If you’re struggling to pay your credit card
There are things you can do to improve your situation. Your credit card company might agree to reduce or pause your payments - it depends on your situation.
Try not to buy anything more on your credit card. This will help you get your credit card debts under control.
If you have other debts
Before you deal with your credit card debts, check if any of your other debts are more serious - these are called 'priority debts'. Priority debts include:
rent and mortgage
gas and electricity
If you don't deal with your priority debts you might for example lose your home or have your energy supply cut off.
Check if you’re responsible for the debt
You're responsible for the debt if you signed a contract with the credit card company. This is called a 'credit agreement'.
In some cases, you might have signed a credit agreement along with someone else - for example your partner. If both your names are on the agreement, you’re both responsible for the debt. If the other person stops paying, the credit card company can make you pay the full amount.
If you’re an additional cardholder on someone else’s credit card, you're only responsible for the debt if you signed the credit agreement.
If you’re not responsible for the debt and a credit card company is trying to make you pay, explain the situation and ask them to stop. If they don’t stop, you can complain to the Financial Ombudsman Service. They investigate complaints about banks and building societies and can make them stop.
Check if your credit card company broke the rules when you applied
If the company didn't follow the rules when you first applied, they might have to cancel or 'write off' your debt. This might happen if for example:
they didn’t check you could afford the repayments
you were pressured into signing a credit agreement
you didn’t understand what you were signing
If you think your credit company broke any of these rules, you should talk to an adviser.
If you’ve had a letter about the debt
Don't ignore the letter - it’s best to take action quickly to stop the situation getting worse.
If you’ve had a letter saying your credit card company will take you to court, find out how to deal with a court claim.
If you’ve already been to court and your letter says a bailiff might visit, find out how you can stop the bailiffs coming.
If you’re offered a repayment plan
You might get a letter from your credit card company offering you a repayment plan. They’ll do this if you've been paying off your debt for 36 months or more.
The letter will explain how you can pay off your debt in 4 years. If you don't agree to the plan, your credit card company will stop your card.
If you can't pay what the letter suggests, contact the credit card company and tell them how much you can pay - or tell them if you can’t pay at all. If they’re still charging you interest or fees, ask them to stop.
If you don’t think your credit card company are being reasonable, you should complain to them. If you need help doing this, contact the Financial Ombudsman on their website.
Work out what you can afford to pay
If you’re responsible for the debt, you should make a budget. This will help you know how much you have left each month after paying your essential bills and priority debts. The amount you have left is your ‘available income’.
Try to be as accurate as you can. Before you make a budget, find your most recent:
debit and credit card statements
You can use your budget to decide how much available income you can use for credit card repayments and other non-priority debts.
You should try to pay at least the minimum payment on your credit card if you can. If you pay less than the minimum payment, your credit card company might add charges. This will affect the size of your debt and your credit score.
If you can afford to make regular repayments, set up a direct debit to your credit card account. This means you’ll automatically make the same repayments every month.
You should save a copy of your budget. If you need to ask your credit card company for lower repayments, you can send them your budget. It will show that what you’re offering to pay is fair.
If you have more than 1 card
Pay the minimum payments for each card if you can. If you can afford to pay more, use it to pay off the card with the most expensive repayments.
If you can only afford the minimum repayment
You should keep paying the minimum amount as you’ll avoid paying fees - but you will be charged interest.
If you don’t think your situation is likely to change, you might be able to:
move the debt to another card that charges less interest - this is called a ‘balance transfer’
get a loan that charges less interest than your credit card
Compare the cards or loans you can get from different companies. Think about:
if there will be a fee to move your balance to another card
what interest and charges you’ll pay on the new card or loan
the length of any interest free period
Only use a loan or new card to help pay off the debt you already have. Don't spend any more on your existing credit card.
If you get a loan, don’t get a loan that’s linked to your home - like a mortgage. You might lose your home if you can’t pay it back.
If you can't get another card or loan
You might not be able to get a card or loan if you don't have a good credit score. This could happen if you've applied for lots of credit cards or missed a monthly payment.
You should check your credit score is right. You might be able to correct a mistake to improve your score and you won’t make the score worse by checking. You can find out how to check your credit score on the Money Helper website.
Keep paying as much as you can on the old card. Talk to your credit card company and explain your situation. Ask them to freeze interest and other charges.
If you can’t afford the minimum repayment
Contact your credit card company and explain your situation. Offer to show them your budget and tell them about any priority debts you need to pay.
If you think your situation will improve in the next few months, ask your credit card company to freeze interest and other charges. You can ask them to either:
pause your card repayments - this means you won’t need to pay anything until your situation improves
agree a repayment plan with you - this means making payments you can afford over a fixed period of time
If you don't think your situation is likely to change for a long time, you might be able to make a formal agreement to help you get out of debt. Check your options for getting out of debt.
Get help with the cost of living
Tell your credit card company if you’re struggling and mention 'the cost of living.’ The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) has told all credit card companies they need to help anyone struggling with the cost of living.
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Page last reviewed on 27 September 2022