How to Make a Hardship Letter for Credit Card Debts

by Lisa McQuerrey
Be honest when explaining your financial circumstances.

Unexpected or substantial changes in your life that impact your finances have the potential to limit your ability to repay credit card debts. Writing a hardship letter allows you to detail the circumstances that led to your current financial situation and ask for assistance in handling your outstanding balance. Taking a humble and honest approach can encourage credit card companies to go easier on you with their collection efforts.

Compose your hardship letter as soon as you realize you'll be unable to meet your credit card payment obligations. The sooner you act, the less damage you're likely to do to your credit. If you simply disappear and stop paying your bill, you will probably be turned over to collections and get negative marks on your credit report.

Call your credit card company's customer service department and ask it what type of criteria it requires for accepting a hardship letter. The company might have a standardized form or template for you to use. If not, customer service should be able to provide you with general direction on what to include in your letter and who to address the correspondence to.

Explain in your letter your financial and life circumstances in detail. For example, if you lost the full-time job you were working while going to school, explain how the company downsized, went out of business or otherwise terminated your employment through no fault of your own. Describe the steps you're taking to secure new employment to reassure the credit card company that you're doing everything in your power to get your finances back on track to meet your financial obligations.

Describe personal circumstances that are impacting your ability to pay your credit card debt as agreed. For example, describe if you were in a car accident, are taking care of a sick relative, or suffered a loss, such as your family's home being foreclosed on or being subjected to a fire. Let your credit card company know you aren't trying to skip out on your bill, but rather have extenuating circumstances and reasonable explanations for why you can't pay.

Attach copies of any documents that support your claims. For example, a notice of home foreclosure, a termination letter from an employer or an application for unemployment benefits can all add credibility to your explanation.

Describe what you can do. For example, ask for an extension on what you owe if you're confident you'll be financially able to pay at some point in the near future. Alternatively, offer to make whatever type of payment you can. For example, if you owe $50 a month, but feel you could commit to paying $10 a month, make this offer, or ask for a settlement on your debt of less than what you owe. It's likely a credit card company will follow up on your letter to discuss terms that will satisfy both of your needs.

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