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Although it may seem like credit card debt will follow you forever, the truth is that credit card companies can only attempt to collect this debt for a limited time. If your finances are affected by high-interest credit cards and bills you are unable to pay, here’s what you need to know about the statute of limitations on credit card debt.
The amount of time for which a debt is collectible is determined by state law and thus varies by state as follows:
These statutes apply to credit card accounts and other types of revolving debt. The proverbial clock begins ticking the first time you miss a payment. When you make a payment after that, the statute resets and the time in which you can be sued is extended. If you haven’t made any payments, the clock starts either when you signed the debt agreement or when the account was filed as delinquent, depending on your state. After the statute of limitations on the debt has passed, the creditor cannot sue for the balance of the unpaid debt.
The pertinent statute of limitations is not determined by the state where you reside, but by the state where the bank holding your credit card debt is located. Chase, Discover, and Barclay’s fall under Delaware state laws (three-year statute of limitations). Citi and Wells Fargo are governed by South Dakota laws (six-year statute of limitations). Some credit card companies state in the credit card agreement that the statute of limitations from your home state will apply if it is longer than that in the state where the bank is located.
Credit card debt that is no longer collectible under the state statute of limitations is time-barred debt. If a creditor attempts to sue you after this date, you can cite the statute and have your case dismissed. Although the creditor can continue the debt collection attempts for your account, you cannot be successfully sued in court to recover the balance. You have the burden of proving to the court that the statute of limitations is up on that particular debt, however.
If creditors have contacted you about a specific debt, you should never provide banking information or anything else that indicates an agreement to pay. Instead, you must ask the collection agency:
The company is required to provide you with updated, accurate information about the debt they are attempting to collect. Although they can decline to answer when you ask whether the debt is time-barred, you can construe this information by learning the date of your most recent payment.
If you do not think that the debt is yours, you can challenge the creditor to provide proof that you own the debt. Providing proof can be difficult for them to do as debts are often sold and resold to third parties, particularly as they age without being paid. Dispute the debt by sending a letter to the collection agency asking for verification that the debt in question is yours.
The unpaid debt will remain on your credit report even if the creditor discontinues collection attempts. Do not make a payment on the outstanding credit card debt if you are nearing the statute of limitations, as this will reset the clock and give the creditor additional time in which you can be sued for the debt.
Never sign a paper admitting that you owe the debt in question, make a new promise to pay, or waive your right to stop collections actions. Taking any of these steps can reset the statute of limitations on your credit card debt.
You can send a cease and desist letter to the collection agency if the attempts continue after the statute of limitations has expired.
If the creditor successfully sues you before the statute of limitations runs out, you may be ordered to pay the past-due amount by the court. This judgment will be listed on your credit report for seven years regardless of whether or not you pay the balance. The debt will also continue to accrue interest.
You don’t have much choice but to find a way to pay the debt. Once the legal judgment is passed against you, the creditor has the right to garnish your wages, force you to sell assets, levy your bank accounts, and even seek jail time.
For this reason, it’s essential to attempt to settle your debt before collections actions reach the point where creditors sue you. In most cases, arranging a payment plan or negotiating to settle your debt for a lump sum is more advantageous.
You have rights when it comes to debt collection and how collection agencies may contact you. The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act governs these rules. For example, they are not allowed to call you before 8 a.m. or after 9 p.m. in your time zone. They may not call you at your place of employment, use harassing or demeaning language, or conceal their identity on the phone. You can report complaints about debt collection agencies by calling the federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau at (855) 411-2372.
If you need help coming up with a credit card debt relief solution, Solvable can help. Visit us today to answer a few simple questions about your financial situation. You’ll be matched with reviewed counseling services that can help you come up with a workable way out of debt for good.