Credit card debt is an example of unsecured consumer debt, accessed through credit cards.
Debt results when a client of a credit card company purchases an item or service through the card system. Debt accumulates and increases via interest and penalties when the consumer does not pay the company for the money he or she has spent.
The results of not paying this debt on time are that the company will charge a late payment penalty (generally in the US from to ) and report the late payment to credit rating agencies. Being late on a payment is sometimes referred to as being in “default”. The late payment penalty itself increases the amount of debt the consumer has.
When a consumer has been late on a payment, it is possible that other creditors, even creditors the consumer was not late in paying, may increase the interest rates the consumer is paying. This practice is called universal default.
Research shows that people with credit card debt are more likely to forgo needed medical care than others, and the likelihood of forgone medical care increases with the magnitude of credit card debt.
Account holders can request a reduction in their annual percentage rate (APR). A survey conducted by the U.S. Public Interest Research Group in March 2002 found that among its fifty participants, including people of all credit backgrounds, who contacted their credit card issuers, 56 percent received a lower APR. On average the percentage went from 16 percent to 10.47 percent.
Due to the start of the Great Recession in December 2007, multiple credit card debt relief options became widely popular for consumers living in the U.S. with unsecured debt totaling over ,000.
The various debt relief options available in the U.S. include:
Chapter 7 bankruptcy and Chapter 13 bankruptcy
Although each of these debt relief options deals with credit card debt specifically, they are also able to deal with other types of debt including personal loans, medical debt, accounts in collections and more (depending on the specific program type). Still, these programs have not been enough to help enough Americans get out of debt, resulting in a government call-to-action by economists for a massive debt bailout.
Sometimes the late fees, high annual percentage rates (APRs), and universal default overcome consumers who frequently do not pay off their debt, and the customer declares bankruptcy. If a customer files for bankruptcy, the credit card companies are required to forgive all or much of the debt, unless such discharge of debt is successfully challenged by one or more creditors, or blocked by a bankruptcy judge on legal grounds irrespective of creditors’ challenges.
Because forgiveness of debt reduces likelihood of profit and continued survival, the companies are generally willing to offer another deal to the consumers in danger of bankruptcy. This deal consists of reduced APRs, removal of past late fees and penalty charges, and reaging the accounts so that the credit agencies see them as late accounts.
Some credit card companies made lobbying efforts at the federal level to tighten American bankruptcy law, making it harder to have credit card debts canceled.