Collections, Charge-offs, and Payment Mistakes

What happens when you don’t pay your credit card?

When a person doesn’t make payment on a credit card for six months, it becomes a “terminal delinquency.” At that point, the creditor may charge it off and try to collect money via their own bad debt department, or they can sell the account to a collection agency.

Depending on either of those actions, it becomes a charge-off or a collection on the credit report.

Points are deducted from your credit score based on the date the account went delinquent. The more recent the Date of Last Activity, the more it hurts your score.

Here’s what can happen.

If Visa sells a charged off account to Paradox Collections, Visa is supposed to change the balance to $0, because you now owe payment to Paradox. If Visa still shows an open balance of $1,500 (or whatever sum), that is a violation of the Fair and Accurate Credit Reporting Act. You no longer owe Visa; you now owe Paradox.

If Visa shows the charge-off with a $0 balance and Paradox shows the collection with a $1,500 balance, then it is posted properly. Your score is docked twice for the two negative entries on your report.

But hold on! Paradox might show your balance as $1,700, because they have added $200 in fees. They are within their legal rights to add interest rate charges and fees, per the state law.

The balance may keep increasing each month if state law allows it.

And it could get worse!

Paradox might file a motion in court to claw money right out of your bank account, or to garnish funds straight out of your paycheck.

For doing this legal work, they might add $500 in attorney fees. (Again, per state law. In Washington state, it happens all the time.)

As you can tell, the debt can snowball into a avalanche.

You must never ignore a bill or a debt that you owe.

If you move to another address and don’t receive the bill and forget all about it, that does not excuse you or exempt you. You are responsible to inform your creditors of your new address and to keep abreast of your financial obligations.

If you were on auto-pay and close the bank account and move to a credit union, so that the creditor doesn’t receive payment, the delinquency will be on your credit report. You don’t get to forget to make payments.

If you go on vacation or get married or sail off to Survivor Figi, you don’t get to skip payment.

The credit card companies are not your nice grandma. They won’t give you grace and forgiveness (except in rare circumstance, and don’t count on that).

If you want to get ahead in life, you must take responsibility for tracking all your debts and pay on time. Have a savings account as a safety net in case you’re out of work for a period of time.

Live within your means. Don’t use your credit card to buy stuff you can’t afford to pay with cash.

Don’t go on so-called retail therapy spending sprees if you get depressed. If you do, you will be digging yourself into a deeper depression later.

Dear Nice Person…

I hope this post doesn’t sound too harsh. Please take it as helpful advice from a licensed mortgage advocate who cares about helping people get ahead credit-wise. It’s a good feeling to have A+ credit and receive the respect from everyone you do business with.

Make that your goal, and you will get there. If you had mistakes in the past, dust yourself off and move forward. America loves a come-back!

Stage your own come-back and build the awesome credit report you deserve.

Pick up a copy of Build and Protect Your Credit Like the Pros here.


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