When you open a credit card account, the creditor assesses the likelihood that you will be able to pay back the debt. What happens if something unexpected happens and your circumstances change, though? What happens if you’re struggling to make your payments or you’re behind on the debt?
If you’re dealing with an event or a circumstance that has impacted your ability to pay, you might consider writing your creditor a hardship letter.
A hardship letter is a letter you can write to a lender that explains the circumstances that made you unable to make your payments on time. Included in this type of letter are the specific details about when your hardship started, what the cause of the hardship was, and when you expect to begin making regular payments again.
This is also an opportunity for you to express how you want your lender to help and how the solution you are proposing would benefit them.
There are a number of types of relief you might ask for in a hardship letter, including:
For instance, you might communicate to your lender that you will be able to avoid going into default if they are willing to reduce your interest rate for a certain number of months. In this scenario, you could explain to them that you believe you will be able to start making regular payments at the current interest rate after that period of time.
While the dictionary might define “hardship” as severe suffering, lenders are only going to consider certain events to be hardships. In their view, hardships are negative events that harm your finances that are outside of your control.
Some examples of occurrences that a creditor might deem financial hardships include:
Hardship events don’t necessarily have to happy directly to you for a creditor to consider altering their agreement with you. These occurrences can also happen to individuals that you either take care of or rely on.
For instance, if your child were to fall seriously ill in a way that you took on increased medical debt and had to work less hours, a creditor could understand this situation as a valid hardship.
On the other hand, lenders likely won’t consider the following to be financial hardships:
For more in-depth information about credit cards and your credit, check out our recent guides on closing a credit card with a remaining balance, opening a new card before buying a house, and properly reporting income on credit card applications.
Before you start drafting your hardship letter, you’ll want to determine whether or not this is the right way to try and communicate to the credit card company. You might find that your creditor actually provides all of the info that you need online to request hardship assistance.
For instance, American Express has a page on their website that gives clear instructions regarding how you can request financial relief in the form of temporarily lower interest rates and monthly payments.
You’ll want to login to your credit card account online to find out if the credit card company that you want to negotiate with has an easy and already-existing process you can go through in order to request assistance.
Some individuals also might prefer to talk to a customer service representative through online chat or by making a phone call. Even if you aren’t going to be emailing a hardship letter or sending one through the mail, it can be useful to write a simple script for yourself to make sure you hit all of the most important points. This doesn’t necessarily need to be a word-for-word script, but rather a list of essential bullet points.
If you have dealt with a hardship and need to seek financial help for your family, you can learn more about government benefit assistance programs at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services site.
How should you go about drafting a hardship letter? What will you want to keep in mind as you're writing? These tips will help you create a letter that gives you the best chance of receiving a favorable response.
When you are overwhelmed by your credit card debt due to a hardship, it can feel like a desperate situation. You might be tempted to try and stretch the truth or even tell the creditor things that simply aren’t true in order to ensure that they’ll provide you with some relief.
You’ll want to resist this temptation. Instead, be honest about your situation and provide documentation that helps substantiate the claims you are making.
Depending on your situation, the types of documents you will want to submit are going to vary quite a bit. Here are some examples of documents you might consider including:
Are you trying to get on top of your credit cards and credit score? Check out these posts about hiding your credit utilization, getting an Amex card, department store cards for bad credit, and how getting a new credit card impacts your credit.
When you’ve gone through a difficult time, it can be difficult to separate essential from nonessential information in a hardship letter. It’s best to be concise and straightforward when writing while not getting too lost in the details of your situation.
If you are having a hard time determining which information should be included in your hardship letter, consider having someone you trust look over your draft before submitting it. Frequently, people that are outside of a situation are better able to identify the most important objective facts that you would want to share with your creditor in order to help them understand the hardship you have endured.
Templates and examples can be incredibly useful when you are learning how to write a hardship letter. However, if you simply insert your information into an online template, it won’t be specific to your circumstances and won’t come off nearly as genuine.
When writing this type of letter, you might be tempted to try and show the credit card company that you are worthy of assistance through your use of language. It can also feel awkward to write a letter to a creditor, and you might find yourself using bigger words than you normally would or relying on jargon to get your point across.
After you have written your draft, take a look and make sure that it reads smoothly and clearly. Typically, it’s best to stick with simple language. This can also help ensure that your letter is short and to the point.
When you’ve experienced hardship, it’s hard to not think about the factors, organizations, or people that contributed to your current situation. That being said, it’s best to not use your letter as an opportunity to cast blame on others. Instead, you’ll want to focus on explaining your situation in a clear and simple way.
Are you trying to boost your credit with a secured credit card? Take a look at this guide to learn how much of an increase you can expect when you take out a secured line of credit.
Your letter should emphasize the reason that you’re writing– to request hardship assistance. You will need to make a strong case that you are going through a difficult situation that makes it difficult if not impossible for you to remedy the situation without brokering a deal with them.
It’s important to go beyond simply explaining the trouble you’ve gone through. An essential section of your letter is where you express what it is that you want from the creditor.
What can the creditor do for you to help make it possible for you to pay off your debt without defaulting? You will have a much better chance of receiving the help that you need if you propose a clear action plan to your creditor.
Additionally, you’ll want to make it abundantly clear that the plan you are proposing is absolutely necessary in order for you to be able to continue paying off your debt.
As stated previously, it’s best to use examples and templates as inspiration for your own letter rather than simply inserting your information into an existing sample. That being said, it can be very useful to see examples in order to understand what a hardship letter should look like.
Your Phone Number
Name of Credit Card Issuer
Mailing Address of Credit Card Issuer
Credit Card Company Phone Number
RE: Hardship Letter
To Whom It May Concern,
I am writing because I am experiencing financial hardship and would like to ask for a settlement of my credit card balance. My offer is to pay twenty-five percent of the outstanding balance on my account.
Over the last (X months), I have experienced a considerable decrease in my income. With the high-interest rate that is currently being charged on my account, I am unable to make the monthly payments in the amount of (X dollars.)
I have attached proof of my hardship in the form of the last three months of bank statements, my pay stubs, and copies of late payment statements. Please let me know if there is more information I can provide to help you understand my current financial hardship.
I am currently doing what I can to avoid filing for bankruptcy. In order to do so, I need to make debt settlement arrangements with creditors.
I ask that you please consider my settlement offer and accept it. At the point at which I receive your written agreement, I will send the payment within five business days.
Please don’t hesitate to contact me if you have any concerns or questions. You can contact me at (phone number) to discuss the settlement offer.
Thank you for your time.
Your Phone Number
Name of Credit Card Issuer
Mailing Address of Credit Card Issuer
Credit Card Company Phone Number
RE: Hardship Letter
In this letter I will be explaining the unfortunate set of circumstances that have led me to fall behind on my credit card payments. I have done everything I possibly could to try and stay current with my bills, but the hardship I have experienced has made it impossible for me to do so. I am asking that you will work with me in my effort to pay off the debt that I owe by lowering my monthly payments to (X amount) temporarily for (X months).
Due to my husband’s chronic illness and the resulting medical bills, our financial situation has significantly changed in ways that we could not have anticipated. I have included documents to illustrate our current financial situation, including medical bills, bank statements, and income records. Please let me know if there is more information I can send to help you understand the dire nature of our financial circumstances.
If you agree to reduce my monthly payment temporarily as discussed above, I will be able to resume paying the current monthly payment after (X months). Within this time, I expect that reducing my monthly payment for this period of time will make it possible for me to continue paying my debt to you while also managing medical bills and other expenses associated with my husband’s chronic illness.
If you have any questions or concerns, please feel free to contact me at (phone number) to discuss this further.
Thank you for your time and consideration.
Before you sit down to write your first draft, there are a few common mistakes that you'll want to steer clear of when writing a hardship letter to a credit card company.
Writing a hardship letter can feel quite strange– you’re ultimately telling a person that you’ve never met at a credit card company about deeply personal issues you have been going through. This can make it difficult to know where to draw the line, and it can be tempting to start telling your whole life story in order to ensure that they understand how truly difficult your financial situation is.
The reality is, though, that you want to avoid expressing any personal problems that aren’t relevant to the situation at hand. For example, if you have had problems with alcohol or drugs in the past, this is not something that you want to mention unless it is directly related to your current concern.
We made the point earlier, but it bears repeating– keep it short. You’ll want to include all of the information that is relevant to your situation without any additional fluff.
It might feel strange to thank your creditor, but it’s important to be professional and polite in your hardship letter. Don’t forget to thank them for their time and consideration before signing off.
If you mention that there are additional funds elsewhere that you haven’t provided proof of, there’s a good chance that the credit card company won’t be willing to work with you to adjust your agreement. It’s never a good idea to suggest that you could borrow money from a family member or sell an asset, even if it feels like you’re just trying to be reasonable in the negotiation process.
Sometimes the simplest mistakes are the ones we’re most likely to make. Make sure that your letter is clearly signed and dated. Otherwise, they might just pass over it without giving it a second look.
If you're trying to make sense of your credit card debt, you might be wondering whether there's any difference between a due date and a closing date. These are actually both very important yet different dates and it's worth understanding how they differ. Take a look at our recent post about the difference between credit card closing date and due date.
Feeling angry when you are dealing with a financial hardship is perfectly natural, particularly if you feel that your troubles were caused maliciously by another party. Even if this is the case, the place to express your anger isn’t your hardship letter. Keep things objective and simple– don’t start talking about how much of a jerk your boss was or how your business partner screwed you over.
You also don’t want to imply or clearly state that your situation is the fault of the credit card company. Even if you legitimately feel this way, saying as much won’t get you very far.
If you’ve gone through an event or are dealing with a circumstance that makes it impossible for you to pay your debt to a credit card company, it can feel totally hopeless. Luckily, some credit card companies allow you to submit information online regarding hardship. Even if your creditor doesn’t have this type of option on their site, you can send them a hardship letter.
Credit card companies aren’t under any obligation to agree to the proposal that you make in a hardship letter. However, they are motivated to collect payment and a hardship letter can convince them to work with you on resolving the debt you owe.
Remember, it’s important to keep your hardship letter short and concise, never blaming the creditor or other parties for your circumstance. Though it’s incredibly stressful to be in a troubled financial situation, you’ll have the best luck getting the results you want by being polite and cordial.
If you're ready to get a handle on your credit, make sure you check out our credit building blog.