How Long Does a Credit Card Seek a Bad Debt?

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    Time Frame

    • You owe a credit card debt forever, and the card issuer or a collection agency to whom it sells the bad debt can seek payments from you indefinitely. The time frame in which you can legally be sued for such debts varies, depending on where you live. Some states bar lawsuits after as little as two years, while some allow credit card companies and debt collectors to sue you for up to 15 years, the BCS Alliance debt management website advises. This legal time span is called the statute of limitations. Creditors can still demand payment when the time expires, but they cannot legally sue you or even threaten to file suit.


    • Your credit card issuer is likely to stop seeking your payment for a bad debt about six months after you stop sending payments, even though you are still legally responsible for the bill. Credit card companies write off bad debts to get tax benefits, then sell them cheaply to collection agencies. The debt collectors can pursue you for as long as they wish, although they are bound by the statute of limitations for lawsuits, just like the original creditor is.


    • Debt collectors must abide by the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act once they buy your credit card account from your original card issuer. FDCPA provisions include a prohibition on harassing you with repetitive phone calls, using profanities and threats, claiming non-payment is a crime, pretending to be an attorney or member of law enforcement, or threatening to sue you, seize your property or garnish your wages if the debt collector does not intend to follow through or cannot legally do so.


    • You may send a letter to a debt collector who is trying to collect on a credit card debt and demand that the agency stop calling you, although this does not absolve your responsibility for the bill. Send your letter certified, the Neighborhood Economic Development Advocacy Project advises, so you have proof in case the collector does not honor the demand. Legally you cannot be contacted any further, other than an acknowledge of the letter, unless the collector decides to sue you for the bill. Contact an attorney and the FTC if a collection agency continues to call once it received your letter.

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