As of 2010, the statute of limitations on credit card debt in Texas is four years. That law was established in 1985 by the Texas Legislature. This means that creditors and debt collectors have up to four years after someone in Texas doesn't pay credit card bills to sue for nonpayment, according to CreditCards.com.
The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act sets forth the time frame and manner in which debt collectors may contact debtors regarding unpaid debts. It also says that debt collectors must file suit for unpaid debts in the jurisdiction, or state, where the debtor signed the contract to enter into the debt or where the debtor lives. Each state has a statute of limitations on unpaid debt; it ranges from three to 10 years.
Fine Print Rules
However, according to CreditCards.com, some credit card companies include text on their credit card agreements that says that the laws of the credit card issuer's state "determine the major terms of the contract." This means that even if you live in Texas, where the statute of limitations is four years, if the credit card was issued in Delaware, the statute of limitations on nonpayment of that debt is six years, as of 2010.
Debts that have gone uncollected past the statute of limitations are called time-barred debts. While creditors and debt collectors can still try to collect on these debts by requesting payment, they may not threaten to sue or file a suit in the court system, according to CreditCards.com.
Mary Spector, an associate law professor at the SMU Dedman School of Law in Dallas, is quoted on CreditCards.com as saying that Texas debtors must proactively prove that their debt is time-barred under the state's four-year statute of limitations. They should not ignore notices from the courts on this debt, even if it is past the statute of limitations, because they will likely lose their cases. They must still defend themselves in court; the statute of limitations merely provides their defense.
It is possible that a court ruling could override the four-year statute of limitations on credit card debt in Texas and make that time frame shorter. It is best to consult a consumer law attorney who practices in Texas if a creditor or debt collector has requested that you pay unpaid credit card debt or serves you with legal papers.
Just because the statute of limitations for repaying unpaid debt in Texas is four years, that doesn't mean the nonpayment will be removed from a debtor's credit report in that period of time. Nonpayment still reflects poorly on a credit report; such an event can stay on a credit report for seven years if a creditor "wins a judgment for payment of debt," reminds CreditCards.com.
If you make even a small payment on your debt after failing to do so for four years or nearly four years in Texas, you essentially reset the starting date on the four-year statute of limitations period. According to Carreon and Associates, sending the creditor a "promise to pay" letter or acknowledging the debt at all also extends the statute of limitations another four years.
Amy Francisco has been a writer and editor since 1996. Her experience ranges from advertisements to features in "Hillviews" magazine and "ATPE News," the magazine of the largest educators association in Texas. Francisco holds a Bachelor of Journalism from the University of Texas at Austin.