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If you’ve accumulated debt on a credit card and are in danger of being pursued by debt collectors, you need to be aware of the statute of limitations on credit card debt. Knowing this information can protect you if you’re sued by debt collectors. It also helps prevent yourself from inadvertently giving collectors a longer time to sue you.

To help you navigate the difficulties of managing the statute of limitations on credit card debt, we’ve compiled everything you need to know below.

What is the statute of limitations?

The statute of limitations is the maximum time period someone is restricted to if they want to file a lawsuit or criminal charges. A statute of limitations provides some protection from people being sued even after evidence has disappeared.

Each state has a different statute of limitations regarding credit card debt. If the statute of limitations has passed and you owe money, a collector cannot take legal action against you to get it. The creditor can still continue to pursue payments from you, just not in court. If the collector attempts to take you to court after the statute of limitations has passed, you can dispute their action and prove why the case should be dismissed which is why it’s important to keep detailed records of every interaction you have with debt collectors.

Keep in mind if you acknowledge in writing you owe the debt or you make any payment (even a small one) on the debt, the clock for the statute of limitations will reset. Ask the collector when the date of the first missed payment was so you can determine when the statute of limitations started running. You can also ask the collector what the statute of limitations is without acknowledging what you owe, but the collector is not obligated to give you this information.

Even after the statute of limitations passes, you’ll still owe the debt. If you stop paying your credit card bills, it will factor into your credit scores and can impact your ability to secure a loan or receive a good credit card. Derogatory marks, including debt you never repaid, can stay on your credit reports for seven years and alter your credit scores.

Also, not paying your credit card debts means you’ll owe more interest and late fees, plus you’ll accumulate a higher credit card debt balance which can negatively impact your credit score. In some cases, your wages may be garnished for payment for what you owe.

State-by-state guide on the statute of limitations on credit card debt

Each state has the power to create its own laws and statute of limitations on credit card debt. Even if you accumulated the debt in a different state, the state’s laws where you reside are what will determine the statute of limitations.

Here’s a state-by-state breakdown as of December 2019. If you are being contacted to pay credit card debt, check with a lawyer in your state to get the most current credit card debt statute of limitations.

  • Alabama: 3 years
  • Alaska: 3 years
  • Arizona: 3 years
  • Arkansas: 5 years
  • California: 4 years
  • Colorado: 3 years
  • Connecticut: 3 years
  • Delaware: 3 years
  • Florida: 4 years
  • Georgia: 4 years
  • Hawaii: 6 years
  • Idaho: 4 years
  • Illinois: 5 years
  • Indiana: 6 years
  • Iowa: 5 years
  • Kansas: 5 years
  • Kentucky: 5 years
  • Louisiana: 3 years
  • Maine: 6 years
  • Maryland: 3 years
  • Massachusetts: 6 years
  • Michigan: 6 years
  • Minnesota: 6 years
  • Mississippi: 3 years
  • Missouri: 5 years
  • Montana: 5 years
  • Nebraska: 4 years
  • Nevada: 4 years
  • New Hampshire: 3 years
  • New Jersey: 6 years
  • New Mexico: 4 years
  • New York: 6 years
  • North Carolina: 3 years
  • North Dakota: 6 years
  • Ohio: 6 years
  • Oklahoma: 5 years
  • Oregon: 6 years
  • Pennsylvania: 4 years
  • Rhode Island: 10 years
  • South Carolina: 3 years
  • South Dakota: 6 years
  • Tennessee: 6 years
  • Texas: 4 years
  • Utah: 4 years
  • Vermont: 6 years
  • Virginia: 3 years
  • Washington: 6 years
  • West Virginia: 5 years
  • Wisconsin: 6 years
  • Wyoming: 6 years
  • Washington, D.C.: 3 years

How to avoid accumulating credit card debt

To avoid credit card debt in the first place, it helps to have a strategy for making on-time and in-full payments. Paying on time enables you to keep your credit utilization low, avoid paying interest and reap credit card rewards with zero cost. Look into how to set up automatic payments on your credit card from your debit account so you are never late with payments.

It can help to treat a credit card like a debit card. Only make a charge when you know you already have the funds to pay it back. If you do need to make a large purchase you can’t pay back right away, create a repayment plan for yourself so you can completely pay off what you owe. You should also have a budget in place to avoid overspending and create an emergency fund you can withdraw from in an emergency instead of using your credit card.

When you have credit card debt, you can either pay off the debt with the highest interest first or pay off the smallest debts to create momentum. Always make paying off your debt a priority over new purchases.

If you need extra help, try lowering your bills by eliminating subscriptions you don’t use and refinancing what you can. Look into taking on extra work and put the income toward your debt. You might consider a debt consolidation loan to lower your interest rate or transferring debt to a balance transfer credit card. You can also talk to your credit card issuer about debt relief options or get credit counseling to create a plan to eliminate your debt.

Conclusion

Credit card debt is stressful, especially when lawsuits are a possibility. Know your rights by paying attention to the credit card debt statute of limitations in your state. You’ll still need to pay off your debt to protect your credit even when the statute of limitations has passed. Get professional help if you need it so you can eliminate your debts and improve your credit scores.