July 17, 2018

What is the statute of limitations on credit card debt?

Dear Consumer Ed:

What is the statute of limitations on credit card debt?

Consumer Ed says:

In Georgia, the statute of limitations on credit card debt is generally six years. After six years of non-payment on the debt, it becomes “time-barred,” meaning a collector or creditor cannot sue you to collect the debt. Keep in mind that debt being time-barred doesn’t mean it can’t be collected, only that you, as the debtor, can’t be sued on it.

If you are certain the statute of limitations has expired, you can use that fact as justification that you do not have to pay the debt. But, be careful not to restart the statute of limitations. You can take many actions with an account, perhaps even inadvertently, that will trigger a restart of the statute of limitations. For example, making a payment, making a promise of payment, entering a payment agreement, or making a charge using the account are all actions that can restart the statute of limitations on an account. And, when the clock restarts, it restarts at zero, no matter how much time had elapsed before the triggering activity.

Also note that old debt is not a credit card balance that you may have racked up years ago but are still making minimum monthly payments on. In this case, you will not be considered to have defaulted on the debt.

In addition, be aware that some debt collectors knowingly file lawsuits to collect on expired debts. Many people who are sued on a very old debt simply don’t answer the lawsuit because they believe the statute of limitations has run out. THIS IS A BIG MISTAKE. If you are sued and do not answer the lawsuit, the debt collector will be able to get a judgment by default against you, and possibly take money from your paycheck, bank account, or tax refund to pay off the debt.  Instead, if you are sued for a time-barred debt, you should go to court and assert as your defense that the debt is time-barred. As proof, provide any information you have that shows the date of your last payment. The lawsuit will be dismissed if the judge decides the debt is time-barred.

Submit your own question to Consumer Ed.  Remember…we do not give legal advice. Always consult a lawyer about legal issues.