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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.

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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

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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 – March 20, 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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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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College Students and Recent Grads, Pay Down My Debt

Sample Goodwill Letter to Remove a Late Student Loan Payment from Your Credit Report

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If you’ve pulled your credit report recently and discovered that there’s been a late payment reported on your student loans, you might be wondering what you can do to recover. Late payments can damage your credit, especially if you stop paying your loans for an extended period of time.

We’ve already gone over the repercussions of delinquency and default, but now let’s take a look at another method of repairing your credit report — sending a goodwill letter to your creditor.

What is a goodwill letter?

A “goodwill letter” is a simple way to repair your credit report, and it can be used for both federal and private loans. The purpose of a goodwill letter is to restore your credit to good standing by having a lender or servicer erase a lateness on your credit report.

Typically, those who have experienced financial hardship due to unexpected circumstances have the most success with goodwill letters. They allow you to ask if your student loan servicer can empathize with the situation that caused the lateness and erase it from your report.

It can also be used when you think the late payment is an error — for example, if you were in deferment or forbearance during the time of the late payment and weren’t required to make any payments, or if you know you’ve never been late on a payment before.

What makes a convincing goodwill letter?

If you’ve been looking for a goodwill letter that will work well, we have some tips on what you should include in your letter:

1. An appreciative tone

It’s important that the entire tone of your letter comes off as thankful and conscientious. If you were actually late on your payments due to extenuating circumstances, taking an angry tone probably won’t help your case.

2. Take responsibility

You want to be convincing and honest. Take responsibility for the late payment, and explain why it happened. They need to sympathize with you. Saying you just forgot isn’t going to win you any points.

3. A good recent payment history

Besides sympathy, you want to gain their trust that you will continue to make payments. If your lender sees payments being made on time before and after the period of financial hardship, it might be more willing to give you a break. When you have a pattern of late payments, on the other hand, it’s more difficult to convince them that you’re taking this seriously.

4. Proof of any errors and relevant documents

If you’re writing about a mistake that occurred, still be friendly in tone, but back up the errors with documentation. You’ll need proof that what you’re saying is true. Unfortunately, errors are often made on credit reports, and it may have been a clerical error on behalf of your servicer. If you have any written correspondence with them, you’ll want to include it.

5. Simple and to the point

The last thing to keep in mind is to craft a short and simple letter. Get straight to the point while telling your story. The people reviewing your letter don’t want to read an essay, and the easier you make their lives, the better.

Sample goodwill letter No. 1

Below is a sample goodwill letter for student loans to give you an idea of how to structure your own:

To whom It may concern:

Thank you for taking the time out of your day to read this letter. I just pulled my credit report, and discovered that a late payment was reported on [date] for my account [loan account number].

During that time, my mother fell terminally ill, and I was the only one left to care for her. As such, I had to leave my job, and my savings went toward her health care expenses. I fell on very rough times after she passed away, and was unable to make my student loan payments.

I realize I made a mistake in falling behind, but up until that point, my payment history with you had been spotless. When I was able to gain employment once again, I quickly resumed paying my student loans, making them a priority.

I’m not proud of this black mark on my record, but it’s the only one I have, and I would be extremely grateful if you could honor this request to remove the lateness from my credit report. It would help me immensely in securing other lines of credit so that I can further improve my credit score.

If the lateness cannot be removed entirely, I would still be appreciative if you could make a goodwill adjustment.

Thank you.

Sample goodwill letter No. 2

If you’re writing a letter because the lateness on your credit report is inaccurate, then try something similar to this:

To whom it may concern:

Thank you for taking the time to read this letter. I recently pulled my credit report and found that [Loan servicer] reported a late payment regarding my account [loan account number].

I am requesting that this late payment be assessed for accuracy.

I believe this reporting is incorrect because [list the supporting facts you have]. I have included the documentation to prove that [I made payments during this time / that my loans were in forbearance/deferment and didn’t require any payments].

Please investigate this matter, and if it is found to be inaccurate, remove the lateness from my credit report.

Thank you.

Make sure you provide as many personal details as possible — without making the letter too long, of course. You should also include your name, address and phone number at the top of the letter in case your loan servicer needs to reach you immediately.

Where to send your goodwill letter

Now that your letter is written, it’s time to send it. This can be done either by fax or by mail. Most student loan servicers have their contact information on their website, but you can also look on your billing statements to see if they specify a different address.

Additionally, you can try calling the credit bureau where the lateness was reported to see if they can give you the contact information you need.

It’s important to mention that goodwill letters are not a means to immediate success. Unfortunately, it often takes several attempts to correspond with servicers and lenders to get them to acknowledge that they received a letter from you.

Your best bet is to get a personal contact at the company who has the power to erase the late payment from your credit report.

If all else fails, try as many different communication methods as possible. Phone, mail, fax, live chat (if your servicer offers it) and email them. Several people who have tried this report that it’s possible to wear your servicer down with a decent amount of requests.

Addresses and fax numbers to try

Here are some addresses and fax numbers for several of the larger servicers, as listed on their websites. Again, it may also be worth phoning your servicer to get the name of someone there that can help you. If you have federal student loans, you can also check this Federal Student Aid page for more contact information.

Nelnet

Documents related to deferment, forbearance, repayment plans or enrollment status changes:

Attn: Enrollment Processing

P.O. Box 82565

Lincoln, NE 68501-2565

Fax: 877-402-5816

Great Lakes

Great Lakes

P.O. Box 7860

Madison, WI 53707-7860

Fax: 800-375-5288

Sallie Mae

Sallie Mae

P.O. Box 3229

Wilmington DE 19804-0229

Fax: 855-756-0011

Navient

For anything other than federal loans, check here

Navient – U.S. Department of Education Loan Servicing

P.O. Box 9635

Wilkes-Barre, PA 18773-9635

Fax: 866-266-0178

Cornerstone

P.O. Box 145122

Salt Lake City, UT

84114-5122

Fax: 801-366-8400

FedLoan

For letters and correspondence

FedLoan Servicing

P.O. Box 69184

Harrisburg, PA 17106-9184

Fax: 717-720-1628

EdFinancial

For FFELP and private loans, check here

Edfinancial Services

P.O. Box 36008

Knoxville, TN 37930-6008

Fax: 800-887-6130

Documents to include with your goodwill letter

Don’t let your efforts go to waste by forgetting to send documentation with your letter. Here’s a quick checklist of what you should include:

  • The account number for your loan
  • Your name, address, phone number and email
  • Statements showing proof that you paid (if you’re disputing a late payment)
  • Documentation showing that you’ve paid on time at all other points aside from when you experienced financial hardship (if that’s the case)
  • Identifying documentation so your servicer knows you sent the request

Also note that if you’re mailing anything, you should send it by certified mail with a receipt requested. This way you’ll know whether your letter made it to the servicer.

What to expect after submitting your goodwill letter

Once you submit your goodwill letter, you should hear back from your creditor with a decision in a few weeks. If two to three weeks have passed without word, follow up via email or phone call.

As you know, there’s no guarantee that your goodwill letter will work. The decision to remove a negative mark from your credit report is entirely in the hands of your creditor.

If your creditor rejects your petition, you’ll have to accept the ding on your credit report and take other steps to boost your credit. But if they agree to repair your credit, you should see the delinquency removed from your report and your credit score increase as a result.

A higher credit score can make life a lot easier, whether you want to take out a loan, open a credit card or, in some cases, even rent an apartment. For student loan borrowers, a strong credit score also opens the door to student loan refinancing, a savvy strategy that lets you restructure your debt, possibly changing your monthly payment and potentially saving money on interest.

If your credit score rebounds and you want to take proactive steps to conquer your student debt, refinancing could be the answer you’ve been looking for, so long as you no longer need the protections that come with federal loans.

Either way, though, make sure to keep up with student loan payments so you don’t end up with a delinquent account dragging down your newly repaired credit score.

Resources

If you’re interested in exploring goodwill letters further — and the results that others have had — check out these websites:

  • Ed.gov: They cover disputes, what to do about them and how to go about rectifying them here.
  • ConsumerFinance.gov: If you have loans with a private lender, and your lender had reported you as late when you weren’t, you can file a complaint with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) to see if they can help you.
  • myFico Forums: The forums on myFico are populated with helpful individuals that might be able to give you contact information for certain servicers. There are some people reporting success with goodwill letters, and they may be willing to share their letters with others upon request.

It’s worth the time to write a goodwill letter

If you’ve discovered that a late payment has been reported on your credit, and it’s because you fell on hard times or is inaccurate, it’s worth trying to get it erased. These dings on your credit are there to stay for seven to 10 years. That’s a long time, especially if you’re young and hoping to buy a house or a car in the near future. It’s a battle worth fighting.

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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.

Rebecca Safier
Rebecca Safier |

Rebecca Safier is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Rebecca here

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