If you’ve fallen into a debt pit and can’t make your credit card payments, and now you’re watching them steadily mount with penalties, fees, and steep interest rates, consider negotiating a lower payment. The New York Times reports that while most card companies won’t admit it officially, they know when they’ve got a customer who can’t pay, and they’re much more willing to settle for a lower amount than they were a year ago.
[Experts] say many credit card issuers have revised internal guidelines to give front-line employees the power to cut deals with consumers. The workers do not even have to wait for customers to call and ask for a break.
“Now it’s the card company calling you and saying, ëLet’s talk turkey,’ ” said David Robertson, publisher of the credit industry journal The Nilson Report.
One thing to be aware of is after six months of non-payment, “regulations require the card company to reduce the value of the debt on its books to zero.” In addition, collection companies are buying old debt at about a third of what they were paying before the recession. As that six month deadline approaches, banks are far more willing to negotiate a lower amount, which is good for you (assuming you can’t pay the full amount) and better for the bank than selling the debt for 5 cents on the dollar.
Just remember the costs of going this route: a massive hit on your credit score, and the amount of the debt that’s forgiven will come back to haunt you as taxable income.
“Credit Bailout: Issuers Slashing Card Balances” [New York Times] (Thanks to Megan!)