Credit cards can be a great financial tool which can help you purchase items you normally wouldn’t have been able to otherwise.
That being said, if you don’t keep a check on your spending, they can land you in a lot of debt.
Credit card debts are something that affect a large majority of Brits. While a lot of them have plans as to how to pay off their credit card debt, some have a lot of difficulty paying them off.
Today, I’ll be discussing some options you have if you’re a credit card holder struggling with debt.
I’ve Just Received a Letter About My Credit Card Debt, What Should I Do?
The best thing to do is to respond to it immediately. Ignoring attempts of your credit card company to get in contact with you can be a very bad idea.
Firstly, you should check if you have any other priority debts. Credit card debt is a non-priority debt and should be dealt with after you have dealt with your priority debts. Priority debts can be anything that has more severe consequences such as you being evicted.
If you have priority debt(s) that you need to attend to first, you can write to your credit card company and ask them to reduce your payments or freeze them until you can attend to your priority debts.
I’ve Received a Letter About Persistent Debt, What does this mean?
If you’ve been paying the minimum amount towards your credit debt for a while, there’s a chance you may be in what’s called persistent debt.
Credit cards charge a high interest rate and there’s a chance that if you’ve been paying the minimum amount towards the debt for a long time, your debt may be growing faster than you’re paying it back. This would mean you would never be able to pay off your credit card debt.
In this case, you will have to increase your monthly payments to the credit card company.
If you can’t afford to increase your payments, you can write to your credit card company informing them of this. They might take some measures to help you such as freezing interest and charges or writing off some of your debt.
Determining What You Can Pay
You should definitely try to pay at least the minimum payment each month. If you don’t, there’s a chance that the company might charge a fee and your credit rating may get worse as well.
Never prioritise your credit card debt over priority debts as well as essential living costs such as rent, utility bills, etc. Always make sure that you’ve attended to these expenditures first before you think about what you can pay towards your credit card debt.
Try to pay the same amount of money each month as you won’t have to calculate how much money you’ll have left over each month. Plus, you will also be able to pay off your debt sooner.
This is because the minimum payment is a percentage of the total debt on your credit card. Once you start making payments, this amount will get smaller and thus, the minimum payment will get smaller as well. If you keep paying the same amount each month, you will definitely be debt-free sooner rather than later.
If you are unsure of the amount of money you can pay each month and need help planning your payment plan, I recommend seeking debt advice from an advice service such as StepChange or Payplan.
You can get free debt advice from them regarding how to pay off your credit cards debs. Never go to a private debt management company for help as they will have their own charges which you might not be able to afford to pay.
If you have multiple credit cards, I suggest that you make minimum payments to each as long as you’re not in persistent debt. If you can afford to pay more, you should pay off the credit card that has more debt first.
I Can’t Afford the Minimum Payments, What Should I Do?
If you can’t afford them due to a short-term issue such as an injury that prevents you from going to work or temporary unemployment, you can write to the company and ask them to pause your case for a short amount of time. This will give you enough time to get back on your feet and start paying them back.
If you can’t afford to pay them in the long term, then I suggest you seek debt advice from an independent charity such as StepChange. They will give you debt advice as to how to manage your money as well as what your options are in regards to your debt.
I Can Only Afford Minimum Payments and I’m in Persistent Debt, What Should I Do?
If this is a short-term issue, you can keep paying the minimum amount of money until you are able to pay more.
If it’s a long-term problem, then you have a couple of options:
- You can transfer the debt onto another card which charges less interest. This process is called a ‘balance transfer’.
- You can get a loan that has less interest than your credit card.
If you manage to secure a loan, be sure to use all that money to take care of your credit card debt only.
If you are unable to secure a loan, this may be due to a poor credit score. It can be worthwhile to go over your credit file and ensure all the information is correct. If you feel that there is something in your file that is negatively impacting your score that shouldn’t be there, you can dispute it and get it removed.
If you are still unable to secure a loan, I suggest getting debt advice from an independent charity regarding your situation.
Can I be Sent to Jail for Credit Card Debt?
This is a common concern that a lot of debtors come to me about. The fact of the matter is that there are very few unpaid debts that can actually land you in jail. Typically, these types of debt are criminal fines or government debt and even in those types of debt, imprisonment is the last resort after all other avenues have been explored.
Credit card debt cannot land you in jail. If a debt collector or representative of your credit card’s company threatens you with imprisonment, you can choose to complain about them.
How will Credit Card Debt Affect My Credit Score?
As you with all other forms of debt, credit card debt also has a significantly negative impact on your credit rating.
Your credit card provider will typically share a lot of information about how you use your card with credit reference agencies who will then update your credit file. This information will then help lenders to determine whether they should lend money to you or not.
The information your credit card provider typically shares with credit references agencies is your credit limit, how much you’ve spent each month and how much you’ve withdrawn from a cash machine each month.
If you have debt, they will share additional information such as the amount you owe and how much you’re paying back each month. Any missed or late payment will also show up in your credit file.
Being in credit card debt definitely seems like a bottomless pit at times. The threat of persistent debt is something that a lot of people struggle with and it is something that demotivates a lot of debtors in regards to their ability to take care of their debt.
However, with the right planning and research, you can definitely lead yourself out of persistent debt and eventually become debt-free. It’s important to analyse your financial situation carefully and opt for a payment plan that would be most suited to you.