Alexander Pope said, “To err is human, to forgive, divine.” Unfortunately, credit card companies aren’t in the business of forgiving their clients. Since today is Forgiveness Day, we wanted to look at debt forgiveness. We will discuss what debt forgiveness is and what its consequences are. Let’s take a look!
A Closer Look at Debt Forgiveness
1. What Is Debt Forgiveness?
Debt forgiveness does not mean the credit card companies erase your debt and you’re off the hook. Forgiveness comes in two forms. They happen after an account goes 180 days past due and charges off. The account will either go to a collections agency or internal collections department.
Your options are either reaching a settlement or declaring bankruptcy. Settling means paying a for-profit settlement company a portion of your debt in a lump sum. Bankruptcy is a legal process where unsecured debts are completely forgiven.
2. What Does Debt Forgiveness Look Like?
Debt forgiveness through a settlement is straightforward. If you owe a certain amount, you can pay the collection agency a portion of it. Bankruptcy is different because it is a complex legal process that varies by state and your financial situation.
There are also two types of bankruptcy for individuals: Chapter 7 and Chapter 13.
- Chapter 7 means you give up something of value to clear your debt and is for those who don’t have a sufficient income level
- Chapter 13 means you restructure your debt to make payments on it, and is for those who do have a sufficient income level
3. What Are the Consequences of Debt Forgiveness?
The consequences of either option can be detrimental to your credit. Debt settlement companies may tell you that you only have to pay a certain percentage of the debt you owe, but not paying your debt in full will negatively impact your credit score. When it comes to debt settlement, the government taxes the amount of debt that gets settled as if it were income. Both actions remain on a credit report for seven years (or 10 years for Chapter 13 bankruptcy).
Settlements can be very expensive, and the debt settlement companies are not always trustworthy. Bankruptcy is a good option if you can afford it. If you can’t afford bankruptcy and don’t want to deal with a settlement company, we recommend trying out a debt management program. A debt management program (DMP) lowers interest rates to help you make monthly payments. Above all, it slowly rebuilds your credit and looks good to the credit bureaus.
To speak to a credit counselor today about budgeting and managing your finances, call ACCC at 800-769-3571.