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I suggest you call the credit card companies and negotiate a deal to lower amount due, payments and interest. This article was in today's mississippi Times Hard times are usually good times for debt collectors. But in this recession, perhaps the deepest in decades, the unthinkable is happening: collectors, who usually do the squeezing, are getting squeezed a bit themselves. After helping to foster the explosive growth of consumer debt in recent years, credit card companies are realizing that some hard-pressed Americans will not be able to pay their bills as the economy deteriorates. So lenders and their collectors are rushing to round up what money they can before things get worse, even if that means forgiving a portion of some borrowers’ debts. Increasingly, they are stretching out payments and accepting dimes, if not pennies, on the dollar as payment in full. “You can’t squeeze blood out of a turnip,” said Don Siler, the chief marketing officer at MRS Associates, a large collection company that works with seven of the 10 largest credit card companies. “The big settlements just aren’t there anymore.” Banks and card companies are bracing for a wave of defaults on credit card debt in early 2009, and they are vying with each other to get paid first. So even as many banks cut consumers’ credit lines, raise card fees and generally pull back on lending, some lenders are trying to give customers a little wiggle room. Bank of America, for instance, says it has waived late fees, lowered interest charges and, in some cases, reduced loan balances for more than 700,000 credit card holders in 2008. American Express and Chase Card Services say they are taking similar actions as more customers fall behind on their bills. Every major credit card lender is giving its collection agents more leeway to make adjustments for consumers in financial distress. Debt collectors, who are typically paid based on the amount of money they recover, report that the number of troubled borrowers getting payment extensions has at least doubled in the last six months. In other cases, borrowers who appear to be pushed to the brink are being offered deals that forgive 20 to 70 percent of credit card debt. In the past, troubled borrowers might have been able to pay down card loans by tapping the equity in their homes, drawing on retirement savings, taking out a debt consolidation loan, or even calling a relative for help. But with credit tight, consumers are maxed out. “Knowing that the sources of funding have dried up, having someone pay the balance in full isn’t a viable strategy,” said Tim Smith, a senior executive at Firstsource, one of the biggest debt collection companies. ERIC DASH
First take your cards out of your wallet. Put them in a box and wrap them like a birthday present. Do not unwrap them until your first birthday after they are all paid off. Do not apply for new cards. Take a look at your income and your expenses. Write down how much money you make each month. Then figure out how much money you spend each month. Make sure you include things like rent, utilities, cell phone, car/transportation, food, clothing, entertainment, etc. Find out the difference between how much you make and how much you spend. Hopefully, you make more than you spend. If you don't you need to adjust your spending so that your expenses go down. (eat at home, get a cheaper apartment, etc.) Next you need to figure out how much you need to spend on your credit card bills. Call each card number and find out the minimum monthly payment on each card and the interest rate. Add the minimum monthly payments to your list of expenses. These must be paid every month. Take the remainder of your monthly income (what ever is left) and pay it towards the card with the highest interest rate first! Also you should ask your credit card companies if they have any balance transfer specials. You might be able to lower the interest rates and consolidate on to one card. Going to a third party is not a dumb idea but you don't have that much debt. Use this as an opportunity to learn how to use credit wisely and budget -- going to a 3rd party won't help you with that.
Don't worry when they garnish your wages. They do not take more than 25%, even less in some states. /
Credit card companies will respond to defaulted debt in one of two ways: They will charge-off the debt and sell the debt to a debt collector, which will try to annoy you into paying.....or....they will serve you a summons and take you to court. If they win a judgement, they may be able to garnish your wages and/or freeze your checking account. It's impossible to predict which of these two methods your creditors will use. Each creditor is different and will respond differently to defaulted debt. If they serve you a summons, DO NOT refuse delivery....You MUST go to court...even if you think you'd loose anyway. Being a "no show" on the court date = default judgement for the creditors. Your creditors will try to tack-on all sorts of "add on" costs if you don't show up..so the actual amount of the judgement could be twice the amount of your actual debt. If you don't show up, the judge will view this a contempt and will grant your creditors everything they want... Show up in court and bring a piece of paper which clearly outlines your income and living expenses. Bring copies of bills and bring any pay stubs to document your income/living expenses. Use this to plead your case with the judge to get a lower repayment plan. Challenge any "add on" costs that your creditors try to tack on and demand an itemized summary if they try to do this.
At least make the payments if you can't pay them off.