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How to Negotiate With Creditors

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Disclosure regarding Lexington Law’s editorial content.

If you are dealing with calls from debt collectors,
getting notices for overdue bills you still can’t pay or have old debts you’d
like to settle to help clean up your credit report, you may be able to take
action. Many people don’t realize that all debts aren’t written in stone, and
you may be able to negotiate with creditors to move your finances in a more
positive direction. Here, learn how to negotiate with creditors and when it’s a
good option to try.

When Should You Try to Negotiate?

Negotiating with a creditor usually involves trying to get them to accept a debt settlement. This means that you agree to pay a portion of the debt instead of the full amount, and the creditor accepts this. Creditors are sometimes willing to agree to these arrangements because they know that an account already in collections is less likely to be paid, and they would rather have some money than none at all.

Working out a debt settlement can help you get current on
accounts again or help you pay off old collection debt. However, there are some
things to be aware of.

Successfully negotiating a debt settlement doesn’t make the debt go away completely. It will still show on your credit report until it ages off after seven years, and even if the creditor marks it as paid, the negative payment history can still affect your credit score. In some cases, starting to make payments on the debt again as part of a settlement agreement can also restart the statute of limitations on the debt.

In addition, you need to be prepared for possible tax consequences. In most cases, when you successfully get a debt lowered by $600 or more, your creditor will send you a Form 1099-C. This means that the amount forgiven is considered income and can add significantly to your tax bill.    

10 Steps for Negotiating With Creditors

Attempting to negotiate with creditors can be
intimidating, but it doesn’t have to be. Use these 10 tips to help you prepare
a plan, handle the actual negotiations and be ready to follow up as necessary.

1. Be Honest

It’s important to be honest as you negotiate with creditors. Saying you can make payments that you’re not able to follow through with or overexaggerating financial problems can make the situation worse. It can also make it more difficult to work together with the creditor for a mutually acceptable solution.

When you’re negotiating with creditors, know exactly how
much you can pay and when. Be clear and factual when explaining factors, such
as a furlough or layoff, that may have contributed to the issue.

2. Stay Calm

It’s normal to be frustrated, worried and even angry if
you’re in a position where debt collectors are calling, but it’s important to
stay calm and professional when interacting with creditors.

For example, if you’re trying to get a creditor to remove a late payment from your report, you may remind them that you haven’t missed a payment before. Then, you can let them know that you were injured and unable to work for a few weeks, but you’re back to work now and future payments won’t be a problem.

Getting emotional can also indicate to creditors that you
are in a desperate situation, and some may try to capitalize on this by being
unwilling to negotiate or saying you have to make a payment before you’ve
gotten the agreement in writing.

3. Have Cash Available

When you call a creditor to try to negotiate a debt
settlement, it’s important to have the cash available right then. You’ll still
want to wait to make a payment until you have the agreement in writing, but
many creditors can send this via email instantly, which means you’ll need to be
ready to pay right then and there.

Instead of giving creditors access to your banking
information, consider using a prepaid card to make your payment or do a wire
transfer.

4. Present a Plan of Action

Any time you’re trying to negotiate with someone, it’s
important to know exactly what you want out of the deal and what you’re willing
to give. Going into the negotiation with a plan shows the creditor that you’re
serious about trying to settle, and it provides an instant starting point so
you can get to a resolution faster. Knowing what you want also helps you stick
to the plan if the creditor tries to get you to pay more or accept different
terms.

5. Ask for Modified Loan Terms

In some cases, you won’t be able to negotiate for a debt settlement. The creditor may be unable or unwilling to accept the settlement offer or it may be something like a mortgage or student loan that is difficult to forgive. In these cases, you can still try to negotiate certain aspects, such as interest rates or minimum payment amounts, or ask for a forbearance to help give you more control over your financial situation.

6. Cover Worst-Case Scenarios

There are times when negotiations aren’t possible
because you don’t have the money to pay. In these situations, the best thing to
do is be honest with the creditor. Let them know that you want to pay but can’t
and that you probably won’t be able to pay in the near future either.

If bankruptcy is an option, it may help motivate the
creditor, as they would rather get a little bit of the money than lose it all
under the protection of a bankruptcy. They may be willing to accept a small
amount at that point instead.

7. Be Persistent

Creditors are notoriously difficult to negotiate with,
and you may have to offer your plan and refuse to settle for less several times
before they finally accept. Continue to be honest, courteous and matter-of-fact
in all of your interactions, and don’t be afraid to call back and try again if
the creditor refuses to negotiate the first time.

8. Keep a Record

Always keep written records for every communication you
have with a creditor. Record important details like the date, time and length
of the call, the name of the person(s) you spoke to and general notes on the
conversation.

9. Practice Follow-Through

This ties into the first point, but when you’re dealing
with creditors, it’s important to always follow-through with what you say you
are going to do. If you set up a payment plan, make sure to actually make the
payments as promised. Creditors deal with people facing financial difficulties
and strain on a daily basis, and they may be more willing to negotiate with
those who are taking steps to help themselves.

10. Get Professional Help

While you can do everything that a credit counseling agency
can do, this doesn’t mean you should. Dealing with creditors requires a great
deal of time and energy when it comes to making phone calls, dealing with paper
trails and keeping records of who said what when. A professional company or
attorney can sometimes help take some of this burden so you can focus on
continuing to work toward a better future.

What If
Negotiation Doesn’t Work?

While negotiating with creditors can help in many situations, there will be times when it doesn’t work. Whether the creditor refuses to negotiate or your financial situation is dire enough that negotiations aren’t going to actually make a difference, there are other debt relief options, such as bankruptcy, that you may want to consider. Filing for bankruptcy is very serious and is usually considered a last-resort option. If you think that your situation may require filing for bankruptcy, make sure to talk to an experienced bankruptcy attorney who can discuss the details of your case and advise you on which type of bankruptcy is best for you.


Reviewed by John Heath, Directing Attorney of Lexington Law Firm. Written by Lexington Law.

Born and raised in Salt Lake City, John Heath earned his BA from the University of Utah and his Juris Doctor from Ohio Northern University. John has been the Directing Attorney of Lexington Law Firm since 2004. The firm focuses primarily on consumer credit report repair, but also practices family law, criminal law, general consumer litigation and collection defense on behalf of consumer debtors. John is admitted to practice law in Utah, Colorado, Washington D. C., Georgia, Texas and New York.

Note: Articles have only been reviewed by the indicated attorney, not written by them. The information provided on this website does not, and is not intended to, act as legal, financial or credit advice; instead, it is for general informational purposes only. Use of, and access to, this website or any of the links or resources contained within the site do not create an attorney-client or fiduciary relationship between the reader, user, or browser and website owner, authors, reviewers, contributors, contributing firms, or their respective agents or employers.

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Does Getting Joint Credit Cards Have an Impact on Both Spouses’ Credit?

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couples credit history

While marriage can help you improve your financial situation, it does not automatically mean that you and your spouse will share a credit report. Your credit records will remain separate, and any joint accounts or joint loans that you open will appear on both of your reports. While this can be advantageous, it’s critical to remember that joint account activity can effect both of your credit scores positively or negatively, just as separate accounts do.

Users Who Are Authorized

An authorized user is a user who has been added to an existing credit account and has been granted the authority to make purchases. Authorized users are typically issued a card bearing their name, and any purchases made by them will appear on your statement. The primary distinction between an authorized user and a shared account owner is that the account’s original owner is solely responsible for debt repayment. Authorized users, on the other hand, can always opt-out of their authorized status, although the principal joint account owner cannot.

If your credit score is better than your spouse’s as an authorized user, he or she may benefit from a credit score raise upon account addition. This is contingent upon your creditor notifying the credit bureaus of permitted user activity. If your lender does report authorized users, the activity on your account may have an effect on both you and your spouse. However, some lenders report only positive authorized user information, which means that late payment or poor usage may not have a negative effect on someone else’s credit. Consult your lender to determine how authorized users on your account are treated.

Joint Credit Cards Have an Impact on Your Credit Score

Opening a joint credit account or obtaining joint financing binds both of you legally to the debt’s repayment. This is critical to remember if you divorce or separate and your spouse refuses to make payments, even if previously agreed upon. It makes no difference who is “responsible,” the shared duty will result in both partners’ credit histories being badly impacted by late payments. Regardless of changes in relationship status or divorce order, the creditor considers both parties to be liable for the debt until the account is paid in full.

Accounts Individuals

Whether you’re happily married or divorced, you and your spouse may decide to open separate credit accounts. Most creditors will enable you to transfer an account that was previously joint to one of your names if both of you agree. However, if there is a debt on the account, your lender may refuse to remove your spouse’s name unless you can qualify for the same credit on your own. Depending on your financial status, qualifying for financing and credit on a single income may be tough.

Considerations

While creating the majority of your accounts jointly with your spouse may make it easier to obtain financing (two salaries are preferable to one), reestablishing credit independently following a divorce or separation is not always straightforward. To make matters worse, your spouse may wind up causing significant damage to your credit rating following the separation, either intentionally or through irresponsibility – making the financial situation much more difficult.

Before you rush in and open accounts with your spouse, take some time to discuss the shared responsibility of these accounts and what you and your husband would do in the event of a worst-case situation. These types of financial discussions can be difficult, especially when you rely on items lasting a long time, but a mutual understanding and respect for each other’s credit can go a long way toward keeping your score when sharing an account.

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Should you pay down debt or save for retirement?

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rebuilding credit

While establishing a comprehensive, workable budget is undeniably one of the most important factors in maintaining a healthy financial life, it can also be one of the most difficult. For those who are struggling with personal debt, building a budget can be particularly challenging. When the money coming in has to stretch like a contortionist to cover expenses, it can be hard to determine where to focus — and where to trim.

Sometimes, the battle of the budget can come down to a choice between dealing with the present — and thinking about the future. When your income is running out of stretch, do you pay off your existing debt, or do you start saving for retirement? At the end of the day, the solution to that particular dilemma depends on the type of debt you have and how far you are from retiring.

If you have high-interest debt, pay it down

When considering how to allocate your budget, it’s important to understand the different kinds of debt you may have. Consumer debt can be categorized into two basic types: low-interest debt and high-interest debt, each with its own impact on your credit (and your budget).

In general, low-interest debt consists of long-term or secured loans that carry a single-digit interest rate, such as a mortgage or auto loan. Though no debt is the only real form of good debt, low-interest debt can be useful to carry. For instance, purchasing a home with a low-interest mortgage can actually save you money on housing costs if you do your homework and buy a house well within your price range.

High-interest debt, on the other hand, typically has a hefty double-digit interest rate and shorter loan terms, such as that of a credit card or payday loan. High-interest debt is the most expensive kind of debt to carry from month to month and should always be priority number one when building a budget.

To illustrate why you should focus on high-interest debt above everything else, consider a credit card carrying the average 19% APR and a $10,000 balance. If the balance goes unpaid, that high-interest credit card debt will cost $1,900 a year in interest payments alone. Now, compare that to the stock market’s average annual return of 7%, and it becomes clear that you’ll see significantly more bang for your buck by putting any extra funds into your high-interest debt instead of an investment account.

If you are having trouble paying off your high-interest debt, there may be some steps you can take to make it more manageable. For example, transferring your credit card balances from high-interest cards to ones offering an introductory 0% APR can eliminate interest payments for 12 months or more. While many of the best balance transfer cards won’t charge you an annual fee, they may charge a balance transfer fee, so do your research. You’ll also want to make sure you have a plan to pay off the new card before your introductory period ends.

Most balance transfer offers will require you to have at least fair credit, so if your credit score needs some work, you may not qualify. In this case, refinancing your high-interest debt with a personal loan that has a lower interest rate may be your best bet. Make sure to compare all of the top bad credit loans to find the best interest rate and loan terms.

If you’re nearing retirement, start to save

The closer you get to retirement age, the more important it becomes to ensure you have adequate retirement savings — and the more pressure you may feel to invest every spare penny into your retirement fund. No matter your age, however, paying off your high-interest debt should always remain the priority, as it will always provide the best rate of return (as well as likely provide a credit score boost).

Indeed, no matter how tempting it becomes, you should avoid reallocating money you’ve dedicated to paying off high-interest debt to save for retirement. Instead, the focus should be on re-evaluating your budget to find any additional savings you can. To be successful, you will need to make a strong distinction between want and need — and, perhaps, make some tough lifestyle choices.

Though simply eliminating your daily coffee drink won’t magically provide a solid retirement fund, saving a few bucks by homebrewing while also eliminating a pricey cable bill in favor of an inexpensive streaming service — or, better yet, free library rentals — can add up to big savings over the course of the year. The ideal strategy will involve overhauling every aspect of your lifestyle, combining both large and small cuts to develop a lean budget structured around your long-term goals.

Of course, while you should never allocate debt money to your retirement savings, the reverse is also true. It is almost always a horrible idea to remove money from your retirement account before you hit retirement age — for any reason. Withdrawing early means you will be stuck paying hefty fees for withdrawing money early and, depending on the type of account, you may also have to pay significant taxes.

Aim for both goals by improving income

As you take the necessary steps to pay off debt and save for retirement, you may have already stretched the budget so thin it’s practically transparent. In this case, it is time to consider ways to improve your overall income. Increasing the amount you have coming in not only provides extra savings to put toward your retirement, but may also speed up your journey to becoming debt-free.

The easiest solution may be to look for ways to increase your income through your current job; think about taking on additional shifts or overtime hours to earn some extra cash. Depending on your position — and the time you’ve been with the company — consider asking for a pay raise or promotion, as well.

If you do not have options to make more money at your day job, it may be time to find a second job. Look for opportunities that provide flexible schedules that will accommodate your regular job; many work-from-home positions, for example, can easily fit into most work schedules. Doing neighborhood odd jobs, such as babysitting and dog walking, may also provide a solid income boost without interfering with your existing job.

For some, the need to pay off debt and improve retirement savings can be more than just a source of stress — but a hidden opportunity to begin a new career adventure. Instead of being weighed down by yet more work, use the desire to better your budget as a reason to explore the profit potential of a passion or hobby. Starting a small online store, part-time consulting service, or other small business can be a great way to improve your income and your overall happiness.

While it may sound intimidating, starting a side business can be as simple as putting together a professional looking website and doing a little marketing legwork to spread the word. And no, building a website isn’t as scary — or expensive — as it seems, either. A number of the top website builders now offer simple drag-and-drop interfaces perfect for putting together a professional-looking web page in minutes (without breaking the bank).

Learn how you can start repairing your credit here, and carry on the conversation on our social media platforms. Like and follow us on Facebook and leave us a tweet on Twitter.



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How does a loan default affect my credit?

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Nobody takes out a loan expecting to default on it. Despite their best intentions, people sometimes find themselves struggling to pay off their loans. These types of struggles happen for many reasons, including job loss, significant debt, or a medical or personal crisis.

Making late payments or having a loan fall into default can add pressure to other personal struggles. Before finding yourself in a desperate situation, understanding how a loan default can impact your credit is necessary to avoid negative consequences.

30 days late

Missing one payment can further lower your credit score. If you can pay the past due amount plus applicable late fees, you may be able to mitigate the damage to your credit, if you make all other payments as expected.

The trouble starts when you (1) miss a payment, (2) do not pay it at all, and (3) continue to miss subsequent payments. If those actions happen, the loan falls into default.

More than 30 days late

Payments that are more than 30 days past due can trigger increasingly serious consequences:

  • The loan default may appear on your credit reports. It will likely lower your credit score, which most creditors and lenders use to review credit applications.
  • You may receive phone calls and letters from creditors demanding payment.
  • If you still do not pay, the account could be sent to collections. The debt collector seeks payment from you, sometimes using aggressive measures.

Then, the collection account can remain on your credit report for up to seven years. This action can damage your creditworthiness for future loan or credit card applications. Also, it may be a deciding factor when obtaining basic necessities, such as utilities or a mobile phone.

Other ways a default can hurt you

Hurting your credit score is reason enough to avoid a loan default. Some of the other actions creditors can take to collect payment or claim collateral are also quite serious:

  • If you default on a car loan, the creditor can repossess your car.
  • If you default on a mortgage, you could be forced to foreclose on your home.
  • In some cases, you could be sued for payment and have a court judgment entered against you.
  • You could face bankruptcy.

Any of these additional consequences can plague your credit score for years and hinder your efforts to secure your financial future.

How to avoid a loan default

Your options to avoid a loan default depend upon the type of loan you have and the nature of your personal circumstances. For example:

  • For student loans, research deferment or forbearance options. Both options permit you to temporarily stop making payments or pay a lesser amount per month.
  • For a mortgage, ask the lender if a loan modification is available. Changing the loan from an adjustable rate to a fixed rate, or extend the life of the loan so your monthly payments are smaller.

Generally, you can avoid a loan default by exercising common sense: buy only what you need and can afford, keep a steady job that earns enough income to cover your expenses, and keep the rest of your debts low.

Clean up your credit

The hard reality is that defaulting on a loan is unpleasant. It can negatively affect your credit profile for years. Through patience and perseverance, you can repair the damage to your credit and improve your standing over time.

Consulting with a credit repair law firm can help you address these issues and get your credit back on track. At Lexington Law, we offer a free credit report summary and consultation. Call us today at 1-855-255-0139.

You can also carry on the conversation on our social media platforms. Like and follow us on Facebook and leave us a tweet on Twitter.



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