Credit card debt

Missed payments on credit card bills can quickly build up into credit card debt. Find out how to keep your costs down and what to do if your spending is getting out of control.

How to keep your credit card costs down

  1. Shop around for the best credit card deals before you get a card
  2. Budget for your credit card – work out what you can afford to pay each month before you borrow
  3. Switch to a cheaper card if you can – but watch out for charges and short-term deals that could cost you more in the long term
  4. Pay in full each month to avoid interest charges
  5. Pay on time and make a payment each month – or pay an extra charge
  6. Pay more than your minimum payment – otherwise your debt will grow
  7. Plan your spending – if you can't afford it and don't need it, don't buy it!

Budget your credit card spending

You may use your credit card as a way of budgeting for expensive costs like furniture and electrical items, or for regular costs such as your weekly shopping. Make sure you plan your spending so that your repayments are affordable.

Check what your credit card repayments will be if you spend up to your credit card limit. You can ask for your credit limit to be reduced so you are not tempted to spend more than you can budget for.

Use the Citizens Advice budget tool to help you check that you'll be able to manage your new budget and use the online calculator from Which? to work out how long it will take to repay your debt if you just pay the minimum each month and how much you will pay in interest.

If you can no longer afford your credit card repayments, you need to stop spending on your card.

Missed credit card payments

Your credit card company should contact you if you miss a payment and will probably make an extra charge. Late payment charges can build up quickly, and you'll have to pay interest on them as well.

If you miss three to six payments, the credit card company may send you a default notice. This is a letter setting out what you owe and when you have to pay.

If you don't pay a credit card debt

If you are unable to pay or don't come to an acceptable arrangement with the credit card company, it can take you to court to recover the money you owe. This could result in a county court judgment against you.

When the credit card company gets a county court judgement against you, you must try to keep to the terms of the court order. If you don't keep to this, for example you don't pay the agreed amount each month, the credit card company can go back to court. It can ask the court to send bailiffs to seize your non-essential goods and sell them to pay the debt, or it can ask to make you bankrupt. If you are a homeowner, this could result in you losing your home.

You may be able to prevent this if you act early, by negotiating with your credit card company and getting help from a debt adviser.

Get help with credit card debt

Get help with credit card debt, and any other debts you may have too.

Priority debts such as a mortgage, rent or fuel bills should be paid first. Non-payment of these debts can mean you lose your home or your gas or electricity is cut off.

Credit card debts are known as non-priority debts but this doesn't mean they are not important.

Find out more about priority and non-priority debts.

For more information about managing your debt, contact a specialist debt adviser. You can get help online, by email, by phone or by seeing an adviser face-to-face.

Last updated 01 Jan 2015 | © Shelter

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