How can you tell when a credit card debt will legally
The statute of limitations in your state is a starting point to
tell if a debt is too old to be dragged in front of a judge.
However, the law falls short of predicting what will happen if you
do wind up in court, where decisions are made on a case-by-case
Here is a checklist to help tell if a debt can no longer be the
basis of a collection lawsuit, based on interviews with legal
experts and a review of cases.
The law in your state
Statutes of limitation don't usually deal specifically with card
debt. About half of states divide debt into categories, with
different expiration periods depending on whether a debt qualifies
as an open account, written contract, or informal "oral" contract.
statutes of limitations map
for the applicable period, based on the statute and prevailing case
Your card agreement
Language in your card agreement may call for the law of the card
issuer's home state to be applied. Usually the court in your
state will use its own laws, but not necessarily. If you
don't have a copy of the card agreement, check the
credit card agreement database
on file at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau from about 300
card issuers. You can also request your agreement from the issuer;
federal law requires the issuer to provide it on your request.
If sued, lawyer up
Consumers who take a do-it-yourself approach to statute of
limitations cases tend to do poorly in court. The National
Association of Consumer Advocates can direct you to consumer
lawyers in most areas.
Once a debt is too old for court action, collectors can still
call you seeking payment, but they cannot threaten lawsuits without
running afoul of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. You also
have the right to stop the calls by sending the collector a "
". If a collector sues or threatens to sue for an expired debt, you
have grounds for an action under the FDCPA.
Know your rights under the Fair Debt Collection
Expiration dates fuzzy on old card debt