Communicating with Creditors

Are you behind on your payments or have a feeling you will be in the near future? You may be scared to contact your creditors, but many are willing to work with borrowers facing hardship (such as by offering a loan extension or hardship program). The worst thing you can do is do nothing. Below are some tips to keep in mind when you pick up the phone:

  • Be specific and honest: Creditors generally want to know what the cause of your hardship was. Be specific and don’t lie. True, lenders tend to be more likely to work with borrowers whose difficulties are due to circumstances beyond their control (like a job loss or illness), but giving a dog-ate-my-homework excuse will only harm your credibility.
  • Have a plan for the future: If a creditor feels that you are making little effort to pay your bills, they may be hesitant to do anything for you. However, if they know that you are looking for a second job, trying to rent out your spare bedroom, canceling your cable, etc., it may be easier to convince them to provide concessions for a few months.
  • Remain calm and polite: When you are facing a financial crisis, it is easy to get upset. However, yelling at a customer service representative won’t make him or her more sympathetic to your cause. Clear, rational communication can best help you get what you need.
  • Don’t make promises you can’t keep: It can be tempting to jump at any concessions the creditor is willing to provide, but remember, you may only get one chance at help. It is better to be honest and tell them that you cannot make any payment, or can only pay so much, than promise to send money you don’t have.
  • Keep a record: It is always a good idea to keep records of any arrangements you make. After every conversation, note the time and date you called, who you spoke with, any actions you said you would take, and any concessions the creditor made.
  • Be persistent: If you call on the phone and the customer service rep says he or she cannot do anything, ask to speak to a supervisor. If that is not effective, send a letter. (You should send it to the address for billing inquiries and concerns, which is not necessarily the same as the payment address.) Ultimately, the creditor may not agree to do anything, but at least you will know that you gave it your best shot.