There is a sinking feeling in your gut that comes with credit card debt, especially when it starts to feel unmanageable. While negotiating a credit card settlement might not sound like a fun solution, there are scenarios when it may make sense. Let’s dive in.
The Difference Between Secured and Unsecured Debt
First, let’s talk about the type of debt a credit card typically is. When a credit card company issues a credit card, it’s taking a big chance on getting its money back, plus interest. It’s more than likely that the credit card you have is considered “unsecured.”
All that means is that it isn’t connected to any of your assets that a credit card company can seize in the event that you default on your payments. Essentially, the credit card company is taking your word for it that you are going to come through with the monthly payments.
Secured debt works a bit differently. They’re backed by an asset, like your car or home. If you default on a secured debt, your lender could seize the asset and sell it to pay off your debt. Mortgages and auto loans are two common types of secured debt.
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Credit Card Debt Negotiation Steps
The process of negotiating credit card debt usually begins when you have multiple late or skipped payments — not just one. A good first step is to find out exactly how much you owe, and then research the different options that may be available to you. Examples include a payment plan, an increase in loan terms or lowered interest rates.
Once you have that information, you’re ready to negotiate. You can start by calling your credit card company and asking for the debt settlement department. Or, you can send a note by email or regular mail.
You may have to go through a number of customer service reps and managers before striking a deal, but taking the initiative can show creditors that you are handling the situation honestly and doing what you need to do.
When you do reach an agreement, be sure to get the agreed-upon terms in writing.
Types of Credit Card Debt Settlements
Lump Sum Settlement
This type of agreement is perhaps the most obvious option. Essentially, it involves paying cash and instantly getting out of credit card debt. With a lump sum settlement, you pay an agreed-upon amount, and then get forgiveness for the rest of the debt you owe.
There is no guarantee as to what lump sum the credit card company might go for, but being open and upfront about your situation could help your cause.
This type of debt settlement offers a degree of flexibility. You may be able negotiate a lower interest rate or waive interest for a certain period of time. Or, you can talk to your credit card issuer about reducing your minimum payment or waiving late fees.
Also known as a forbearance program, this type of agreement could be a good option to pursue if your financial issues are temporary, such as the loss of a job.
Different options are usually offered in a hardship agreement. Examples include lowering interest rate, removing late fees, reducing minimum payment, or even skipping a few payments.
Why a Credit Card Settlement May Not Be Your Best Option
Watching your credit card balance grow each month can be scary. Depending on your circumstances, a settlement may be the best solution for you.
However, it’s not without its drawbacks. For starters, a settlement may result in your credit card privileges being cut off and your account frozen until a settlement agreement is reached between you and the credit card company.
Your credit score could take a hit, too. This is because your debt obligations are reported to the credit bureaus on a monthly basis. If you aren’t making your payments in full, this will be noted by the credit bureaus.
That said, by negotiating a credit card settlement, you may be able to avoid bankruptcy and give the credit card company a chance to recoup some of its losses. This could stand in your favor when it comes to rebuilding your credit and getting solvent again.
Solutions Beyond Credit Card Debt Settlements
Consolidating all of your high-interest credit cards into one low-interest unsecured personal loan with a fixed monthly payment can help you get on a path to pay off the credit card debt. Keep in mind that getting a personal loan still means managing monthly debt payments. It requires the borrower to diligently pay off the loan without missing payments on a set schedule, with a firm end date.
For this reason, a personal loan is known as closed-end credit. A credit card, on the other hand, is considered open-end credit, because it allows you to continue to charge debt (up to the credit limit) on a rolling basis, with no payoff date to work towards.
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Essentially, a balance transfer is paying one credit card off with another. Most credit cards won’t let you use another card to make your payments, especially if it’s from the same lender. If your credit is in good shape, you can apply for a balance transfer credit card to pay down debt without high interest charges.
Many balance transfer credit cards offer an introductory 0% APR, but keep in mind that a sweet deal like that usually only lasts about six to 18 months. After that introductory rate expires, the interest rate can jump back to a scary level — and other terms, conditions, and balance transfer fees may also apply.
Credit Consumer Counseling Services
Credit consumer counseling services often take a more holistic approach to debt management. You’ll work with a trained credit counselor to develop a plan to manage your debt. Typically, the counselor doesn’t negotiate a reduction in debts owed. However, they may be able to have your loan terms increased or interest rates lowered, which would lower your monthly payments.
A credit counselor can also help you create a budget, offer guidance on your money and debts, provide workshops or educational materials, and more.
Many credit counseling agencies are nonprofit and offer counseling services for free or at a low cost. You can search this list of nonprofit agencies that have been certified by the Justice Department.
When credit card debt starts to become unmanageable, negotiating a credit card debt settlement may be an option to consider. There are different types of settlement options to consider. Understanding what’s available to you — and what makes sense for your financial situation and needs — can help you make an informed decision. If a settlement isn’t right for you, there are other solutions, such as a personal loan or credit counseling services, that may be a better fit.
Think twice before turning to high-interest credit cards. Consider a SoFi personal loan instead. SoFi offers competitive fixed rates and same-day funding. Checking your rate takes just a minute.
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