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Collection Accounts

Updated on January 28, 2010

Collection Accounts Hurting Your Credit Scores?

Collection Accounts Are Becoming More Prevalent


Credit card companies are also experiencing major losses in our current economic environment. In light of this, they are also tightening up their guidelines and becoming pickier on who they send "Pre-Approved Offers of Credit".

They are also watching your accounts like a hawk. Not only accounts you have with them, but accounts you have with other credit card companies as well.

Your credit is being watched by all your credit card issuers more frequently than ever before. If you happen to become past due on any credit card you hold, then may be in danger of having your credit limit decreased or even frozen.

How does this affect your credit?

  • Decreasing your credit limit can cause your balance-to-limit ratio to go up.

In order to achieve the highest credit scores you can possibly have, you don't want your balance-to-limit ratio to exceed 30% (50% maximum) on any individual account, nor on the total amount of your revolving accounts combined. If a creditor decreases your credit limits on one or more accounts, this can have an immediate negative impact on your overall credit scores.

  • Credit card issuers are also lowering credit limits to an amount below what you currently owe.

If they do this, it can possibly put you into an immediate financial bind, because the next statement you get from that creditor is going to ask for the difference between your current balance on the account, and the new reduced credit limit. This amount they're requiring you to pay can amount to thousands of dollars, and if you're one of the ones affected, more than likely you're not going to be able to come up with an extra few thousand dollars to pay by the next due date.

What happens if you can't pay the difference?

If you cannot pay the "Amount Due" to the creditor after a certain period of time (usually about 90 days), then your account will be transferred to the Collections Department. Some creditors have internal collection departments, while others outsource these accounts to 3rd party Collection Agencies. Either way, the collector's primary task is to convince you to "pay-up".

Once a debt has been labeled a "collection account" on your credit, you're going to see an immediate credit score drop. Collection accounts are about as bad as it gets, short of bankruptcy, as far as your credit scores are concerned.

How do collection agencies work?

Collection agencies work with lenders and creditors in a couple different ways. In all cases, collection agencies purchase these bad debts for much less than the amount owed, usually for pennies on the dollar. The first way is for the agency to buy the bad debt so they own it outright. Another option is for the creditor or lender to consign the account to the collection agency. With this option, the creditor or lender agrees to pay the agency a percentage of whatever amount their collectors are able to recover. Percentages do vary, but some collection agencies can make as much as 50% in some cases.

Once the collection agency takes over the account, they give bonuses to their agents if they are able to collect most or all of the outstanding debt. In essence, the collectors make more in their pockets by making you pay more of the debt. This can lead to brutal and unethical collection practices at times.

How Collection Accounts should be handled:

  • 1. First and foremost, don't ignore the collection account or the debt collector. The problem can only get worse if you do, which may lead to wage garnishments, or even the company filing suit against you which could result in a judgment. Communicate with the collector and be honest about what you can pay and when you can pay it.
  • 2. It's always in your best interest to pay a collection account as soon as you possibly can, so you don't incur interest that is going to accrue on the account as long as you have an outstanding balance. This does not mean that you have to pay the entire balance. You need to keep in mind that these companies have purchased your bad debt for pennies on the dollar, so you should try to negotiate and settle the debt for as little as possible. You can start the negotiation process by asking them if they'll settle for 20% of the amount they're asking you to pay, then go up from there. Do not include any interest that is being tacked on as part of your negotiation process. The interest they're trying to charge you is just the icing on their cake.
  • 3. You should be aware that when you are "settling for less than you owe" on a debt with a collector, they are looking to receive the amount you negotiated with them immediately, so make sure you have the money to do so. Once you do come to an agreement, make sure you GET IT IN WRITING before you make the payment.
  • 4. At times, you may hear an unethical collector tell you whatever you want to hear if they think it will help them get you to pay the debt. If they offer to remove the collection from your credit report in exchange for payment, make sure you require them to put this offer in writing first. Collection accounts are never automatically removed just because they are paid, so don't fall for that trick unless you see it in print on the collection agencies letterhead referencing that exact account.
  • 5. Debt collectors are paid bonuses on how much they can collect in a calendar month. Keep this in mind during your negotiation process. Sometimes calling at the end of the month can be helpful and negotiations may be more to your advantage if that particular debt collector is trying to meet a goal.

In Summary:

Life does have its challenges and can throw you a curve ball from time to time, usually when you least expect it. In some cases like this, it may be impossible to avoid a collection account. You need to know that you do have many rights and there are many important things you need to be aware of.

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