When a debt exists, two parties are involved – the creditor, who is the source of the loan, and the debtor, who is the receiver of the loan. If you are a debtor whose loan or credit card account goes into default, be prepared to face serious repercussions.
However, it’s never too late to get your payments back on track, and it’s much easier to accomplish when you’re dealing with the original creditor. In fact, you should try to avoid having your debts sold to a debt collection agency at all costs.
Dealing with a debt collection agency can cause a ripple effect in many areas of your life, both financially and personally. Find out why it’s better to settle your debt before it’s sent to a debt collector and how to negotiate with the original creditor instead.
Why should you avoid having your debt go to collections?
It’s better to deal directly with the original creditor than to have your debt sold to a debt collection agency. Collection agencies are often more aggressive in their collection attempts and may take extreme measures.
The “original creditor” is the first source of the money loaned. However, if they can’t get you, as the debtor, to pay your debt, they often turn the effort over to a debt collection agency.
In some cases, debt collectors sell the debt to a third party – a “debt buyer.” A debt buyer is a type of debt collector who pays them a percentage of the total debt collected. In most cases, debt buyers pay pennies on the dollar for the debt.
At that point, the debt collector owns the debt and can then proceed to collect the full amount, plus fees, court costs, and interest. Then, typically, the debt collector can go to court with a lawsuit against you.
If you lose the case, you’ll receive a judgment, oftentimes for the highest amount possible. If you don’t pay the judgment right away, it could continue to accrue interest.
Eventually, you could also be subject to wage garnishment to have the judgment repaid. Plus, having either a collection or judgment (or worse, both) listed on your credit report can do lasting damage to your credit score.
Your best bet is to deal directly with the original creditor and avoid dealing with a debt collection agency altogether.
How do you know if your debt has been sent to collections?
The original creditor handles most debts until they hit about 150 days of delinquency. So if you’re only two or three months behind on your payments, chances are, the creditor still holds your debt.
You should receive a letter in the mail warning you that your account is about to go into collections, so keep an eye out for any correspondence from your creditor.
Never throw any paperwork away, even if you’re dreading what may be inside. If you’re not sure if you’ve received a letter or not, call the creditor. Even if you’re at odds with them, they should be a trustworthy source of information regarding your account’s status.
Is it better to pay the debt collector or original creditor?
If the creditor indicates that your account has already been sold to a debt collector, first see if you can ask to have it pulled back from the collection agency. If they won’t do that, it’s important to contact the debt collector and validate the debt. You can do this by sending them a debt validation letter. This ensures that they haven’t resold your account elsewhere and that you’re negotiating with the right party.
Hopefully, though, your debt still resides with the original creditor, and you can move forward with them in the settlement process. This is also why it’s important to stay on top of correspondence and not put off dealing with defaulted loans any longer than necessary.
Dealing with Debt Collectors
If you must deal with a debt collector, you should first know your rights under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA). Then, should you have any complaints about how a debt collector is handling the debt, you can contact the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
Also, check out our in-depth article on how to settle your debts with a debt collector.
How to Settle Your Debt with the Original Creditor
Have a strategic plan in place before picking up the phone and asking to pay off your debt with a lesser amount out of good faith. Don’t be afraid to jot down some notes or talking points to have on hand. Ready for a strong negotiation plan? Let’s get started.
Know Your Financial Ability
If you’ve defaulted on your debt payments, chances are you’re having trouble with money. Therefore, when negotiating with an original creditor, it’s important to know exactly what you can offer in advance.
For example, if the unpaid debt amount is $1,000 and you have $500 in hand to pay it, it makes sense for you to make contact with that goal in mind.
It’s not a good idea to make any promises you know you can’t keep. Plus, a creditor is more likely to accept a lump sum payment over installments because it’s guaranteed cash for them. So it’s important to go into negotiations with your final number in mind and make sure it’s one you can actually hand over.
Exactly what percentage of your debt is a creditor willing to settle for? The answer really depends on each creditor. But one factor that is a major influencer is time. If a debt is newer, say 120 days old, the creditor will most likely want closer to the amount owed.
If a debt is older, such as 9 months old, the creditor will likely accept a lower amount to settle the matter and get it off their books. Because of this fact, it’s helpful to do a little homework to determine the creditor’s situation before attempting to settle the debt.
Everyone knows it is best not to offer all you have to the creditor at the outset of negotiations because whatever amount is offered, there will no doubt be a counter-offer. This begins the process of negotiation. The process ends when an agreed-to amount is set.
While most creditors want a lump-sum payment over installments, it is possible in some cases to establish an installment agreement. This helps stop the collection calls and keeps the creditor from initiating court action.
However, it’s also important to only agree to a payment plan that you can afford. Usually, if an installment agreement is established and you miss a payment, the full amount of the original debt (less any payments) will again become due. Remember, the creditor already has the experience of your failure to pay, and now they want to see success.
Still, it’s important to protect yourself. If the original debt was agreed to be settled for a lesser amount, be sure to get an agreement in writing from the creditor. This is usually done before the exchange when you actually pay the debt.
To recap, the main action items for debtors who wish to settle their debt with the original creditor are:
- Know your scope of your financial ability to repay
- Make contact with the original creditor
- Have money ready to make a lump sum payment
- Negotiate with clarity
- Fulfill all promises to the creditor
- Get everything in writing BEFORE sending money
How does settled debt affect your credit score?
Once you’ve settled your debt with the original creditor, your credit score will likely take a hit because the debt will be listed as “settled.” It’s still better than being defaulted or charged off, but it’s something that future lenders can see. And it could raise a red flag when considering your credit application.
Use your credit report listing as part of the negotiation process to avoid this scenario, especially if you’re offering a large one-time payment.
As part of your agreement to pay, you can request that the creditor report the debt as “Paid As Agreed” on your credit report. Even if you don’t successfully get it updated, it’s worth a shot and could even be used as further leverage during the negotiation process.
How else can you get help settling your debt?
If you’re not confident in your ability to handle the process and negotiate the debt settlement successfully on your own, you can hire an outside firm to do it for you. In general, it is best to utilize a debt settlement service with extensive experience in negotiations.
Check Out Our Top Picks:
Best Debt Settlement Companies of 2021
Credit counselors can help, as can professional settlement companies or even lawyers. The idea is to settle the debt for as little as possible to avoid court action and the negative effects the information will have on your credit report and credit score.