What Happens When a Bank Writes Off a Bad Debt?

What happens when a credit card is charged off

Many small businesses turn to collection agencies to recover bad debt.

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A consumer can incur a bad debt to a bank in many ways. Outstanding overdraft charges, delinquent bank loans or unpaid credit card bills can result in a liability for you and an expense for the bank. If a bank debt isn't paid, the bank can write off the overpaid bill as a bad debt.

In a write-off, the bank includes a bad debt as an uncollectible loss on its tax return. This write-off is also called a "charge-off.9quot; The write-off reduces the bank's earnings and thereby reduces its taxable income. This accounting procedure may reduce the bank's overall tax liability, which is the goal of a write-off. The designation of the debt as uncollectible doesn't mean the bank will never collect on it -- just that it hasn't been able to collect on it until that point.

When a bank writes off a bad debt, that write-off does not constitute a waiver of the bank's right to collect on it. The bank can still pursue you for its payment. Many banks turn bad debt accounts over to a collection agency. Either the bank hires the agency to collect on its behalf, or the bank sells the debt to the agency outright. The agency then has the right to attempt to collect that debt from you.

If you have funds in an account with the same bank you owe money to, the bank can seize those funds in your bank account as payment of the debt. This is called the right of offset. Depending on how much you owe in bad debt, the bank, or the collection agency, may decide to sue you in civil court. A successful lawsuit will result in the court issuing a judgment against you for the unpaid debt. A judgment then gives the bank or collection agency the legal right to collect by seizing your assets. This may involve a wage garnishment or a lien being placed on your property.

If you owe bad debt to a bank and the bank writes it off, the bank may report that charged-off debt to the credit bureaus. The charged-off account will appear on your credit report and it will state how much you owe and how late the payments are. If a collection agency is attempting to collect on the debt, the agency may place the collection account on your credit report. Charged-off accounts and collection accounts remain on a credit report for up to seven years.

Profit and Loss Charge-Offs on Your Credit Report

Last Updated: March 18, 2017

Many people erroneously think when a debt has been charged-off, that it's been cancelled by the creditor. We hate to be the ones to break it to you but this is not true and you are still responsible for paying off the debt. Companies, including creditors and lenders, have profits and losses every year and they make money from profits and lose money from losses. When a creditor charges-off your account, it's declaring your debt as a loss for the company.

The term charge-off is used in the accounting of assets for a particular company, i.e. the credit card company. A bank initially considers your debt to be an asset but if you fall behind on your payments, now this asset becomes a liability. So, what the bank will do then is charge-off part or all of your loan from its books.

When this happens, a report goes out to the credit bureaus which then gets incorporated into your credit history and then into your credit score. A loan marked as a charge-off will hurt your credit score and will remain on your credit report for seven years.

Even if these companies aren't actively trying to collect from you, these debts are still owed by you to the company. If you refinance your house or apply for a loan, most mortgage companies will make you pay off these debts. The reason is that these debts can be turned into a lien against your property. Liens matter to a mortgage company for a couple of reasons:

  1. When you sell your home, the monies owed against a lien (plus interest) must be paid off to clear your title.
  2. Liens are in a higher position than a mortgage, meaning they get paid off before the mortgage company gets its money. If the mortgage company has to foreclose and you have lots of liens on your home plus a mortgage, the mortgage company potentially could lose thousands of dollars.
  3. Just because these debts are charged off doesn't mean that the creditor won't come after you later. Creditors have the right to sue you and win a judgment in court until the statute of limitations runs out.

However, if you're never going to buy a home, or at least not for 7 more years (that's when the profit and losses will drop off your credit report), it won't affect you, except for having bad credit. If you buy a car, you won't be asked to pay these debts off, or any thing other than real estate. Again, charge offs are almost as bad as having a bankruptcy, plus you still owe the money.

Future creditors and lenders take charge-offs seriously, so it's in your best interest to remove charge-offs from your credit report. Debt negotiation is your best tactic for reducing the effects of a charged-off account.

  • Talk to the Creditor. To remove a charge-off, you should contact the original creditor NOT the debt collector. You want to convince the creditor to remove the charge-off from your credit report in exchange for payment.
  • Get the Agreement in Writing. When the creditor agrees to remove the charge-off from your credit report, get the agreement in writing. Either on company letterhead with the all the info of the agreement on it as well as the person you make the agreement with. Or, you can send them a letter with all the terms of the agreement on it. Do not mail payment until the agreement is signed by you and the representative for the creditor.
  • What if There is No Agreement. If you and the creditor can not come to an agreement, just wait out the 7 years and it will come off or you can file for bankruptcy.

Bankruptcy, although not to be undertaken lightly, is not a terrible option if your debts are out of control. If you keep your credit clean and open three new charge accounts (even gas cards), you can get an A paper (the best rates and terms) loan in 2 years. See our bankruptcy FAQ's for more information.

What Really Happens When You Default On Your Credit Card

Am I the only one who irrationally fears some kind of radical financial trashfire befalling me? Some days, I check my bank accounts, loan accounts, credit card statements, and my PayPal account two to three times EACH because I have this general sense of foreboding. There are advantages of working in the personal finance sphere — I’m much more informed, savvy, and knowledgable about my money and my place in the general economy — but it also means I’m very familiar with all the ways you can screw yourself over, financially speaking. There have been a few times I’ve made really silly mistakes which have cost me more money, in the form of late fees, tickets, and surcharges (to name a few). But, overall, my deeply embedded sense of fear for smirching my credit score in the slightest has kept me mostly out of trouble. Mostly.

However, some fears still persist, chief among them is that I’ll suddenly remember an old credit card I had run up a balance on during my youth, and subsequently forgot about it. In attempt to address the (sometimes irrational) fear of ever finding myself in a position where I would default on my credit card debt, I would unpack the process of what it looks like step-by-step. When I feel knowledgable about potential, scary financial situations, and I’m no longer in the dark about what “could” or “might” happen, it makes me feel infinitely better. I feel more equipped to not only advise myself on the situation, but to also serve as a potential source of information for friends who might be experiencing financial difficulty. (Chelsea actually wrote about her experience dealing with it here.) So, without further ado, here are the four basic steps in the credit-card-default process so you have a deeper understanding of it, but hopefully never experience it first-hand.

What does it actually mean to default?

To understand how the process starts, we’ll start at the very beginning. Once you charge items on your credit card, you’re required to pay a monthly (typically, but not always) payment to service the debt to the card, and pay back that loaned money. The problem begins if you fail to pay that debt off. This might happen for any number of reasons — losing a job, running out of an emergency fund, dealing with an unexpected life event, etc. — but failing to make a payment for a certain number of days means you’ve defaulted on that loan. According to this article on Nerd Wallet, they explain defaulting further, saying:

After you’ve failed to make a payment on your credit card for 180 days, your issuer assumes you’re probably never going to. At this point, the issuer can (and usually does) close your card, write off what you owe as bad debt and sell your account to a collections agency.

Throughout that 180 day period (although it might differ depending on your creditor; For example, 90 days) , your credit score might drop as a result of your inactivity and failure to pay being reported to the credit bureaus. Once the bank finally closes your card and decides you are no longer going to pay your debt, your credit score will be affected and drop even further.

Once you’ve actually defaulted on your debt, it moves on to the second stage where the debt may be transferred to a new lender of record. This part confused me a bit at first because I always assumed one’s debt remained at their bank. Not necessarily true! Understanding who is responsible for handling the money you owe is essential to knowing how the entire system works and who plays what part. Once you’ve defaulted on your credit card debt, your card will be closed by your bank. At this point, if the credit card issuer chooses to no longer be part of the collection process, your debt may be sold to someone else — usually “debt buyers.” Why do banks do this, you may ask? It’s a way for banks to get bad loans off their books and allows them to quickly realize a guaranteed amount rather than spending the time and resources pursuing a debt they may never actually collect. For the buyers, it’s an opportunity for them to buy your loan for a fraction of the cost and potentially collect the whole amount. Note that this process is not automatic, and the debt is only sold if the banks choose to sell it as they face a set of pros and cons related to this decision. Also, collection agencies (which more people might be familiar with) and buyers are not the same; agencies provide third-party collection services, whereas buyers actually purchase debt and may employ agencies to help them collect it.

This well-written article on Clearpoint explains the process of buying and selling debt. According to Clearpoint, “The FTC found that debt is sold for an average of “4.0 cents per dollar of debt face value.” The collection agencies then try to recoup the debt in-full in order to make a profit.

Once you’ve defaulted on a credit card loan, there are few different paths you can take to resolve outstanding debt:

Pay it off. This is, in my humble opinion, the best way to ensure that you can move on from such a serious snafu and begin rebuilding your credit and financial health. If you can afford to pay off the debt completely, do it. There are a few tips and best practices to consider when paying off debt with a collection agency. It’s important to note that as a best practice, you should ask for documentation that proves the debt is in fact yours (which collection agencies are legally required to provide). In some cases, there are administrative errors on the debt, settled debt that remains reported as outstanding, etc. You can read even more details about the process here.

Settle the debt. This is another great solution for people who might not have the funds to make such a payment, but still want to work to pay it off. You can try and settle the debt for a smaller number by calling to negotiate with the collection agency. This fantastic article on Bank Rate explains this further saying, “Before you call to negotiate, I strongly recommend you know what you can realistically afford to pay per month or in a lump sum. If you negotiate a payment for less than the full amount owed, be sure to get the payment agreement in writing from the collector before you send in any payment.”

Do nothing (yikes). Some people recommend waiting out the seven-year period and not paying the debt. However, even if you wait the seven-year period for your debt to drop off of your account, it might still never truly be gone. According to the previously-linked article on Bank Rate, “The Fair Credit Reporting Act (or FCRA) rules apply only to the reporting life of a debt, not the collecting life span,” which means that there are no limitations on how long collection agencies can try and obtain payment for the loan “outside of the courts after the statute of limitations date.” It might not be as easy as you think to simply ignore your debt and wait it out until it “doesn’t matter anymore.”

Declare bankruptcy (an extreme solution). If you do this, you’ll have this grave financial mistake on your credit report for the next ten years before moving on. There’s so much more to learn and understand before making this kind of choice, which one shouldn’t take lightly. To read more about it, read the articles linked here: understanding what it is, how to contextualize the decision, how to start the process, and how you can start to grasp the inevitable repercussions that result from it. Declaring bankruptcy might affect your future assets, credit score, ability to secure loans/mortgages, etc., and it’s a decision that should not be taken lightly.

How long will a default stay on your credit report?

Seven years. Defaulting on your credit card is the kind of financial mistake that will do lasting damage because it appears on your credit report for a good chunk of time. That means if you were to make a mistake like this when you’re in college, at say 18 or 19 years old, the repercussion of it will follow you until your mid-to-late twenties. This lasting damage might thwart your attempts to potentially secure a car loan, qualify for an apartment lease, or qualify for a home mortgage. It’s easy to see how a few silly choices and/or mistakes we make in our youth can affect the options available to our future-selves.

This article is not exhaustive and there is still a lot to learn, so it’s essential to read more about this topic for yourself. While it’s not impossible to come back after defaulting on credit card debt, it does take time. It’s important to do everything in your power to avoid this happening. However, if you are experiencing this yourself or know someone going through, hopefully this article can be a resource for you to try and get back on your feet, and to a place of complete financial health.

What Happens When You Can’t Pay Your Bill in Full?

Credit cards are great – right up until the time you receive your credit card statement(s) in the mail (or email if you receive e-statements). That’s when all of those purchases you made during the month come back to haunt you.

Anyone can run up a huge credit card balance – it doesn’t matter if you’re a shopaholic or a frugal spender who got retrenched or had out-of-pocket medical expenses to pay. The reality is that there are plenty of situations and emergencies that can run up your credit card balance!

But what happens when your credit card balance is too large to pay off in full? What happens if you can only pay the minimum or worse – can’t make payment at all?

How Will Paying the Minimum Affect Your Credit Card Repayments?

Ideally, you should be paying off your credit card balances every month for one major reason – to avoid the credit card interest rate on any outstanding balance you carry! That’s because the credit card annual interest rates are ridiculously high – ranging from 15% to 24%+ (varies by credit card).

Of course, if you’re carrying a large balance, you may not be able to pay it off in full. Sadly, too many people don’t make the effort to pay off their credit card balance(s) as fast as possible.

Instead some resort to making minimum payments – and that’s dangerous for two reasons:

#1 It’ll Take Years to Pay off Your Balance and Cost You Thousands in Interest!

When you pay only 3% of your outstanding balance or $50 (whichever is higher), it’s not a lot of money right?

But in time, the amount you’ll have to pay back IF you don’t make any further purchases with the card and make minimum payments will be more than you realise.

Let’s say you’ve run up a balance of $5,000 on your credit card.

The credit card has an annual interest rate of 24%

The minimum payment you’ll need to make on that credit card is 3% of the $5,000 balance or $50 (whichever is higher).

Since 3% of $5,000 is higher than $50, that comes to $150 for your first repayment (keep in mind your minimum payment will decrease slightly every month as you pay down your balance).

Now, how long do you think it’ll take you to pay off your credit card IF you don’t add to the balance and pay $150 (keep in mind you’re paying above the minimum payment required as the balance shrinks) every month until your card’s balance is paid off?

Here’s the answer:

It’ll take 56 months (almost 5 years!) to pay off the credit card – and the interest? That 24% annual interest rate will cost you $3,324 over the course of repayment, meaning that your $5,000 credit card balance really cost $8,324 to pay back!

Let’s assume that you don’t pay $150 every month. Instead, you want to really pay the absolute minimum until your credit card balance is paid off. How long (and costly) would it be?

Here’s the answer:

It’ll take 165 months (almost 14 years!) to pay off the credit card – and the interest? That 24% annual interest rate will cost you $7,774 over the course of repayment, meaning that your $5,000 credit card balance really cost $12,774 to pay back!

Now think about this – if you paid $500 per month instead of the minimum, you would have paid off your credit card balance in 12 months (1 year) and the amount of interest you would have had to pay would have been $635.16, meaning your $5,000 credit card balance would only cost you $5,635.16 to pay back!

*Note: all calculations were rounded up to the nearest dollar and are for demonstration purposes only.

#2 Because Paying the Minimum Makes it Easier for You to Go Over Your Credit Limit(s)

The average credit card in Singapore gives you 3X to 4X your monthly income – meaning you could potentially have spending limits of $12,000 on each credit card if you’re only making $3,000 a month!

Unfortunately, some credit card users see a $5,000 balance on their account and think, “bah, there’s no need to worry, I can make minimum payments since I still have another $6,000 of credit remaining”.

True, you might still have a lot of available credit in your account. But if you intend to continue using your credit card while making minimum payments – you’re taking a dangerous step towards going over your credit limit AND accumulating a massive amount of credit card debt (especially if you’re handling multiple credit cards this way).

Let’s say you do have a $5,000 balance on a credit card that has a credit limit of $12,000.

You make a minimum payment of $150.

But the following month you spend another $1,000 and grow your balance to exactly $6,000.

You make a minimum payment of $180.

The following month you spend $2,000 and grow your balance to exactly $8,000.

You make a minimum payment of $240.

Now you see where I’m going with this?

Seriously, if you’re only making minimum payments WHILE you’re still using your credit card every month – you’ll go over your credit limit in a matter of months. So if you absolutely must make minimum payments on your credit card, DO NOT add to the balance!

What About if You Can’t Make Payment?

If your credit card balance(s) has ballooned to an amount that you’re just not able to handle, the last thing you should do is ignore your monthly payments.

Instead, you should be working with your creditor(s) to find a solution that benefits everyone. This might mean working with your creditor to come up with a payment plan that’ll reduce your repayments to a more manageable level – until you’re financially able to make larger repayments.

Yes, your credit score will suffer because you’ll be carrying a large balance(s) on your credit card(s), but the damage would be MUCH worse if missed a payment or defaulted on your credit card account(s).

What Happens When My Credit Card Payment is Late

by John_S on January 10, 2011

When your credit card payment is late, plenty of things can happen, but there are a number of ways to go about it and get the late payment off your credit report. Usually, the credit card company charges a late fee but if you don’t act quickly, the late payment may bring your credit score down. Here are the possible scenarios.

Is the Minimum Payment Covered?

Read the terms and conditions of your issuer, paying particular attention to the consequences of late payments. During one billing period, you need to at least secure money for the minimum payment as to avoid late payment charges. Its amount is calculated on the basis of a fixed rate established as a minimum. In case you cannot pay off your debt in full and on time, what you can do is pay at least the minimum. This done, you are not subject to late charges and shouldn’t worry about being reported to the credit report agencies. However, the total amount left will be charged interest. To avoid paying more interest, do your best to pay off your debt in full as soon as possible.

When a payment is late with less than ten days, your banking institution may be more lenient, depending on the frequency of late payments. If it is your first time, call the credit card issuer and explain the reasons for the delay. The credit company may agree to waive the late fee, with you being saved from reporting to the credit report agencies. However, if the payment is late for more than ten days, you may be subject to penalties and reporting. If you are late with more than 30 days, the credit card issuer is likely to penalize you with a late payment fee and increase the interest rate for the next billing period. Your ability to obtain a new credit card will be affected as well. If that has happened already, do your best to stay up-to-date on your credit card bills. Your late payment will look like an isolated incident in this way.

If you are late on a single occasion, discussing the issue with a company representative will work to your advantage. Due to the tight competition for market share, the credit card issuer will prefer to keep you as a client. However, if you are frequently late with payments, the crediting institution may even subject you to collections. Keep in mind that serious delays in payment will affect your overall credit score adversely. Furthermore, missing a single payment for three or more months is just as bad as collection or charge-off.

To avoid late payments, make sure you set up an emergency fund. A savings account can be a good solution to this potential problem. Open an account with a bank of your choice and use the funding only when you fall behind with your credit card payments. If you don’t have other options left and are waiting for your next paycheck, try to borrow from a family member or a friend (you may also ask your employer for a cash advance). Applying for a paycheck loan or other short-term secured loan is not recommended unless you are confident you can pay it quickly and avoid incurring interest.