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What to Do When Your Credit Card Debt Has Been Charged Off

08/15/2008

One of our readers, Ashok, sent us this question:

Sir, I am a credit card defaulter. I changed my address and likelihood of bank finding me is almost zero. But I feel guilty to do this and want to settle my account with bank, However, i am not in a condition to pay the full amount, but would like to get my name written off from bank’s defaulter list. How do I settle my account with bank? What kind of rebate i can expect? Is there any agency to help me out in this?

Thanks for your question Ashok!

You are wise to want to settle the account out for several reasons:

  1. Credit card companies employ entire departments of people they call “skip trace”. Which basically means when someone skips out, they harass everyone you know until they find you.
  2. The credit card company will keep reporting the debt to all three credit bureaus until they write it off. When they write it off, they will sell your debt to a new collection company, who will also report your debt to all three credit bureaus. When they give up on trying to find you, they will simply sell your debt to another company.
  3. If anyone ever does catch up to you, you can expect them to sue you, and garnish your wages.

Now, assuming that they do not ever find you, you will still have to deal with the damage that delinquent account is doing to your credit score. So, you are exactly right to want to make good on the debt. It will begin the process of repairing your credit.

There is one thing you need to be aware of before you begin. Now, I do not know how old your debt is, but I can tell you that if your credit card company has written off your debt already, calling them will “re-open” it, and they will begin collections all over again. This could actually cause you to have multiple negative accounts on your credit report over the same debt – so do a couple of things first.

If you want to make good on your debt what you have to do is pull all three of your credit reports, and find out who currently owns your debt. From that point, you have two options:

  1. Call the collection company who owns your debt now, and offer a settlement for a reduced amount.
  2. Send a certified letter to the collection company that currently owns the debt telling them that you refuse to deal with anyone but the original owner of the account (the bank that issued the card.) This is your right by law.

There are pros and cons to both of these:

Collection companies are used to making settlements, and they will likely settle for less than your original bank will. However, they may have tacked on quite a few additional fees to your account that would not be charged to you if you deal directly with the bank that gave you the card.

The best way to know if fees have been added is to look at your credit report. Look at the amount your bank charged off, and then compare it to the amount the new collection company says you owe.

Settling the debt with the original bank will look better on your credit score because it will show a paid charge off. If you pay your original bank you can wait a few months, and challenge any negative information on your reports that resulted from the collection companies (not the original bank.)

As far as what kind of a settlement you can expect: it depends on how much you are willing to negotiate. In situations like yours, you should easily be able to cut the total by 50% if you are dealing with a collection company. If you deal with the original bank, upwards of 30% is a reasonable expectation.

As far as organizations that can help, yes, you will get the help you need from a credit counseling agency. Just be careful which one you choose, because not all of them do a good job. They will negotiate with your creditors on your behalf, and get the account settled for you.

For more information on how to choose a credit counseling agency, you can check out these articles:



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