Many people do not realise you can legally stop paying credit cards. There is no longer a debtor's prison to punish those who refuse to pay debts. If you honestly incurred the debt without breaking any laws, you can stop paying it at any time. However, be aware that this will severely damage your credit, may get you sued, and may subject you to collection letters and phone calls. Those who are not working or have little assets to lose are not likely to be sued. There are several steps you can take to legally stop paying credit cards.
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Use any remaining credit limit on your cards to pay essential bills, such as your rent or mortgage, utility bills, day care or buy food. If you do not intend to file bankruptcy, this is perfectly legal to do. Focus on making sure you and your family stay fed, clothed and sheltered as your first priority.
Cut up your credit cards once they are maxed out and you know you are ready to stop paying them. The credit card companies will cancel them for you once the payment is several months late, but it is easier for you not to look at them.
Consider changing your phone number. Credit card companies and bill collectors tend to call your home aggressively.
Write your credit card companies and collection agencies that are sending you "past due" letters in the mail, and tell them not to call you at work (if this applies) or at your home, and to communicate with you in writing only. This is called "cease and desist," and if bill collectors disobey your request, they have broken laws under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA).
Join a credit information website (see Resources) for help if you are served with a lawsuit. Even if you are sued, there are few ways for the creditor to get money from you, especially if you are broke or file bankruptcy.
Save any money that is left after you stop paying your credit cards and care for your family and put it into a retirement account (see Resources.) Creditors cannot touch your retirement money, even if you are sued or eventually file bankruptcy. You can also pull it out, penalty-free, before retiring for medical, education and child care experiences, making this a safe form of savings.
Tips and warnings
- You are in control of your money in most instances and can stop paying your credit cards at any time.
- Do not stop paying your credit cards if you own major property, such as a house, stocks, or a fine automobile. Banks can and will seize such assets through the lawsuit process.
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