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When Can I Stop Paying Credit Cards?

July 22, 2011

Many clients ask, "When can I stop paying on my credit cards?" The answer seems obvious: immediately. If you are filing bankruptcy and discharging your credit card debt, you are throwing money away by continuing to pay the monthly bill. Right?

But hold on! There are good reasons to consider the consequences before stopping your credit card payments.

First, when will you file your bankruptcy case? Your first step is to work with your attorney to determine the actual date you will file. When a client is filing bankruptcy within 30 days, there are very few repercussions to consider. However, not every bankruptcy client can or should file their case immediately. Some clients may need to wait in order to qualify for Chapter 7 or lower their plan payments in a Chapter 13. Other clients may need to postpone filing to eliminate a potential preference payment issue. Every case is different.

Second, once you miss a payment you can expect collection calls. The creditor may call your home, your cell phone, or even your work phone to discuss your delinquency. These calls are at best an annoyance, and often cause additional stress. Credit card bill collectors know that the more uncomfortable you are, the greater the likelihood that you will pay them. Fortunately, once your bankruptcy case is filed, the telephone calls will stop.

Third, missed credit card payments will damage your credit. While your bankruptcy case will substantially harm your credit, missed payments additionally harm your score making it more difficult to improve your credit after bankruptcy. Some bankruptcy attorneys recommend that their clients can stop credit card payments for six months or longer – until the client is facing a legal judgment. While the bankruptcy stops any lawsuit or collection action, and discharges the credit card debt, the bankruptcy will not erase the history of non-payment.

Finally, a few clients will decide to not file bankruptcy. Clients who stop making credit card payments and later change their minds about bankruptcy are left with late payments, fees, default interest rates, and collection harassment. Be sure you are filing before you stop credit card payments!

Here is the best answer to our question: consult with an experienced bankruptcy attorney before making the decision to stop paying your credit cards. Your attorney can review your finances and uncover any problems that may delay your bankruptcy filing. In many cases the client is able to stop paying credit cards immediately and the case is filed quickly without any negative consequences to the client. However, every case is different and your case deserves the careful attention of a qualified professional. 

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