Key Takeaways

If you’ve missed a couple of payments on your credit cards, you may be tempted to just stop paying altogether. But this will only make things worse by damaging your credit scores and can lead to legal consequences. Read on to know what happens when you stop paying your credit cards and what alternatives you can consider.

What Happens When You Stop Paying Credit Cards?

Missing a payment on your credit card may seem harmless, but it can have consequences. The longer you avoid paying your credit cards, the more damage you’ll do to your credit score. Failing to pay will also rack up late fees, lead to higher interest rates, and you’re likely to start receiving collection calls. If you’re finding it challenging to get your credit card debt under control, it is important to call your card issuer at the earliest to work out a solution.

The Stages of Credit Card Delinquency

Different credit card companies have different policies on how they manage late payments. In most cases, creditors will take certain actions depending on the stage of credit card delinquency. Here’s what you can expect when you stop paying your credit cards:

  • 1 day late: A late fee may be charged, and promotional APR may be canceled.
  • 30 days late: Late payment will be reported to the credit bureaus, and the credit card company may contact you. Your credit scores are likely to drop.
  • 60 days late: The card issuer may charge you a penalty APR.
  • 90-150 days late: The company will continue to charge interest on your balance, and the late payment will be reported to the credit bureaus.
  • 180 days late: Your account may be closed and sent to a collection agency.
  • Over 180 days late: The collection agency may take legal action and sue you to get wage garnishment or get a lien against your assets.

Late Fees and Penalties

One of the first things you’ll notice when you miss a credit card payment is a late fee on your credit card statement. A late fee is charged when you fail to pay by the due date. This fee will be charged even if you’re only a day late. This will make your outstanding balance go up. The maximum amount of late fees a credit card issuer can charge is $30 for your first late payment and $41 for consequent late payments. Additionally, you may also be subject to penalties such as revoking promotional rates.

Debt Collection Calls and Letters

Credit card companies will try to contact you to find out when you’ll be able to pay and how much. They do this to find a better solution to the problem before they consider sending the debt to collections. If you haven’t paid in several months and your account is already in collections, debt collectors may send you letters or call you. Debt collectors are known for putting pressure on borrowers in an effort to get them to pay the outstanding balance.

Damage to Credit Score

“Missed payments cause the biggest damage to your credit score,” shares Teresa Dodson, founder of Greenbacks Consulting and debt relief expert. “If you think you're going to be late making a payment, get in front of it. Call your creditor and let them know when you can make a payment and you may avoid them reporting you late with the bureaus,” Dodson advises.

Credit card bills that are over 30 days late are typically reported to the credit bureaus, damaging your credit scores. You may lose even more points when you miss an additional payment. When your account goes into collections, it can cause additional damage.

Missed credit card payments can stay on your credit report for up to seven years. Fortunately, credit repair is possible, and as you continue to add positive information to your credit reports, your credit may recover.

Legal Actions

When you stop paying your credit cards,, the collection agency or card issuer can take legal action to recover their money. You may be sued and served with legal papers. If you fail to respond, you lose by default. If the court issues a judgment against you, the creditor can put a lien on your assets or garnish your wages. In most states, creditors have between three to six years to sue you due to the statute of limitations.

Tips for Dealing with Late Payments

The longer you wait to deal with credit card debt, the worse your situation may get. Here are a few tips to help you deal with late payments and avoid dire situations.

Set Up Payment Plans

Your credit card company may have a hardship plan through which they can set up a convenient repayment plan for you. If you are facing financial hardship, you should get in touch with your credit card company. Explain your situation in clear terms and request them to work with you to find a solution. Your lender may be willing to offer you more favorable payment terms and waive fees to make your monthly payments more affordable.

Contact Credit Card Companies

Call your credit card company to explain your situation. Alert them at the earliest, ideally even before you miss the payment. If you have already missed your payment, contact them as soon as possible, so they’ll be more likely to work with you. Many companies offer payment relief measures such as waiving minimum payments and temporarily lowering payments.

Look for Alternatives

Sometimes, all you need is proper money management to get your credit card debt under control. Make a budget to understand your income and expenses, so you know how much you can afford to pay each month to lower your credit card balance. This will give you a clear idea of what you must do to get back on track.

If you’re short on money, you’ll need to prioritize payments on secured debts such as your car and mortgage, as well as necessities like utilities and food. Take up a part-time job or a side gig to supplement your income so you can bring down your debt faster. Once you have enough money left over in your budget each month, start building an emergency fund so you don’t have to rely on credit cards.

Negotiating with Credit Card Companies After You Stop Making Payments

If you are unable to make credit card minimum payments, you may want to negotiate credit card debt with the card issuer. It is important to note that most lenders will only be willing to negotiate with you when you’ve already missed several payments, and they’re unlikely to recover their money. Here are two options for negotiating your debt when you stop paying your credit cards.

Debt Settlement

Settling credit card debt involves offering a lump sum settlement amount to your credit card company. If the lender agrees to this settlement, the remaining amount you owe will be forgiven. If you have saved up some money or have the means to put aside some money each month to offer as a settlement, this may be a good way to clear off your debt. For example, if you owe $6,000 on your credit card, you may offer the credit card company a lump sum settlement amount of $4,000. If they accept, the remaining $2,000 will be forgiven.

Credit Counseling

Another alternative to consider is credit counseling. A credit counselor can review your finances, debt, and income and help you create a budget. They can also provide you with personal finance resources and options to clear your debt. Nonprofit credit counseling agencies are required to provide you with advice in your best interest so they may be able to help you come up with a plan that is suitable for your financial situation, whether that is through debt consolidation or a debt management plan.

The consequences of unpaid debt can get serious the longer you avoid paying it off. Your account may be sent to a collections agency, and only in the most extreme cases you can go to jail for not paying credit card debt. You may receive collection calls repeatedly to pay your debt. For many borrowers, these calls can be a source of stress. They can also take legal action and sue you in court, which may lead to further problems.

Wage Garnishment

When debt collectors take legal action against you, you could lose the lawsuit. If this happens, you could face court-ordered wage garnishment. This means that your wages may be withheld by your employer by court order for the payment of debt. Going down the path of not paying your bills at all can bring about these and many other negative repercussions.

Bankruptcy

Bankruptcy for credit card debt should only be considered when there are no other alternatives available. But in some situations, your debt may be so overwhelming that this may be the only recourse. Bankruptcy can wipe out debt and, in some cases, allow you to retain possessions such as your car and home. But your credit score and finances can take a hit for several years.

For consumers, Chapter 7 bankruptcy is the most common. A bankruptcy trustee will sell off your non-exempt assets and use the funds to pay off your unsecured debt. The remaining debt is forgiven. With Chapter 13 bankruptcy, you may be allowed to keep your assets, but you’ll have to pay your debts in a 3-5 year repayment plan. Bankruptcy will remain on your credit report for up to seven years, which may make it difficult for you to get any new loans during that time.

How Unpaid Credit Card Debt Affects Credit Scores and Credit History

Other than the consequences discussed above, what happens when you stop paying a credit card is that it will negatively impact your credit score and credit history.

Credit Score Impact

Late payments are reported by your card issuer to credit bureaus- Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax, once your account is over 30 days due. You’ll see a drop in your FICO score to reflect this. The exact number of points that will be reduced will depend on your overall profile, but the more missed payments you have, the lower your score is likely to be.

Credit History Impact

Your payment history is one of the most important factors that impact your credit score. Late credit card payments can lower your score and damage your creditworthiness. If you don’t bring your account to current, the credit card issuer can report your account as being late. These updates will be reflected in your credit report if you are over 30 days late. Late payments can stay on your credit report for seven years, and it will continue to impact your credit history during that time.

Knowing what happens when you stop paying credit card bills is the first step in sorting out your finances. Putting off your payments can make your financial situation worse, so it is best to seek professional help so you can minimize the damage. Get in touch with TurboDebt today for a free consultation to find out how we can help you clear off over $10k in credit card debt. Our team will help you find the best debt relief option for your individual needs.