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What You Should Know About Time-Barred Debt

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If you owe funds that are overdue, you may be concerned that a debt collector will sue you to reclaim the money. However, depending on how old the debt is, this may not occur.

Every debt collector has a certain number of years (a statute of limitations) that they can pursue you in a court of law to legally obligate you to pay back the money. However, each state has its own laws on how long this statute of limitations period is. After that period passes, though, your unpaid debt is considered “time-barred,” and debt collectors can’t sue you over it.

Here’s a deep dive into time-barred debt and the rules surrounding it.

4 things to know about time-barred debt

1. The rules for time-barred debt vary by state

The rules for time-barred debt depend on two things:

  • What type of debt you’re dealing with
  • Which state the debt is being collected in

Each state has different laws regarding the statute of limitations for outstanding debts. Typically, it ranges from three to 10 years. Different debts have different statutes of limitations. You can review your state’s statutes of limitation on debt here.

Keep in mind that if your debt collector continues to contact you about debts that are owed past their statute of limitations, they’re within their rights. A collector can contact you to collect the debt as long as they have it on their books.

2. You can’t be sued for time-barred debt — but debt collectors may try

A collector can’t sue you for time-barred debt. A collector, as defined by the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, is anyone who is attempting to collect on your debt. This might be your original lender or creditor, debt collection agency or an attorney assigned to collect your debt.

Debt collectors are legally obligated to tell you whether the debt is beyond the statute of limitations and whether they can sue you. If they don’t say this explicitly, they have to confirm that your debt is within the statute of limitations if you request verification and formally dispute the debt.

Formally disputing your debt can be challenging. To do so, you’ll need to write a letter requesting verification that the debt is still within its statute of limitations. Your debt collector can’t continue to try to collect on your debt, or attempt to take you to court over it, until they resolve the verification you’ve requested. You can request for your debt collector to verify:

  1. When your last payment was made on the debt. Technically, your debt starts “counting down” toward being outside of statute of limitations after you make your last payment.
  2. Whether the debt is within statute of limitations. Debt collectors legally can’t lie to you about whether or not your debt is within statute of limitations. However, they can decline to respond.

If your debt is outside the statute of limitations but a collector decides to pursue legal action anyway to collect your time-barred debt, you can legally defend yourself in the court of law. If this is your situation, seek legal help as soon as possible to contest the lawsuit.

A consumer advocacy attorney can help you navigate the lawsuit and confirm that your debt is outside of the statute of limitations. Although you can always choose to go to court without an attorney, it’s not advisable. If you choose to not show up in court, the court will likely rule in your creditor’s favor by default.

3. You can be tricked into repayment

Dealing with old debts can be emotionally exhausting, and knowing that they’re outside of the statute of limitations can be a welcome relief. But you’re not out of the woods yet. Your creditor’s sole job is to collect payment from you, and they can do so in a few different ways – even if you believe that your debt is time-barred.

  1. Resurrecting your debt. If your creditors pressure you into making another payment on your time-barred debt, you’ll automatically resurrect your debt and send it back into repayment-mode (and out of its previously time-barred status). At this point, your creditors can take you to court.
  2. Agreeing to a repayment plan. In some cases, even an oral indication that you’re willing to agree to a repayment plan or reach a settlement will “restart” your time-barred debt.

4. Failing to repay time-barred debt hurts your credit

Just because your debt is time-barred doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t pay it back. After all, you did take out the debt and, presumably, you didn’t repay it in a timely fashion.

Debt collectors can continue trying to collect the debt you owe for the rest of your life. The only difference with time-barred debt is that a collector can’t sue you for the money. If you choose not to repay your time-barred debt, you won’t encounter any legal ramifications.

However, failing to repay your debt could come with other consequences. For example, you might find it harder to get new lines of credit, or your insurance premiums might be higher, because the unpaid debt is hurting your credit score.

4 ways to handle time-barred debt

If your debt is time-barred, you can choose to handle it in several different ways. How you choose to do so could potentially have an impact on your credit score, so it’s important to weigh the pros and cons of each option carefully.

1. Pay it off

First, you can consider paying off your time-barred debt. With debt collectors contacting you frequently, paying off a time-barred debt might feel like a pressing task to check off of your to-do list. However, if you have to prioritize debts to pay off, you should focus on newer debts first.

Once an existing debt goes to collections (as most time-barred debts have), paying it off won’t dramatically improve your credit score. Instead, focus on paying down current debts first, then refocus your attention to outstanding time-barred debt.

2. Ignore your debt collectors

Another option you can pursue is to ignore your debt collectors. This is a tempting course of action, especially if you don’t plan to pay back the time-barred debt. However, this may not be your best option. Creditors won’t stop contacting you, so ignoring them won’t make the debt (or the collectors) go away.

Additionally, if you ignore the creditors, you’ll be unable to dispute the debt or request that they verify whether or not it’s within the statute of limitations. They could potentially take you to court over the debt, which could be avoided through communication with them.

3. Request that debt collectors stop contacting you

If you’ve confirmed that your debt is outside of the statute of limitations, you can write a formal cease and desist letter to your creditor. You can use these templates from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to help you put together your letter. Once your creditors receive this letter, they should stop contacting you.

4. Declare bankruptcy

Bankruptcy is a legal proceeding in which the court determines whether you should be discharged of your debts. With a Chapter 7 bankruptcy filing, this essentially gives you a chance to start over.

If you feel that it will take you five years or more to pay off your debts, filing for bankruptcy might be something you consider, but declaring bankruptcy isn’t easy. Contrary to popular belief, bankruptcy isn’t free – you have to pay for an attorney and the filing fees associated with declaring bankruptcy.

If you’re considering filing for bankruptcy, you should consider speaking with a lawyer who specializes in such cases to ensure you go through the filing process correctly.

Remember that filing a Chapter 7 bankruptcy will help you restart with a clean slate – but it doesn’t automatically rebuild your credit. In fact, a bankruptcy stays on your credit report for seven to 10 years. Finally, bankruptcy isn’t a cure-all solution as not all debt can be erased by declaring bankruptcy.

The following debts can’t be discharged through bankruptcy:

  • Alimony
  • Federal student loans
  • Child support
  • Taxes
  • Debts incurred as a result of a personal injury while drinking and driving

Avoiding future debts

Although having a time-barred debt can be a positive thing as you won’t necessarily be sued for not paying it back, it doesn’t necessarily reflect well on your finances. The debt will continue to bring down your credit score, and you may have problems getting additional lines of credit in the future as a result.

Seek guidance in the form of credit counseling services. You can reach out to the National Foundation for Credit Counseling or the Financial Counseling Association of America for help managing your debt – time-barred or otherwise.

Advertiser Disclosure: The products that appear on this site may be from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all financial institutions or all products offered available in the marketplace.

Dave Grant
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Dave Grant is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Dave at dave@magnifymoney.com

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The Fastest Way to Pay Off $10,000 in Credit Card Debt

Editorial Note: The editorial content on this page is not provided or commissioned by any financial institution. Any opinions, analyses, reviews, statements or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and may not have been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities prior to publication.

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Before you read on, click here to download our FREE guide to become debt free forever!

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Updated – January 10, 2019

Digging out of credit card debt can feel frustrating, intimidating and ultimately impossible. Fortunately, it doesn’t have to be any of those things if you learn how to take control.

Paying down debt is not only about finding the right financial tools, but also the right psychological ones. You need to understand why you racked up credit card debt in the first place. Perhaps it was a medical emergency or a home repair that needed to be taken care of immediately. Maybe you’d already drained your emergency fund on one piece of bad luck when misfortune struck again. Or maybe you’re struggling with a compulsive shopping problem, so paying down debt will likely result in you accumulating more until the addiction is addressed.

You also need to understand what motivates you to succeed. Do you want to pay down your credit card debt in the absolute fastest amount of time possible that will save more money or do you want to take some little wins along the way to keep yourself motivated?

Here’s a couple strategies consider as you learn the best way to handle credit card debt — and pay it off quickly.

2 common credit card debt repayment strategies

These repayment strategies can help you pay off credit card debt quickly. Keep in mind, you can use these strategies even for non-credit-card debt:

  • Debt avalanche: Focus on paying off the credit card with the highest interest rate first. Then, work your way down. This strategy can save you money on interest and get you out of debt sooner.
  • Debt snowball: Pay off your smallest debts first. Doing so can motivate you to continue making payments as you climb out of debt.

You don’t necessarily need to pick the repayment strategy that gets you out of debt the fastest. After all, if your repayment strategy doesn’t keep you motivated, you may not stick to it.

Using a personal loan or balance transfer credit card

As you seek to repay your debt, you could consider a personal loan or balance transfer credit card with a lower interest rate than on your existing debt. Transferring your debt to one of these financial products could help you reduce long-term interest costs.

But you’ll first need to learn whether or not you’re eligible. Your credit score will play a big role in determining your eligibility for a personal loan or balance transfer card. Use our widget below to figure out if a personal loan or a balance transfer is the best option for you!

What’s the best option for me?

Please enter information below and we’ll provide the best option to consolidate your credit card debt!

If you have a credit score above 640, you have a good chance of qualifying for a personal loan at a much lower interest rate than your credit card debt. With new internet-only personal loan companies, you can shop for loans without hurting your score. In just a few minutes, with a simple online form, you can get matched with multiple lenders. People with excellent credit can see APRs below 10%. But even if your credit isn’t perfect, you might be able to find a good loan to fit your needs.

Not sure what your credit score is? Click here to learn how and where to find out. If you know your credit score needs some work but not sure of what can be done, click here.

If you have a score above 700, you could also qualify for 0% balance transfer offers. We will talk more about balance transfers below but this option is the best way to pay off credit card debt if you’re able to qualify for a 0% APR balance transfer credit card.

A credit score of less than 600 will make it difficult for you to qualify for either option. If you have a credit score less than 640, struggling to make monthly debt payments and would like to explore your options to reduce your debt by up to 50%, then please click our option below to customize a personal debt relief plan.

Custom Debt Relief Plan

Now let’s talk about the financial tools to add to your debt repayment strategy in order to dig out of the hole.

Let’s say you have $10,000 in credit card debt, and are stuck paying 18% interest on it.

You already know that putting as much spare cash as you can toward paying down your debt is the most important thing to do. But once you’ve done that, so what’s next?

Use your good credit to make banks compete and cut your rates

You could save $1,800 a year in interest and lower your monthly payments based on several of the rates available today. That means you could pay it off almost 20% faster.

Here’s how it works.

Option One: Use a Balance Transfer (or Multiple Balance Transfers)


If you trust yourself to open a new credit card but not spend on it, consider a balance transfer. You may be able to cut your rate with a long 0% intro APR. You need to have a good credit score, and you might not get approved for the full amount that you want to transfer.

Your own bank might not give you a lower rate (or only drop it by a few percent), but there are lots of competing banks that may want to steal the business and give you a better rate.

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MagnifyMoney regularly surveys the market to find the best balance transfer credit cards. If you would like to see what other options exist, beyond Chase and Discover, you can start there.

promo-balancetransfer-halfIt also has tips to make sure you do a balance transfer safely. If you follow them you’ll save thousands on your debt by remaining disciplined.

You might be scared of a balance transfer, but there is no faster way to cut your interest payments than taking advantage of the best 0% or low interest deals banks are offering.

Thanks to recent laws, balance transfers aren’t as sneaky as they used to be, and friendlier for helping you cut your debt.

Sometimes the first bank you deal with won’t give you a big enough credit line to handle all your credit card debt. Maybe you’ll get a $5,000 credit line for a 0% deal, but have $10,000 in debt. That’s okay. In that case, apply for the next best balance transfer deal you see. MagnifyMoney’s list of deals makes it easy to sort them.

Banks are okay with you shopping around for more than one deal.

Option Two: Personal Loan

If you never want to see another credit card again, you should consider a personal loan. You can get prequalified at multiple lenders without hurting your credit score, and find the best deal to pay off your debt faster.

Personal loan interest rates are often about 10-20%, but can sometimes be as low as 5-6% if you have very good credit.

Moving from 18% interest on a credit card to 10% on a personal loan is a good deal for you. You’ll also get one set monthly payment, and pay off the whole thing in 3 to 5 years.

Sometimes this may mean a higher monthly payment than you’re used to, but you’re better off putting your cash toward a higher payment with a lower rate.

And you’ll get out of debt months or years faster by leaving more money to pay down the debt itself. If you want to shop for a personal loan, we recommend starting at LendingTree. With a single online form, dozens of lenders will compete for your business. Only a soft credit pull is completed, so your credit score will not be harmed. People with excellent scores can see low APRs (sometimes below 6%). And people with less than perfect scores still have a good chance of finding a lender to approve them.

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If you don’t want to shop at LendingTree, you can see our list of the best personal loans here.

Advertiser Disclosure: The products that appear on this site may be from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all financial institutions or all products offered available in the marketplace.

Brian Karimzad
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Brian Karimzad is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Brian at brian@magnifymoney.com

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How to Manage Debt as a Single Parent in 2019

Editorial Note: The editorial content on this page is not provided or commissioned by any financial institution. Any opinions, analyses, reviews, statements or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and may not have been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities prior to publication.

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When student loan deferment ended for Samantha Gregory, a single mom and founder of site Rich Single Momma, she had one reaction to her payments: sticker shock. “The amount they were asking for was so astronomical, it was bananas,” she said.

As a single mom in debt, these high payments were added to the already steep financial demands of covering household expenses and supporting her children, including one with special needs — all on one income.

Adding debt to the significant challenges of single parenting “puts a strain on not just your finances, but your emotions, your mental health,” she said. “It’s like, ‘I have this burden over my head so how am I going to take care of it and take care of my family?’”

It’s a question any single parent in debt may find themselves asking. There’s no one right answer, but the good news is that there are smart steps a single mom or dad can use to tackle debt. Here are some tested and certified strategies for how to manage debt as a single parent.

8 strategies for a single parent in debt

1. Keep debt on your radar

A key to managing money as a single parent in debt is to keep an eye on what you owe. Gregory warned against letting debt slip in your money management juggling act. “I know for me in the past, I’ve tried to ignore it and hope it would go away,” she said. “But it doesn’t go away. It’s still there, lingering.”

Keep your debts on your radar, so you’re not losing track of them, falling behind on payments or damaging your credit. If you don’t know what you owe, pull your free credit report and look up each outstanding debt you have and record the balance, interest rate, monthly payment and due date. Start a habit of reviewing these accounts regularly.

2. Work with your lender

Once you know what you owe, see if your lender offers any help or accommodations that can make this debt easier to manage.

You’ll have the most options for dealing with federal student loans, as servicers must provide you with options to forbear or defer payments, or switch to a different repayment plan.

Even for other types of debt, it can’t hurt to ask your lender if they’re willing to work with you. They might be open to giving you an extension on your payment, and some lenders will let you skip a payment now and tack it onto the end of your repayment period instead.

3. Claim benefits and support

Help isn’t always easy to come by as a single parent, so make sure you’re claiming the benefits and child support to which you’re entitled.

Federal assistance programs such as Women, Infants and Children (WIC), Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and school lunch programs can ease pressure on your budget while keeping everyone fed, for example. Other programs can assist with fixed monthly costs such as housing, child care or health insurance. Many state and local programs can offer additional help.

Single parents should also consider filing for child support. If you’re already entitled to such payments but the other parent isn’t paying, or you feel it’s not enough, consider pursuing legal steps to get adequate support for your family.

4. Revisit your budget

As a single parent with debt, living within your means is the foundation of your financial security. Review your budget to see if there are areas you’re wasting money on things you don’t need or use, whether it’s a neglected gym membership or a house you’re realizing is roomier than necessary. Consider lifestyle changes and sacrifices — big or small — that you could make to lower your monthly costs.

Look for ways to free up some of the mental space you’re using for your money, too, Gregory suggested. She likes to automate payments, for example, to ensure they’re going out on time with less effort on her part.

5. Sell your extra time and stuff

To the single mom in debt, Gregory suggested looking for ways to generate some extra cash. “I’m a firm believer in side hustles,” she said. “There are so many options out there available to create a side hustle, start a business or just get another part-time job or work-from-home job.”

Then, “look around your house and if you have something valuable you can sell, sell it,” she said. Doing so can bring a fast cash infusion that can help you stay current on debt payments, or even make an extra payment.

It can be a tough and even emotional to sell some belongings, Gregory acknowledged. But, “It’s just things and they’re replaceable, whereas your peace of mind, your family and kids, and your health are not replaceable,” she said.

6. Make extra debt payments

If you can carve out extra savings, that’s money you can use to pay off your debts faster. One method to do so is the debt snowball:

  • Figure out how much more of your monthly income you can afford to devote to making extra debt payments. Include this as a line item in your budget.
  • Put that extra cash toward your debt with the lowest balance, and make the minimum payment on all of your other debts.
  • Watch the balance on your high-priority debt decrease faster.
  • Once your first debt is gone, “roll over” the funds budgeted for your monthly payment and the extra payment and apply them to the next low-balance debt.

Making extra debt payments will lower your principal faster which will, in turn, lower your interest costs. As a result, this strategy could avoid hundreds of dollars in interest and shave months or even years off your debt repayment.

7. Consider debt consolidation

For a single parent, debt consolidation can be another way to get ahead. Consolidating debt makes the most sense when doing so will lower the interest rates you’re paying.

A credit card balance transfer is one way to accomplish this. You can open a credit card with a 0% introductory rate. Then, transfer existing balances to this new credit card (note that this will often incur a balance transfer fee) and you can repay this debt interest-free.

If you have higher debt balances or prefer a fixed repayment plan, a personal loan could be the way to consolidate debt. To do so, you can take out a new personal loan with the rates, term or payments you would prefer and use the loan funds to pay off and replace existing debts. You can compare various lenders with our debt consolidation comparison page to get an idea of the terms and rates for which you could qualify.

8. Tap your community for support

Managing debt as a single parent can be hard on you because, at the end of the day, paying them comes down to you alone. “In the back of your mind, you’re thinking ‘There’s no one who can help me with this,’” Gregory said.

However, you don’t have to go it alone — there are often people who are ready and willing to help as close as your own backyard. So let them! Family and friends can help you out in a variety of ways, from spotting you cash in a tight month to helping with child care. You can also get assistance from your church, community and local nonprofits or programs.

Even if you don’t always find the help you need right away, asking around can start you on the track to getting the recommendation or referral that leads you there. Gregory also suggested online communities, such as local or single-parent Facebook groups, as a way to crowdsource solutions and get connected with helpful resources.

Pass your debt and money lessons on to your kids

Debt can be a big regret for many single parents. “If I had more information when I was going to college, I wouldn’t have taken out so many loans,” Gregory said.

But these ideas for how to manage debt as a single parent can help you push past regret into action. In doing so, you’ll be creating the financial security that your kids need, all while modeling what good money and debt management look like in action.

Gregory, for example, used her experience with student debt to warn her daughter away from borrowing to pay for college. As a result, “She’s really blessed that she doesn’t have to take out student loans, so she won’t be saddled with that big debt when she graduates from college,” she said.

Advertiser Disclosure: The products that appear on this site may be from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all financial institutions or all products offered available in the marketplace.

Elyssa Kirkham
Elyssa Kirkham |

Elyssa Kirkham is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Elyssa here

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