By Connie Schlosberg
How was your Thanksgiving? Did you spend it at the mall? Shopping on Amazon? Didn’t shop at all because you hit your credit card limits? Black Friday is no longer just a shopping day after Thanksgiving. Now Black Friday sales start before Turkey day and last until Cyber Monday and beyond. We have Small Business Saturday (which I totally support) and Green Monday.
Shopping is ingrained into our holiday culture and it doesn’t appear to be going away any time soon. This trend doesn’t help keep money in our wallets or our bank accounts. It certainly doesn’t help with getting out of debt. According to a poll by CreditCards.com, 61% with credit card debt are inclined to spend more for the holidays.
What happens when January rolls around and you can’t pay the credit card bills?
If you are tapped out on your credit cards or can’t pay them at all, odds are it’s not because you went on a holiday shopping spree. It’s a problem that’s been around for quite some time. Once you own up to having a problem, stop worrying, roll up your sleeves, and get a handle on credit card debt.
*Not sure where you stand on credit card debt? Try this free debt analyzer tool.
Reach Out to the Credit Card Companies
Try talking with the credit card companies. Creditors may be open to working with you and how much you owe. Credit card companies would rather get a small payment now than risk no payment later. Creditors may be willing to take 10% to 50% less to pay off your debt because they know you can cancel that debt in bankruptcy.
The creditor is likely to request something in exchange. This could include:
- Paying higher interest
- Paying for a longer period
- Adding a cosigner (who’s still liable for the debt even if you don’t pay or file for bankruptcy)
- Waiving the statute of limitations (the number of years the creditor can sue you if you stop making payments)
- Giving collateral interest in your house or car (possibly turning unsecured debt into a secured debt)
Consenting to terms like these could ultimately make your situation worse. First, consult with a lawyer before you sign anything.
10 Tips on Negotiating Debt with Creditors
- Describe your financial troubles. Don't exaggerate but give them your sob story.
- Push for the best offer the creditor can give. For instance, if the credit card company offers to waive three months' interest, ask for six-months’ interest.
- Don’t believe creditors when they say, “that’s the lowest they can accept.” If they think you can pay more, they’ll shoot for the highest amount. Stand your ground.
- Propose a lump sum to pay off the debt. The credit card company may settle for 25% to 75% of the total debt if you pay in a lump sum. If they agree, get written confirmation that the debt will be paid in full when you pay the lump sum amount.
- Ask for a payment plan to reduce your payments and the total you owe. What if you can't pay a lump sum to resolve the debt? Get your creditor to agree to a new payment plan. Ask them to make the current month the first repayment month and keep late payment notifications off your credit report.
- Figure out how much you can pay each month before committing to a payment plan. For example, if you owe $10,000 on a credit card and can only pay $50 each month, don’t agree to pay more.
- Tell them you are considering filing for bankruptcy. You should say that you are contemplating filing for bankruptcy if the credit card company rejects your offers to renegotiate the debt. However, you should use this method as a last resort. The creditor is likely to add a note to your account that you threatened to file bankruptcy. Therefore, if you add additional charges to your credit card as of the date of your call, you may have a difficult time getting the debt discharged if you decide to file bankruptcy. The creditor will argue that you had no intention of paying your debt, and a bankruptcy judge most likely will agree with the credit card company.
- Get assistance in negotiating with creditors. If you don’t feel comfortable dealing with creditors (most of us don’t) reach out to a credit counselor who can help you manage your credit card debt and enroll you in a debt management plan.
- Try debt consolidation. A debt consolidation loan may be a good solution for you. With debt consolidation, you can roll your credit card debt into one monthly manageable payment. Find out more about debt consolidation here.
Look into debt settlement. Before you consider bankruptcy, find out if debt settlement is right for you. Debt settlement could be your best option especially if you are not an adept negotiator (most of us are not). With debt settlement, a debt solution provider negotiates for you. Find a vetted provider here