Is There a Statute of Limitations on Credit Card Debt?

Is There a Statute of Limitations on Credit Card Debt?

Posted on August 22, 2012 by Jennifer in Credit Card Debt, Credit Card Tips

Have you ever had a creditor or collection agency come after you for a debt? Every now and then you can be pursued even for an invalid debt, and those debt collectors can be relentless, going so far as to threaten lawsuits.

Something like this happened to me years ago, although not with a credit card company. In my case it was a utility company. They forgot to cancel electric services in my apartment even after I moved, and the next tenant ran up a huge bill in my name. Even though I had a confirmation number for the cancellation order I placed, I had to fight it for years. Things like this can happen with credit cards too — accounts that aren’t cancelled when they should be gather more fees, similar names get mixed up, or there are even cases of identity theft.

Fortunately, there’s something called a statute of limitations on credit card debt. And that can help you if you find yourself in a long-term battle over this kind of invalid debt.

What is a Statute of Limitations?

A statute of limitations is a rule that puts a time limit on any civil lawsuits or prosecution for a crime. In this case it’s a certain number of years, but from what time can vary by state (such as starting at the date of first delinquency versus when the debt became due). If that amount of time goes by, you can no longer be sued for the debt. Well, technically you can be sued. But you would have an absolute defense, as long as you show up for your court date.

However, that doesn’t mean they have to stop trying to collect on the supposed debt. They can still send you collection letters and they can keep calling you about the debt (unless you inform them that they can only contact you in writing).

U.S. Statute of Limitations on Credit Card Debt

How long is this statute of limitations on credit card debts? That depends on which state you live in. States also have different statutes of limitations for different types of contracts, such as written, oral, and ongoing contracts. Please note that different states may classify credit card agreements as different types of debt and these rules may change. It’s always best to check with your state government.

In the meantime, here are some examples of statutes of limitations and which states have rules falling under each time limit.

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

So what’s your state’s statute of limitations on credit card debt? Have you ever had to use it as a defense before? If so, what happened to put you in that situation? Share your stories in the comments below.

Disclaimer: This article was written for informational purposes only and is not intended to serve as professional financial or legal advice. Please review the most up to date information from your state government or consult with a legal or financial professional for more information about your state’s statute of limitations.