Skip to comments.Credit card debt bleg shameless vanity
Posted on 04/05/2011 9:18:51 AM PDT by Sherman Logan
A relative has gotten herself deep into debt by misuse of credit cards. She still has a good credit rating but this won't last long if something isn't done.
She has asked me to assist her. While I have a lot of advice on how to stay out of debt, I'm pretty useless on the getting out once in part.
Brief googling indicates there are two major groups that want to "help." One group is essentially shills for the credit card companies, and the other group seems to be in it to exploit the debtor further. I assume there are other organizations but don't know how to find them.
Since she has a good credit rating the present very high interest rates she is being charged seem unreasonable. I understand it is possible to negotiate such things, but I really don't know where to start.
Any suggestions will be greatly appreciated.
For those who are judgmental, she is aware she screwed up.
How many credit cards and how much in debt?
Very much worthwhile.
Baby steps. 1) Save a $1,000 emergency fund.
2)Pay off lowest balance first (maximize those payments, while paying the minimums on other balances). It's a start.
Scissors meet credit/debit cards.
End of story.
Ditto on Dave Ramsey
Have her find a group that meets locally and join it
From them she can get recommendations for a financial counselor to help her get out of debt amd make wise choices in the process
Try having her look at a credit union for a card to transfer those high-interest rate balances to. This, of course, is with the understanding that she close the paid-off accounts. Also, some signature loans (you say she has good credit) can often be at a lower fixed rate than many credit cards. Check with a credit union - it’s a temporary option, not a solution. Again - close the accounts when they’re paid.
I am working 4 part time jobs, and am applying for the 5th. Every extra dime goes to the c.c.s (well, mostly). But then the kids have also moved out and are mostly self-sufficient—couldn’t do any of this while they were still living with us.
We’re also selling everything we don’t need/want.
It’s soooooo worth it.
Also, I talked to the major carrier of my debt, and asked for a lower interest rate-and they lowered a 13.99 to a 8.9 for 6 months! :)
Now THAT is gazelle-like intensity! Best of luck to you on your journey to financial independence! My wife and I are a few months ahead of you and we can see the end of the tunnel approaching swiftly.
This is FreeRepublic - what fun would it be if we can’t pass judgment? ;)
DO NOT go to a third party to solve this.
Have her get into a Dave Ramsey class immediately.
They will tell her to save $1000 for an emergency fund (so that she isnt living too close to the edge).
She will then organize her debt from lowest to highest and begin paying it off. Call the other companies and let them know what is happening - they wont be happy - but they will eventually be paid.
Her credit rating is going to get dinged (but nothing can stop that now). The other companies will hound her (do not avoid them - but give them a consistent message that you are paying off your debt and they will get theirs soon).
My wife and I paid off $33,412 in debt in 8 months. It was INCREDIBLY hard - but we did it and are now on our way to total financial freedom - I had no idea it felt this good!
I ended up going through a debt consolidation service recommended by the local family services people...in retrospect, it may not have been the “best” option, but it has worked out well. We had about $22,000 worth of credit card debt. Four years later, it’s now down to $3,000 and should be paid off by the end of the year. They negotiated the companies’ rates down from the 25-30% range to 8-14% and set a fixed payment schedule of slightly more than the minimum payment on each card.
She MAY be able to do the same thing herself if she contacts the card issuers and is honest with them. If she does this, she needs to pick a payment schedule she knows she can meet (missing even one payment means they’ll ratchet the rate through the roof and come after her *hard*) and get the deal IN WRITING from each company before committing to it. Verbal agreements are no good, get it in writing before committing to ANYTHING. I had American Express agree to the debt management plan, accept four payments, then back out claiming they never agreed to it and throw me into collections.
Card companies will generally be flexible because they know that once an account gets in serious trouble, it’s the best possible option for them to take a lower interest rate and let the account get paid off rather than just have it go to collections, or have her declare bankruptcy.
Also, if she does still have good credit, a consolidation loan is an option. Just be careful who she gets it with. My wife had one card that went into collections and they basically forced her to go to Citifinancial to get an unsecured loan to pay it off. That loan pays off in two months. The interest rate was positively Mafia (around 21%) but it was still lower than the 29% the card company was charging, and it stopped the collections calls.
If her credit is good, she can probably get a consumer loan from a credit union or bank at much lower than defaulting CC rates (which are usually in the 30% range nowadays if not higher). Then apply the Ramsey strategy of throwing as much at it every month as possible, minimum payment notwithstanding.
1. Create a budget, immediately...everything that must be paid, but bare, bare bones only......make sure taxes, medical insurance and things like that are calculated properly and included.
2. She has to take the extra cash and start making more than the minimum payments. Rank the cards by interest....Pay a little more than the minimum on each card and on the highest interest card as much more than the minimum as possible.
3. No new credit for anything...everything must be paid by debit card and checks. Avoid ATM fees at all costs. Put the cards away in a safe place. DO NOT CANCEL THE CARDS.
4. You have created STABILAZATION. There can be no backtracking on this. Budget must be updated monthly or sooner.
5. GET the Credit Report and learn how to read it. File any corrections if necessary. Get the credit score. This may cost $20 -30 bucks but it is worth it. The credit report can be gotten free.
6. Try to set up a small savings account but remember, paying off debt is the same as savings.
7. Get on the phone and call each card company, ask if you can get a lower rate/different card from them. Tell them what you are trying to do and that you are shopping around to transfer balances. If they see you are paying (good credit) and see you are paying more than minimums, they will deal with you because they don't want to lose you.
8. Search for the best deal you can find for the lowest interest rate and lowest transfer fees. A personal bank loan might be wise to look at. DO NOT APPLY repeatedly for new credit. READ what affects your credit report.
9. Step by step every other month, do something to reduce those interest rates, repeat steps 7 and 8, and keep that budget to the bare bones while increasing payments above the minimum more and more on each card and ALOT where can on the highest interest card.
10. Torturous at first but in six months you'll notice a difference. In one year a big difference. Pull your annual credit report, pull the score and go back to step 1 to prepare the year 2 plan.
This is like eating and sleeping and working...you work on your credit every day, in the way you budget, spend, and control and know things.
This is a plan for someone like your sister who is NOT over her head, missing payments, and with bad credit...that is a different matter.
The Big Boo
Have her call the individual creditors and explain her situation. 90% probability they will offer more favorable terms and payments she can handle.
There are millions of borrowers right now who cannot even make their payments. With numbers as they are, a creditor is much easier to negotiate with. They would rather receive something than nothing.
Good luck to her.
I’m not familiar with the Ramsey classes, but a third party solution saved my butt. 10 years ago now. I believe it was with Trinity, then later with Cambridge. They stopped the escalating rates, penalties, etc. and I was able to gain ground.
I did pay them for their service, but I was thrilled. iirc, I paid 45 a month for the service for about 30 months...12,000 approx in debit and climbing, until I hired Trinity.
Now, I charge everything I can on one card and pay it off every month. The reason I charge so much is to take advantage of my card's cash back program, which is 1-2% of every purchase (depending on the type of purchase).
Credit cards are like hammers....they are great tools as long as you don't hit yourself in the head with them.
I wish I could buy things I cant afford . .
I am curious as to why you say don’t cancel the cards? It seems to me if one doesn’t have the discipline to not the use cards, keeping them open is just an unnecessary temptation.
Dave Ramsey is a good start as another poster posted the link. Some hate him and think his ideas are silly, but the fact remains he has an immediate, common-sensed, approach to out of control spending and getting your credit use and debt in order NOW!
First off, screw the credit rating. It means nothing right now. It is also REAL easy to rebuild. I know guys that have walked away from mortgages that had 720 ratings within a few months.
Dave preaches one thing: Stop spending, start saving and paying off that debt, and eat baloney if that what it takes and it does take it. You already spent your lifestyle so now you get to pay for it. He has helped many people through common sense logic.
Whatever she does, do not participate in any way, shape, or form with a “credit counseling service”. They add to your debt, screw with your credit, and can do far more harm to you than they can ever fix. She can do this all by herself without those vultures.
Years ago my personal company went belly up due to the tech industry crash. We didn’t have Dave Ramsey, but we did follow much of the advice he gives out today and it worked great.
Two words: DAVE RAMSEY
I've had a couple of them for 20+ years. My credit is pretty darn good.
+1 on the credit union. Mine actually set a whole plan up for us back when we got in too deep. Basically a loan to pay everything off and I had direct deposit payment every week for two years. Also helped us create a realistic budget to live on while we paid it off. Been totally debt free for 14 years now. Even paid the house off nine years early.
Financial tatics for getting out of debt.
Rule #1 - don’t accumulate any more debt
- cut up credit cards
- establish a credit watch service with notification to an external trusted advisor to hold the individual accountable
Rule #2 - get a handle on your expenses
- record every single expense every month
- use a software program such as Quicken to enter your expenses
- create a budget for each month
- ON THE DAY THAT YOU GET PAID, pull the money out for your known expenses. Pay the bills right away.
Rule #3 - Create an emergancy savings account but manage your risk
- save $1,000 for handling emergancies
- change your car and home insurance deductuable to $1,000, this should free up some monthly cash
Rule #4 - Cut out unnecessary expenses
- go to the local library and get a card. Many have movies you can watch or audio tapes you can listen to for entertainment. Books work as well
- put off that vaction
- air up your tires, change your air filter and get a tune up (reduces gasoline expenses)
- stop buying ... Starbucks, fast food, cigaretts, clothes you dont need, school fun raisers, alcohol, etc
- stick to your budget
- comparison shop your groceries
- serve smaller portions of food and shift the composition to less expensive fillers such as rice and potatoes
- cut out and use grocery coupons. Plan a time for this and make it a family activity.
Rule #5 - Manage your interest rate
- Make min payments ON TIME for all of your cards except one. On that card, put the most amount of money you can each month
- If one card has a significantly higher interest rate, see if you can move the balance to another card.
- If possible, get a lower interest consolidation loan such as a second or signature loan to consolidate the debt from the other higher interest cards
- call the credit card company and find out what assistance programs they have. Some companies will give you a 3 month or 6 month reduction in interest, others have different programs
Rule #6 - Increase your monthly income
- ask for a raise
- reduce your tax witholding to the level that just pays for your taxes
- seek out and get a part time job
- Consider a minor decrease in you retirement contributions
- take a loan out against your 401K to pay off your debts. Interest is paid back to yourself often at a rate higher than you could earn in the market these days
Brief googling indicates there are two major groups that want to “help.” One group is essentially shills for the credit card companies, and the other group seems to be in it to exploit the debtor further. I assume there are other organizations but don’t know how to find them.
You also need to be aware that some of these debt management companies are also shills for bankruptcy attornies. Obviously you should ignore them. And ignore any debt management companies that charge a fee.
Several posts on this thread are very good. One by the Big Boo and one by Moose are worth reading. And the Dave Ramsey remarks are good too.
I’m also facing a mountain of debt and working on getting out of it. Mine wasn’t from credit cards, it’s for 3 years of unemployment due to medical issues, and the associated medical bills. Still, I owe more in medical bills than the mortgage on my land, and that is not a pleasant feeling.
There are several strategies for paying down debts, most of them boil down to this: make the minimum payment on all your debts, plus choose one to pay more than the minimum on every month. When you have that one paid off, take what you were paying on it every month, and add it to your payments on the next one. This way the payments snowball, with each one being paid off faster than the one before it, while still paying the same total amount every month.
You and she will probably get lots of advice on how to sort those debts in order to choose which to pay first. Highest interest, smallest amount owed, etc.
I actually chose 2 debts to work on first, the one with the greatest consequences if I were to default, and the one that bothers me the most. The first is my overdue property taxes, the second is my homestead association dues. My land is on a small private road shared by 14 properties, and the dues pay for plowing and maintenance on that road. Right now the owners of the other 13 properties are having to cover my portion of the bill, and that bugs the heck out of me. At the same time, I’ve spoken with the county’s treasury department and know exactly how much leeway they’re granting me on my overdue taxes, and I do NOT want to lose my land after all this, so with that one the consequences are great enough to push it to the top of the list.
I found a new job near the end of February and had a couple of surprise expenses since then, but I’m making a measurable dent in my debts already!
There is so much good advice here already.... I’ll just toss out what I did after I got stuck with all the debit in the divorce (some 30k worth of debit my ex ran up).
I went to a california based company called PBS and they negotiated my debit down anywhere from 50-80 %. Yes there was a fee to pay them.... yes I had to pay what they negotiated.... no it wasn’t easy and it trashed my credit for 3 years. But I am debit free, I own my house and all 3 of my vehicles. I may not be “Phat” but I am much better off than I was. I also wont ever have another credit card as long as I live... I have learned my lesson... sometimes they only way we, as humans, can learn is to be beaten with a stick.
No real reason? You don't count legislative pounding as a "real reason?"
When they're forced by law to allow you to pay down the highest interest balances first, for example, that radically changes their price structures, as does capping subprime card fees and interest rates for people with bad credit.
When you change the laws, for better or worse, the credit card companies are going to make adjustments to take those changes into account, usually by raising their interest rates.
Nice to hear. Good luck towards your goal...
I once got into a bit over my head in credit card debt.
The credit card company kept upping my limit without my permission, until I had a limit of almost 12 grand.
What I did to get it under control was everytime I made a payment, I would phone them up and get them to lower my limit as much as I could, even if I only managed to lower it by a dollar, after payment. I would keep it up until it was cleared.
If I had two or more credit cards, pick one to pay off and make minimal payments on the others. When you have one paid off, take that payment and apply it to another credit card.
Since the interest, as high as it is, isn’t disasterous if you do skip the occasional month, i skipped the occasional month of payments, so I could pay as much as possible on the one credit card, because you always play catch-up.
Now to your answer. Your credit report is like a train moving down the tracks...each month, for each card, you want it to say current - payments made on time. If you cancel a card, you reduce your credit and after it is paid off, your train for that card stops. That is actually bad for your credit score. Showing that you are using credit and making all the payments on time, making more than the minimums, and that you have credit available that you aren't using is a good thing. If you lower the amount of credit you have (by canceling a card) you lower your score.
I have gold plated credit. I charge thousands each month to two cards. I pay the balances in full each month. I have other credit lines/cards at ridiculously low rates (0%, 3%, etc.) I transfer regularly. I have a huge amount of credit line on different cards. There is not a single late payment noted for 40 years. I am using credit all the time, refreshing it, paying it, charging it. But because I know exactly what I can afford to carryover as debt each month (at ridiculously low rates) and I pay my fixed expenses balances off each month, my report reads like a humming, thriving steam engine. Also the amount of credit in use is paltry against total income on the credit card side, a little more than paltry when adding mortgages. Still my installment debt to income and installment debt plus mortgage debt ratios are very very good.
I do not pay for credit, they must pay me in patronage point programs....which I gain $1000 - $1500 a year so I can get free airline tickets, free stuff from Amazon, cash, fun stuff at Cabelas.
Anybody can build up a good credit history and have low interests rates if they learn how to do it and they have the discipline to follow their budget.
My wife laughs when she hears me talking to a credit card company and I ask them seriously, how much are THEY going to pay me.....:)
In a modern economy, if your discipline level is so low that you HAVE to live by cash you need more than financial help. The Big Boo
How good a friend is she, how much do you trust her, and how much money do you have?
IF you have a lot of cash sitting around that is earning essentially nothing, you could loan it to her to pay off her high-interest debt, and have her pay you 5%.
The key to getting out of debt is to replace high-rate debt with low-rate debt, but of course it’s harder to get low-rate debt if you look like a bad risk.
Dave Ramsay’s program has been used successfully by a lot of people to get out of debt, and he has online a list of things to do. Rules like which debts to pay off first, how to cut back on spending, etc.
But in the end, what I have often found is that people without money and access to money find it costs a lot more to live than people who have money and access to money. That’s where friends and family come in — people who personally trust you, and have money, can provide temporary assistance where a cold, impersonal bank won’t.
It’s the simple things sometimes. Like struggling with monthly repair bills for an old car because you can’t buy a better car; in the end, the per-year costs could be much higher for the repair bills, but you can’t get out from under it because you don’t have the money up-front to invest in capital improvements that will lower your monthly expenses.
Things like insulating your home — over 7 years you can pay back the expense, and after that you are living more cheaply; so maybe a parent might “invest” in the upgrade for a child’s home, rather than giving them so big an inheritance when they die.
I’ve got dozens of more radical things to try. For example, if a person has good friends, see if you can move in with them for a month. You don’t get rid of your house or apartment, but you can turn the heat down low, and your monthly expense drops (it doesn’t cost your friends hardly anything more to light and heat their home whether there is another person or not, and eating for 3 is marginally cheaper per person than eating for 2).
If you could find a place to co-habitate for 6 months or more, you might be able to rent out the house,or sublet the apartment, or get out of the apartment lease, saving thousands of dollars.
Eat crappy food for 6 months. Most of us are overweight enough that we could probably stop 3/4ths of our food budgets for 6 months, and come out in better health at the other end, while again saving thousands. But even if you can’t, buying really crappy food won’t kill you for 6 months, and even if you don’t enjoy the taste of the food as much, you won’t die.
Cut your own hair. Buy clothes at thrift stores. Heck, buy most everything at thrift stores (my family does these things, even though I could hire a butler to do my shopping for me — and that’s part of why I COULD hire a butler to do my shopping for me).
Get a 2nd job. I have a cushy engineering job, but last fall I worked at Kings Dominion as a halloween haunt monster. Paid 9 bucks an hour, made about a thousand dollars I didn’t really need — but it was a job, available, and they never seemed to get as many applicants as they were looking for. If I could do that for fun, a person in serious trouble could give up watching TV at night for 6 months and work at McDonalds instead. The extra $5000 or so may not seem like much, but it could be the difference.
Do NOT have her use one of the debt management companies that promise to lower her payment without bankruptcy. While they WILL negotiate with the companies she owes, her credit rating will be destroyed, the management company will take about 20% off the top, and the companies negotiated with will report that debt to the IRS as income. The IRS, in turn, will come after her for more taxes.
NONE of this would have happened if banks hadn't given credit cards to people who never should have had them to begin with.
“The Equal Credit Opportunity Act (ECOA) prohibits credit discrimination on the basis of sex, race, marital status, religion, national origin, age, or receipt of public assistance. Creditors may ask for this information (except religion) in certain situations, but they may not use it to discriminate against you when deciding whether to grant you credit.”
So, in a sense, the credit card companies were required by law to give credit cards to people who never should have had them to begin with.
What I mainly meant was people with little or no verifiable income and pattern of never paying any bills.
Congress forced banks to give such people mortgages, so why not credit cards too, I suppose.
What I'm saying is that many of our recent problems were the result of banks giving loans to people who should never have been loaned money.
Many loans were given because the government forced banks to loan the money, many of the loans were given because the banks believed they could make money on the interest, many loans were given because loan officers had bonus quotas to meet and didn't really care how the loan performed. But, regardless of the reason behind the making the loans, these were loans that the bank NEVER should have made.
I get 1%-3% on my American Express, are you finding better pay backs? We have excellent credit too but charge about 14K-20k a year. What credit cards do you like and why?
For convenience I like Amazon and Cabelas. Amazon has run specials, double points, etc. We buy allot off of Amazon and the $50 gift certs come in handy. But now we are saving up the points for two round trips to Ireland.
I don't buy a lot at Cabelas but do use the points for xmas presents. Three sons and wife...all hunters.
I have the “black” premier card because I spent $20,000 last year with it.
Got a nice slug of 15,000 miles for a Citi American Airline card...on top of the miles I already had, I finagled three round trip tickets...Also $200 back from American Express for travel related costs.
I don't spend allot of time at this...just if I notice something during my regular spending/credit reviews. It's during these reviews that if I have a good offer I really cram down interest rates. Am running a little bit of debt at 0% on several cards and will pay it off before the offer expires. Of course they now have goosed up transfer fees so I really watch that and have called to negotiate. If you are moving $20,000 they will listen!!!
I have airline and hotel points in various accounts I haven't even sorted through. Keep saying I will but just not a priority right now.
My understanding is they are pulling some card programs back or I guess just keeping them for their best credit worthy customers.
Just a nice fringe...still what I like most is paying $500 a month on a card that has a $44 minimum.. just to see the numbers fall.....Have to be totally debt free (with relatively new cars, motorcycle, equipment etc.) for retirement.
I know they are websites that will compare all kinds of things and I am sure there must be some forums or blogs. I read recently about two sisters, they travel all the time, have gone round the world..they don't pay anything in costs, but they work allot on it, I just don't have that kind of time or desire!!!!
The Big Boo
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