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Tips for negotiating down your credit card debt

If you feel like you're drowning in credit card debt, you're not alone. Many people get into the habit of using their credit cards for everyday expenses like groceries as well as for big-ticket items. Of course, they're also convenient for online shopping. It's easy to lose track of how much you've spent until you get your bill.

On the bill, that minimum payment amount is always in clear easy-to-read print, while the full amount due in order to avoid accruing interest can sometimes require some searching.

Many people don't realize it, but if you've gotten into a serious credit card debt situation and haven't been able to make your payments (or are concerned that you soon won't be able to), it may actually be possible to negotiate that debt with one or more of your card issuers.

It's essential to be prepared before you call a credit card issuer. First, determine how much you can afford to pay each month on your cards. Be realistic. Don't promise more than you can deliver.

When you call, ask to speak to the collections department. They're the ones who handle these things. That will save you the time and frustration of being transferred around. Remember that you want to be calm and courteous when you get to the person who has the authority to negotiate with you.

Know some of the options you can request in return for paying what you can. These include:

-- Asking them to drop late fees and interest

-- Requesting a lower interest rate

-- Offering a lump sum payment in exchange for the company reducing some of the principal due.

Remember that the credit card issuer still wants to make money, or at least not take a loss on you. Since defaulting customers cost them money, they may prefer to get some of what's owed to them than to deal with paying a collection agency, taking legal action or having the debt discharged if the customer files for bankruptcy. A well-negotiated plan can prove beneficial to both sides. An Arizona attorney experienced in handling credit card debt issues may offer guidance before you make those calls.

Source: U.S. News and World Report, "Can You Really Negotiate Your Credit Card Debt?," Gregory Go, July 27, 2016

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