How to Pay Off Credit Card Debt

Reader-Submitted Story and Advice

This following advice article about how to pay off credit card debt was submitted by an anonymous site reader from Miami, Florida.

When I turned 18, I was ready to spend money. I signed up for any and every credit card that would have me. I moved out from my parent's home at a young age and was never really taught the cardinal rule of using credit cards: you buy something and pay it off. Then, then buy something else, and pay it off, too... and continue the cycle.

So I did what I thought would work — I bought and bought and bought then paid about $20 a month towards my balance.

Needless to say, soon all of my cards were maxed out and I could no longer get away with paying only $20. When my minimum amount due grew to around $200 to $300 on each card, I felt helpless.

What did I do? Nothing. I didn't try to pay off credit card debt. In fact, I didn't pay anything at all. I dipped and dodged the creditors, which landed me in two lawsuits four years later. I also had about $30,000 of total unpaid debt on six credit cards.

I attempted to contact a few debt consolidation companies. Yet, it seemed like all of them wanted around $400 a month automatically withdrawn from my account. This was a commitment I was not willing to make.

I was lucky to be employed at the time and was working for an attorney, as luck would have it. After considerable though, I finally decided to swallow the embarrassment and ask him for his advice about the lawsuits.

He was great about wanting to help me pay off credit card debt and sent the companies a letter on my behalf, requesting a 50% settlement on my accounts. Some actually greed to settle at this rate. With others, we had to negotiate and they ended up accepting 75%.

If this approach is of interest to you, here's some things I learned along the way. This is what worked for me. Perhaps something similar will work for you.

  1. When you are ready to negotiate a reduction in your balance to pay off credit card debt, contact the company's lawyer representative. Explain your financial situation and you want to make a settlement offer.

  2. Make your first offer 50% or less, and raise your offer until the credit card company representative agrees.

  3. Know this: The catch is you have to pay whatever you negotiate immediately... in one lump some. Therefore, you need to have some access to funds to make this happen. Perhaps it is a tax return, inheritance or a low-interest loan that you can handle paying off.

  4. Also, it is important to mention that the settlement will still stay with your credit history and appear on your credit report (varies from state to state), which could affect getting credit cards or loans in the future (varies from state to state). Though, I'm told that over time, the settlement's impact on your creditworthiness will matter less and less.

So my ultimate advice is to NOT avoid credit card companies for any reason. Even pay $5 a month if that is all you can do, but do not disappear. They will find you.

I hope these suggestions help others avoid my situation.

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