HELP! I received a summons for my credit card.
What can I do?
First, don't panic!
- You are not going to jail
- You most likely will not have to go to court
- If this was an unsecured debt, no one is going to come take your personal property
- The creditor is not going to garnish your wages...unless you ignore the summons
- For the time being, your bank account is OK
OK, so now what?
Somewhere on the first part of the summons it will tell you that you have 20 or 30 days from receipt of the summons to ANSWER the complaint.
To answer means that you file a reply with the court explaining why you don't owe the debt, THAT IS, IF YOU DISPUTE THE DEBT.
But in this case, you owe it, you just don't have enough money to make the payments. To answer DOES NOT mean to explain why you are in a hardship position, financially. So don't waste your time or money filing an answer.
Instead, contact the attorney who filed the claim for the creditor. Ignoring the summons is not a good idea!
But before you do, take time to write down all of your net income and expenses so that you will be able to explain why you cannot keep up with the payments at this time.
It might be helpful to use a basic household budget.
For a free copy, click here.
If you had about 50% of the balance somewhere, you could make a settlement offer and most likely they would accept it.
But, most people do not have that kind of money available or they wouldn't be in trouble in the first place!
So, let's say that your minimum payment was supposed to be $125, but you can only realistically afford $50.
Offer to pay $50/month if they will stop the interest and finance charges.
If the monthly interest and other charges (late fees, over-the-limit fees, etc.) are more than $50/month, it doesn't make sense to send them $50. You wouldn't get anywhere!
If they accept the offer (most likely will come back at you with a counter offer), MAKE SURE TO GET IT IN WRITING.
This is critical to protect you in the future. Many people agree with a service person, authorize a check-by-phone, make several payments, and when the check on the account, find out that nothing from the original account agreement was modified.
GET THE AGREEMENT IN WRITING, PERIOD!
Once the agreement is set, do not miss a scheduled payment. This is usually grounds for voiding the agreement and you are back to square-one!
If you can't afford anything, then you may want to consider bankruptcy protection.
Although bankruptcy should be your last option, it is not the end of the world.
Seek the advice of a bankruptcy attorney (one who specializes in bankruptcy) before proceeding.
You may also want to consider other options such as Debt Management or Debt Settlement.
Remember, DON'T IGNORE THE SUMMONS, but DON'T PANIC!
Be proactive and most likely, you'll work something out.