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If you can’t pay a collection agency the entire amount you owe on a debt, you may want to try to negotiate a settlement with the collection agency. If you are successful, you’ll pay only what you can afford, and the collection agency will accept that amount as payment in full.
Sounds easy enough, right? But keep in mind that collection agencies are trained to get as much money as possible from consumers. After all, the more they collect, the more money they make! So negotiating an affordable settlement can be challenging if you don't know what you are doing.
Here are answers to two of the most frequently asked questions we get about settling debts with bill collectors:
How much (or how little) can I pay to settle my debt?
The amount you'll be able to settle for depends on a lot of different things, including:
Ultimately, if you try to settle a debt, your goal should be to settle for as much as you can afford without putting your personal finances at risk. Never agree to a settlement that you cannot afford! Otherwise, you are likely to create new financial problems for yourself. This means that before you begin negotiating with a collector it’s essential that you know exactly what you can afford to settle for.
Also, when you begin negotiating, never offer that amount right away. Keep it in the back of your mind, but always offer something less at first. Because whatever you offer, the collector is likely to counter with a higher amount so you need to give yourself some wiggle room to come back with a slightly higher offer. It may take several back and forth rounds before you and the collector reach an agreement.
Important Tip: Collection agencies are not required to accept whatever you can afford to pay on a debt. While they may have some "wiggle room" to negotiate with you, if your offer is too low, they may decide to sell the debt to a collection agency or sue to collect.
Can I pay a settlement in installments?
When it comes to collection agency debt settlement, the sooner you can pay the negotiated amount the better. Although some collectors will agree to let you pay a settlement amount over time -- maybe in a series of two to six payments -- most of them will expect you to pay the amount immediately in one lump sum.
For this reason, it is very important to put money aside before you begin trying to negotiate a settlement. If you cannot fund an agreement right away, a collector will probably cancel your deal. Also, the lower the settlement amount, the less likely that the debt collector will let you pay it over time.
Warning! Never pay a settlement amount until you have in hand a signed settlement offer. It should spell out the terms of the deal you agreed to and should include language stating that the debt will be considered paid in full when your payment is received.
Can I negotiate my own collection account settlement?
Sure, you can settle your own debt! The main advantage of doing it yourself is that you will not have to pay a lot of money to a debt settlement firm to negotiate for you, which means that you’ll have more money to settle with. Also, although there are good settlement firms, there are bad apples, too, and you may end up hiring one of them.
Still, it can be very helpful to get expert advice when you want to settle a debt. Here are a couple of reasons why:
If you need need help resolving your debt? Call the Debt Hotline at 1-888-495-0133.