When you borrow money from a creditor, you have a legal obligation to repay it. As a result, having unpaid credit card debt can lead to a lawsuit.
If you’re behind on debt, it’s in your best interest to get back on track before you’re taken to court. Debt settlement may be an option. Understanding how to settle credit card debt can help you see how you can get back on track and avoid being sued.
Image Credit: PeopleImages.
1. What are delinquency and default?
Delinquency and default are both used when a borrower is behind on payments, but they are not interchangeable:
- Delinquency typically means the borrower has missed a single payment. Depending on your creditor, the number of days past your due date when you become officially delinquency may vary.
- Default is when you’ve missed several payments over a period of time. Default, therefore, is a step beyond delinquency. Once again, your creditor determines the amount of time at which you go into default. It may only be 30 days for some, while for others, it may be several months.
Understanding where you stand on your debt can help you determine whether you’re at risk of being sued and whether you should consider settling your debt.
Image Credit: KLH49/istockphoto.
2. Should you settle your debt?
How can you know when you should settle your debt or if you’ll be able to? If you’re past due, it may be worth a shot.
- Your debt is in collections: If you are delinquent or in default, your original creditor may have sent your debt into collections, selling it to a third-party agency. These are typically the companies you receive collection calls from. Receiving these calls can be stressful and can have a major impact on your quality of life. Settling your debt can help stop these calls.
- You’re struggling to manage it on your own: If your debt is at such a point that you’re having trouble fathoming how you’re going to get out of it, debt settlement may be an option for you. Debt settlement is generally best suited for large amounts of debt.
- You’ve been sued for your debt: If you’ve been sued for your unpaid debt, settlement may be one of your only options. If the creditor takes out a judgment against you — meaning you don’t show up in court or you lose the case — settlement is generally one way to satisfy the suit.
- You’ll have negotiating leverage: Additionally, having debt that you’re delinquent on or in default on can give you leverage in settling your debt. Often, creditors or collections agencies are more willing to settle if you haven’t been making payments on your debt. The creditor may feel that settling is the only way they’ll recoup any of the debt. They would rather receive a percentage of the balance than none of it. This isn’t always necessarily the case. It’s not advisable to go into default simply to gain negotiating leverage for settlement.
Image Credit: DepositPhotos.com.
3. How do you settle debt?
Knowing the ins and outs of how to settle your credit card debt, whether you’re doing it yourself or working with a professional, can help make the process run as smoothly as possible. Settling debt involves contact the creditor with a settlement offer in mind.
The creditor will require a description of the situation. Persistence is key — the creditor may not agree to the offer on the first contact. While it is possible to learn how to settle your own debt, a debt professional will likely have more success and help take some of the stress out of the process.
Image Credit: Milkos.
Should you work with a debt professional?
A debt professional will be well versed in how to settle credit card debt. Working with one, such as a debt attorney, can have a number of advantages in the settlement process:
- Experience with negotiation tactics: A debt professional will know what tactics work best when working with creditors. Professionals will understand the ins and outs of successful negotiating. As a result, they will likely be more successful than you would be on your own.
- Existing relationships with creditors: Debt professionals will likely have existing relationships with many creditors and lending companies. As a result, the creditor will know they’re working with a reputable source. When a creditor knows they’re working with a professional that will get them their money on time, they’ll be more likely to settle.
- Legal guidance: If you’re specifically working with a debt attorney, you’ll have built-in legal counsel if and when you’re sued for your unpaid debt. If you haven’t been sued before you begin the settlement process, there’s a chance you will be in the midst of it. This may happen because you will be continuing to not make payments on the debt. Having a debt attorney on your side can help you navigate the stressful and overwhelming legal process. This can help you avoid making costly mistakes.
Image Credit: DepositPhotos.com.
How do I know if a debt professional is reputable?
Lots of debt settlement companies exist. Working with the wrong one could cost you more and leave your debt unresolved. Some strategies exist to help you find a professional who knows how to settle debt and still has your best interest in mind:
- Do your research: Read online reviews and ask around from family and trusted friends. You can glean a lot from what other people are saying about a company or professional.
- Know the red flags: Scam debt settlement companies are known for making promises they can’t keep. If a company advertises that they can settle your debt for a certain percentage or in a specified amount of time, they’re likely a scam. Because every consumer’s situation is different, it’s impossible to make such a blanket statement. Scam companies may also have a PO box, rather than an actual address. They may also only recorded phone menus that don’t allow you to speak to a real person.
Image Credit: Deposit Photos.
The bottom line
Knowing how to settle your credit card debt before going to court can help avoid more stress and expenses. Debt settlement is generally reserved for significant amounts of debt or when you’ve been sued for your debt. You can undertake this process yourself, but it’s generally in your best interest to work with an experienced, trusted professional.
Image Credit: DepositPhotos.com.AlertMe