What will happen if you don’t pay your credit card debts? Will you go to jail because of it?
These and a lot of other questions about credit cards have been answered below, courtesy of a credit card officer which I had the opportunity to interview.
Due to the sensitivity of the topic, the credit card officer, who currently works in one of the largest banks in the country, requested me to make his/her identity anonymous.
Moreover, he/she says that the answers provided are solely based from his/her knowledge and may differ from how other banks conduct their business. Thus, one should NOT consider the information below as an absolute fact that applies to all cases.
Lastly, please be guided that the answers given in this article is NOT intended to replace the advice of your financial adviser or legal council.
And with that disclaimer said, let’s now go to the credit card questions.
What happens if I don’t pay my credit card debts?
When you default on your payment, the bank will flag you as a delinquent card member. They will call you to remind you to pay.
If you continue your non-payment, the calls will be more frequent until you reach a pre-determined number of missed payments. After which the bank will dismiss your case and turn your account over to a collection agency.
The collection agency is not a part of the bank. They are a third-party business who buys the delinquent accounts. The collection agency will now take over the responsibility of convincing you to pay your credit card debt. Whatever they collect from you becomes their profit.
You said collection agencies BUY the delinquent accounts?
Yes, the bank sells the accounts to them. This will minimize the bank’s loss. The costs (legal and otherwise) that will incur if the bank continues to pursue the delinquent account can be expensive. Asides, it’s not worth their time anymore – that’s a simple way to explain it.
Furthermore, the bank cannot just freeze and take the money in your savings account to pay for those debts. They would need to have a court judgment against you to make it legal for them to do that. And that will again, cost them money and can take a long time.
So what happens when your account is turned over to a collection agency?
Then it just remains there. The collection agency will do their best to convince you to pay because that’s how they will make money.
I know there are a lot of horror stories when it comes to credit card debt collection. That’s a sad reality that many people around the world actually experience. The best thing to remember is that all those are just empty threats so stay calm and don’t worry.
Will I really go to jail if I don’t pay my credit card debt?
No. That’s the most honest answer I can give you.
To my knowledge, nobody has ever gone to jail for not paying their credit card debts. Why? Because incurring debt is not considered a criminal act. Of course, this is assuming that you just simply failed to pay your credit card debts for whatever reason.
It’s important to know that circumstances will be different if you have issued a check or has signed a contract because a bouncing check or a breach of contract can be turned into a criminal case such as estafa.
That’s why some collection agencies will try to make you issue checks or sign a payment agreement because that could give them legal grounds to file a real case against you.
How about my credit history?
Not paying your credit card debt will reflect badly on your credit history. Which means it will be difficult for you to get a personal loan when you need one.
Aside from that, some companies do check the credit history of their job applicants so a bad credit history may affect you if you’re looking for employment.
Honestly, there’s no definite list of ways how a bad credit standing can affect you negatively but trust me, it can and it will.
There is some good news though. Your bad credit history will actually not remain in your record forever.
It will be erased after several years BUT NOT because you’ve been “forgiven” but because the computer database is close to full already and it needs to purge some old data.
And with higher capacity computers becoming more available nowadays, the time it will take for your bad credit history to disappear can and will become longer.
So what is the worst case scenario if I don’t pay my credit card debts?
The worst case scenario is that first, you would have to live by cash for the rest of your life. Thinking of buying a house or a car someday? Then start saving for it now because chances are, you won’t be able to get a loan from any bank.
Secondly, you would have to deal with calls, letters and threats from credit card collection agencies for a very long time. Sure you can just ignore them but they do find ways to involve your family and friends in the situation.
I think personally, that’s the worst part of not paying your credit card debts – having to deal with the worry and unnecessary burden that collection agencies can possibly bring your loved ones. That is personally something that my conscience can’t take.
Thank you for your time, any advice to my readers?
Always be conscious of your credit card spending and be smart with your finances.
But if unfortunately, circumstances work against you and you find yourself deep in credit card debt – then my advise is really not to worry.
Be honest and tell your family and friends regarding your situation so they can offer a support system. And lastly, consider the option of getting a financial planner to help you fix everything.
Special thanks to HSBC Australia for making this post possible. Try a simpler approach and do balance transfer, like this example: http://www.hsbc.com.au/1/2/personal/credit-cards/balance-transfers
Photo credit: Andres Rueda and vipez