You’re officially delinquent, and (if they haven’t already), your credit card company will definitely notify the credit bureaus.
  • Your account will be suspended and you won’t be able to use your card for new purchases.
  • You’ll start accruing late fees and penalties – which will drive your balance up.
  • Call your credit card company!

Are you noticing a pattern here?  Good.  When it comes to credit card debt, it’s never too late to get things back on track. Your credit card company can work with you to set up a payment plan that works for you.

 

 

90+ days
  • Your creditor will pass your account to a third-party debt collector (this is known as “charge-off”).
  • If the third-party agency can’t collect, you may wind up in court.
  • You may be looking at wage garnishment if a judgement is filed.
  • Don’t ignore the calls, emails, or letters – that will only make things worse.
  • Call your credit card company and ask about the possibility of a “hardship” program. This is a short term solution that might give you some breathing room.
  • If your case does go to court – show up!  If you fail to appear, the credit card company wins.  If you appear, there’s a chance of working out a payment plan.

 

Put an End to the “What if” Game:  DebtGuru Can Help

If you’re feeling overwhelmed by credit card debt – huge balances, sky-high interest rates, or late payments – DebtGuru’s Debt Management program can help.  Our financial advisors can work with you to consolidate your debts, set a budget, and work out an affordable debt repayment plan.

In addition, here are some useful tips for you to use as a guide while building your own good credit score:

  • Make sure you are paying your bills on time.  Making constant late payments will have a destructive impact on your credit score.
  • If you have missed any payments, catch up on them right away. You should always stay current with your payments. The longer you pay your bills on time, the more your credit score will improve.
  • Paying off a collection account from a creditor will not be immediately removed from your credit report. Any amount billed in a collection will stay on your credit report for at least 7 years.
  • If you are having difficulty managing your bills and keeping up with your required payments, contact your creditors or consult a credit and debt counselor. This won’t immediately solve your credit issues; however it will be your first step in the right direction to avoiding drowning in debt.

By following these helpful tips you can begin to manage your credit and pay your bills on time.  Making on-time payments is one of the best ways to improve your credit score over time. Once your account goes to collections, it will stay on your credit report for years to come.  It is suggested to pay your outstanding debts first before you have multiple accounts go to collection.

Want to learn more about DebtGuru?  Visit us today for a free debt consolidation analysis or call us at 800-259-0601.

Mike is the author of “Reality Millionaire: Proven Tips to Retire Rich” and he has been published in a variety of local and national publications including Entrepreneur Magazine, Deseret Morning News, LDS Living Magazine, and Physicians Money Digest. He holds a B.S. in business administration from the University of Phoenix.