What If You Owe Too Much?

If you've followed the tips in this section and still can't figure out how to make ends meet, there are other things you can do to get out of debt. Reputable creditors don't want to send accounts to a debt collector. They would rather work directly with you. If you can't make your payments, call your creditors before they call you. You may be able to arrange a payment plan.

Working with your creditors
Don't be afraid to work with your creditors to devise a way to pay off your debt. Come up with a plan you can present to them. You may want to pay an equal amount monthly to each creditor or more to the creditor charging the highest interest rate.

The first step is to call each creditor. Tell them you want to pay in full but that you need more time to pay. Explain your problem. Mention anything positive, like disability benefits beginning soon or a pending job offer. Let them know you've taken steps to reduce your spending. Present your plan and ask for their help.

Most creditors will help. They want to get paid, so they will work with people who are truly interested in getting out of debt. For the record, send each creditor a letter with the details you've discussed. If you can, include a payment with your letter. Even a small payment shows you're serious about paying back the debt in full.

Not all creditors will react well to your call, but persist. Don't get emotional. Use logic and be reasonable. Be prepared to compromise.

If you are already past due on your Citi credit card, we may be able to provide assistance. Sign on to www.citicards.com or call us to learn about special payment plans that may help you bring your account current.

Debt reduction options
Legitimate credit repair involves either rescheduling debts or correcting inaccurate credit information. Beware of credit companies that offer more. It is illegal to remove or change credit history that is accurate. Creditors may offer you one of several options:

  • Loan extension:

This is an extra 30 or 60 days to make a required payment. Some creditors require no payment in that period. Others may want partial payments or ask that you pay interest or service charges. Check to see if the extension will be reported as a delinquency to the credit bureau.

  • Loan revision:

The lender may be willing to lower your monthly payments by extending the term of the loan. You may pay more interest, but lower payments may enable you to make payments on time.

  • Loan refinancing:

A refinanced loan is a new loan, not just a revision. The new loan will have a new payment schedule and interest rate reflecting current interest rates.

  • Consolidation loan:

This is a new loan designed to pay off a number of existing debts. The new monthly payment will be less than the total amount you're paying now because you'll be extending your payments over a longer period of time. A consolidation loan can help take care of payment problems before you become delinquent, but it can be a problem if you use the extra money to take on new debts.

  • Home equity loan or credit line:

If you're a homeowner, your lender may extend you a line of credit or a loan secured by the equity in your home. These usually have lower interest rates and the interest may be tax deductible. But be careful - if you land deeper in debt, you could lose your home.

Additional Resources
The National Foundation for Credit Counseling (NFCC) is a national service that can direct you to a credit counselor able to advise you in accordance with the Fair Credit Reporting Act. This service can work with your creditors to accept reduced payments. NFCC is a nonprofit organization, so the help is either free or offered at a low cost. Call 1-800-388 2227 or visit online at www.nfcc.org. The Federal Trade Commission can also help with credit-related issues. Call 1-877-FTC-HELP (382-4357) or visit online at www.ftc.gov.