Settling credit card debt on your own can save you money, help reduce your debt – especially if you are proactive and design your own legal credit repair plan. However, there are some things you’ll need to be aware of before you simply call your creditors and hope they’ll agree to negotiate a debt settlement agreement with you.
In most cases, you can only settle on unsecured debts, such as credit cards, store cards, student loans or medical bills. You’ll also need to know whether you’re trying to negotiate with your credit card company directly or whether your debt has been allocated to a debt collection agency.
How to Negotiate With Credit Card Companies
If your account is still with your credit card company and you’re being hounded by their collections department to make a payment, you might want to consider settling your credit card debt with them directly.
Be aware that your account should be more than 90 days past due before they will consider even discussing the option of a debt settlement agreement with you. If your account is already at this point, then you can call your credit card company and offer them an amount of money that is 25-50% lower than the total amount you owe them as payment in full.
Most of the people who work in the collections department at your credit card company have been trained to try and get a payment out of you while you’re on the phone. They may also be disinterested in talking about a debt settlement with you. Be polite and patient with them and explain that you are not in a financial situation where you can afford to pay the full amount.
Credit card companies understand that it’s often better for them to receive any amount from you rather than for them to receive nothing at all if you file for bankruptcy.
When you reach an agreement for an amount of the settlement, get this information sent to you in writing. You should also be sure you don’t offer more than you can realistically afford to pay. If the amount is larger than you thought, you might consider arranging a payment plan to repay the amount you agreed upon over the next few months.
Settling Credit Card Debt With a Debt Collection Agency
If your outstanding debt has already been handed to a debt collection agency, the process for settling credit card debt may be a little different. Instead of calling the debt collection agency on the phone, write to them with your offer to pay off debts that you have. Send your letter by registered mail and request a receipt. Include your name and account details and total amount owing on your correspondence and always keep a copy of everything you send for your own files for eliminating credit card debt with the agenct.
Keep in mind that debt collection agencies are used to settling debts at pennies in the dollar, so you should begin to negotiate credit card debt amounts at no more than 25% of the amount you owe, preferably less. For example, if you owe $5,000 you should open your negotiation for a settlement amount at $1,000, which is 20% of the debt.
When you’ve reached an agreement for settling credit card debt with the collection agency and you have the agreement in writing, write back and negotiate your credit rating with them too before you make your payment. You don’t want the agency to list your debt settlement as a ‘paid collection’. Instead, try to get them to agree to enter ‘settled’, as this can be less damaging on your credit.
Also you might want to read up on the credit card debt forgiveness act – to see what amount of debt the US government will forgive.