It's tough to open a credit card bill when you don't have enough money to cover the minimum payment. A high interest rate and a balance that keeps increasing are some of the downfalls when you're not able to keep up. Some credit card companies offer hardship programs for those who may have lost a job, are underemployed or cannot work due to illness. The requirements for a credit card hardship program may vary, depending on the bank you're dealing with. Most programs reduce interest rates and restructure payments if you agree to stop using the card.
Definition of a Hardship Program
You may be aware of debt management programs, which operate similarly to a hardship program. The main difference is that the card company itself manages a credit card hardship program. You deal directly with the bank that issues the card, rather than with a third-party agency that negotiates on your behalf. Like with a debt management program, the bank offers you relief by reducing your interest rate and monthly minimum payment.
Before a credit card company agrees to enroll you in a hardship program, it will want to know why you are making the request. You'll need to have a reason that's directly related to insufficient income. Trying to reduce your payment, balance or interest rate just because you think it's too high won't fly. Credit card companies maintain hardship programs for people who are willing to pay something but can't because of a high debt-to-income ratio. Hardship programs do not advertise the debt-to-income ratios that qualify. According to Bankrate.com, a debt-to-income ratio above 36 percent is high.
Once you've reached a new payment agreement, you'll need to stick with it. The card company has the right to discontinue the benefits of its hardship program if you don't fulfill your end of the deal. The company may also report negative payment information to the credit bureaus if you're dropped from the program. If you agree to send monthly payments of $50 for the next six months, do it. Don't skip a month or send less than $50 another month without an explanation. If your situation gets worse, it's better to make contact with the company and attempt to renegotiate.
While you're on a credit card hardship program, the bank will freeze your card. This means that you won't be able to make any new charges until you complete the program. The bank wants to make sure that you pay off the balance that you already owe. Since the company may reduce your interest rate and waive late fees, it doesn't want to give you an incentive to rack up more debt. The idea is to help you pay off what you owe as quickly and as financially comfortable as possible.
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