One of my clients from the US has – with little more than cheerleading from me! – gone from a pretty dark place with his finances to increasingly bright daylight. I’m thrilled for him. One part of the picture has been his debt, which originally overwhelmed him. He chose to take charge, though, and started gathering information (remember I’m not a debt expert. I was helping in other areas, but he took the debt research on as an invaluable project). Here are his straight-shooting words of advice (again, remember, this is in the US):
Here is a post that is going to win me absolutely no friends with the credit card industry or even my colleagues. But what the hell…here it goes.
Are you delinquent with your credit card debt? Is the credit card company dunning you? You should know that it is highly unlikely that they will compromise this debt. If you want to save your credit rating, do your best to make a deal. BUT…if you are not as concerned about your credit rating (translation…this ain’t the only debt on your record), then here is my advise….IGNORE THEM. Simply tell them once, kindly, not to contact you. If it is a consumer type debt, then under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, they have to comply. They will then take one of 3 possible actions against you:
1. They will refer your debt to a collection agency which is good news for you),
2. They will refer it to law firm to file suit against you (which is even better news for you) or
3. They will sell your debt to a third party (which is great news for you.) Here is why…
1. If the credit card company refers your balance to a collection agency, the agency typically has some settlement authority with which to make a deal with you. They usually have far more authority to compromise your debt than the collector at the credit card company did. If you can make a deal at this point, you might want to consider it. But, if you want to screw with them a little, then just tell the nice collector from the agency to not call you anymore and wait for the debt to go to a law firm or a debt buyer.
2. Law firms – typically don’t like suing on credit card debt. Why? Because if you present any kind of a defense to it, you may actually get out of paying the debt altogether. I know of several judges in Michigan that hate this kind of debt coming into their courtroom. Moreover, unless the debt is really really high, it is unlikely that the credit card company is going to send a witness to trial. If you demand a trial and don’t back down, the law firm will go to some pretty great lengths to make a deal with you.
3. Credit card purchasers. This is the Tri-fecta for a debtor. First of all, these credit card purchasers usually do NOT get the back data on their debts. Thus when they take you to court, tell the judge that you want “discovery.” This means that you want the debt buyer to come across with a copy of the contract that you signed when you opened the account. They almost never have this information. When you demand this discovery and the law firm comes up short,l they will bend over backwards to make a deal with you. There is a sizable debt collection law firm in West Bloomfield that does a brisk business in credit card collections. When debtors demand discovery, this firm will usually come across with a paltry offer or simply dismiss their case.
There you have it. Credit card debt is highly manageable depending on the level of risk you are willing to take and also depending on who is collecting the debt. If you can stand the heat, I would suggest that you wait until the debt falls into the hands of a third party. You can make your best deal at that level.