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Consumers You can deal with overdue payments

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NEW YORK (10/4/10)--Although the Federal Reserve reports a drop in total consumer credit card debt this year, it’s actually a case of financial institutions writing off more delinquencies (Smart Money Sept. 21). Consumers who have missed a payment can recover by considering these suggestions:
* Keep emotions out of it. It’s best to put aside any feelings of awkwardness or embarrassment when a payment is delinquent--especially if they prevent you from taking action. When dealing with the lender, keep in mind that this is business, not personal. * Seek help immediately. Don’t wait. Consumers who find themselves falling behind should start by meeting with a nonprofit credit counselor. An experienced counselor can explain the options and establish a plan. To find a counselor, contact the National Foundation for Credit Counseling (nfcc.org or 800-388-2227) or ask for a referral at your credit union. * Start a debt repayment plan. Settlement and bankruptcy are rough on a credit score. Consumers who can make their minimum payments should opt for debt management plans. Often, a credit counselor can negotiate a plan that employs a reduced interest rate and a realistic payment schedule. * Avoid debt-settlement offers. In the past, debt-settlement companies have been a trap for consumers more often than a helpful service. Many of these companies charge large fees for services you can do yourself.
Learn more about how a credit counselor can help with the Home & Family Finance Resource Center video, “Tough Times Series: Credit Counselors Can Help Balance the Bills.”