Most people have some credit card debt, and if there are unexpected events in their lives that affect their finances, their ability to repay their credit card debt may be affected.
In many cases, if the consumer clearly and politely explains their situation to the credit card company with a hardship letter, there is a good chance the credit card company will go easier on its debt collection efforts and may even reduce the amount the consumer needs to pay.
The consumer can call the customer service desk of the credit card company and ask if there are any procedures for hardship cases. If so, the procedures should be followed, or the company may not honor the request.
If there are any forms to be completed, the hardship letter can be sent along with the forms. If there is no specific procedure, the customer service person may be able to give general directions on what to include in the letter and to whom it should be addressed.
The letter is the consumer’s chance to explain his or her financial situation. Enough detail should be given so that the person reading it gets a clear picture, but too much detail will be tedious to read and may make the reader discard the letter. The consumer needs to remember that the creditor is not obligated to help, but can be persuaded to help.
There are several things a credit card company can do to help when a consumer is having financial difficulties. It can suspend late fees, lower interest rates, allow reduced payments for a specified period of time and suspend activity on the credit card while the consumer pays down the debt.
It is important that the consumer send the letter as soon as he or she is aware that they are in financial difficulty so that not too many months go by without making a payment.
For example, if they lose their job, are in an automobile accident and cannot work or face another legitimate reason for financial hardship, they should immediately inform the credit card company.
The following qualify as hardship:
• Loss of job for the consumer, his or her partner or spouse
• Medical bills
• Illness or accident that results in loss of pay
• Major damage to property because of a natural disaster
• Job relocation
• Death in the family
• Divorce or separation
• Decreased pay because of less working hours
• Military duty
If the financial hardship will last for many months or a year, the consumer should consult a debt management counselor for help in how to handle his or her finances during a hard time. This will also encourage any creditors that the consumer is serious about paying his or her debts.
Some tips for writing a hardship letter:
• The letter should be no longer than one page
• The letter should clearly state that the consumer is willing to resolve the debt
• The letter should state the facts of the case clearly and objectively
• Any supporting documentation such as medical records or proof of loss of job should be included with the letter
• The letter should clearly propose a solution that the consumer faithfully agrees to follow
• The letter should thank the creditor for considering the request
• The letter should not be written in an overly dramatic, exaggerated tone
• The letter should not give promises that the consumer cannot keep
• The letter should not threaten the creditor with bankruptcy if the consumer does not receive help
The letter should be written in short paragraphs. The first paragraph should state the request and give a summary of the financial hardships. The body of the letter can have one paragraph that gives more details about the consumer’s financial situation.
A second paragraph should give a solution to the problem. For example, a reduction in payments for six months, or a reduction in interest for a specified amount of time, that will make it possible for the consumer to continue making payments.
The concluding paragraph should thank the creditor for his or time and attention to the matter, and request action. For example, the conclusion may say the consumer looks forward to hearing from the creditor soon.
Contact information should be given in the concluding paragraph, so the creditor can ask any questions or clear any details. A list of enclosed documents such as death certificate, unemployment notices or medical records should be given after the signature.
Below is a sample hardship letter for credit card debt. It is written in formal business letter style and should be sent by certified mail with a return requested.
Sample Hardship Letter for Credit Card Debt
Name of Consumer
Address of Consumer
City, State, Zip Code
Name of Credit Card Company
Address of Credit Card Company
City, State, Zip Code
RE: Reduced Payment on Credit Card Number NUMBER
Dear Name of Creditor:
This letter is a formal request to reduce my monthly payments on the above credit card account. I am temporally unemployed as I lost my job as a high school science teacher on DATE. However, I have a new job that starts in three months.
I am currently making $50 payments each month and respectfully request that my payments be reduced to $20 for four months until DATE, at which time I will continue making full payments. I also request that my credit score is not adversely affected by this.
I would appreciate your help in this matter, as I sincerely want to honor my debt and will faithfully resume regular payments at the above-mentioned time. Thank you for your consideration of my request. If you have any questions, I can be reached at Phone Number or Email Address.
Signature of Consumer
Printed Name of Consumer