Negotiate Your Credit Card Debt

Persistence pays off when negotiating

Credit card customers can save money by negotiating lower interest rates or payments with your credit card companies. It takes persistence, but can save in the end.

Dana Turner, of Burt and Associates, a debt-recovery firm in Plano, said consumers have the power to negotiate with creditors. It was a tactic Melody Brooke, of Lewisville, took.

She said a series of unfortunate events led to the staggering debt she and her husband shared. Children in college, a failed business, a job loss -- it was all too much.

"Well, there was no way we could make $2,000 -- which is what we were paying; $2,000 on credit cards every month," Brooke said. "We couldn't do it."

They stopped paying their credit card bills, but kept in touch with their creditors. Eventually, one major bank offered to settle a debt of $50,000.

"The first offer was maybe $5,000 less than our balance, and then the second offer was $10,000 less," Brooke said.

She and her husband told the bank they still couldn't afford it. Finally, the bank gave the perfect offer.

"They just said, 'OK, we'll settle for $14,000,"  Brooke said. She and her husband agreed and paid off the debt.

"It began to feel like a relief, because there was a light at the end of the tunnel," she said. "You know, there was a way out."

Turner said the most important first step is to communicate with them.

"What you do in preparing for that is, always communicate if you see something coming, (like) unemployment or slow pay for some reason," Turner said. "Don't hide and say, 'I''ll do it next month.' Be honest with them, shoot straight. Give them a call."

He said you can ask for a lower interest rate or more time to pay. If the first person you speak to says no, ask to speak to a supervisor. And Turner said you should not be afraid to make a proposal.   

If your bills are already behind, like Brooke's, creditors are more likely to settle for a smaller amount. The key, Brooke said, is to not give up.

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