How to Ask Your Creditors for Help During a Hardship

Nervous woman biting credit card while looking at phone.

When you're struggling with bills, especially credit card debt, it may be tempting you put your head in the metaphorical sand and hope the whole thing blows over, but the worst thing you can do is cut off communication with your creditors.

While your creditors may feel like the "bad guys" coming after your money, in most cases it's in every one's mutual interest to help you navigate a hardship and get back on track. For creditors, the preference is usually to avoid collection activity or having to take legal action.

If a temporary or long-term hardship is making it difficult to stay current with your bills, one of your first steps should be to contact your creditors and see what kind of help they may be able to provide. Some won't help you, and some may direct you toward third party resources like credit counseling. But many offer hardship programs and other solutions to help you avoid defaulting on your account. And if you need help from a creditor, here's how you should approach that conversation. 

Assess your finances 

How bad is it? What can you reasonably afford? How long do you expect this hardship to last?

Before reaching out to your creditors, it's good to know the answers to some of those big questions. Gather information about your income, expenses, and the specific debts causing difficulty. Consider your hardship and what you're doing to address it.  

Communicate quickly and honestly 

Don't make your creditor chase you. While there may be no way to stop debt collection activity if you stop making timely payments, letting your creditor know as soon as possible gives you the best chance to avoid negative outcomes like collection calls and damage to your credit score.

When communicating with your creditor, be honest about your financial challenges. Avoid misrepresenting your situation and express your willingness to work with the creditor to find a solution that works for both parties. Be clear about your commitment to making things right as quickly as possible. 

Tips for communicating with a creditor

  • Be respectful. You're probably feeling stressed out, but try to keep your interactions respectful and to-the-point.
  • Be persistent. If you're not getting the help or answers you need, you may need to try again or ask to have your request elevated. It's possible that the creditor simply can't help you, but don't be afraid to be persistent.
  • Get it in writing. If you do agree to a limited or long-term hardship plan, make sure you understand the terms. If possible, ask to have the new terms sent to you by mail or email.
  • Follow-up. If you've made your request online or by mail, follow-up to make sure it was received if you don't get a response in a timely manner.

Sample script for requesting a hardship from your creditor

Using your own words is usually the best option, but if you're not comfortable or aren't sure how to approach the conversation, here's a rough suggestion of how to ask your creditor for a hardship plan: 

Hello. I'm reaching out to discuss some financial challenges I'm currently dealing with.

[If you're comfortable sharing, provide an example of what you're dealing with.]

Because of this, I'm finding it difficult to manage my monthly payments right now.

I'm committed to meeting my financial responsibilities, but that's just not possible for me right now. I'm reaching out to see if there's any assistance or relief you may be able to offer during this challenging time.

I'm open to restructuring my payments, temporarily adjusting my payment schedule, or any other options that might be available.

Your understanding and help would be immensely appreciated and would be a massive relief during this difficult period.

There's no guarantee that a creditor will be able to assist you, but you won't know until you try. And if your creditor isn't able to help, consider connecting with a nonprofit financial counseling agency like MMI. We offer debt management plans and other resources to help you reduce debt and improve your credit score.

Tagged in Negotiating bills and fees, Managing a loss of income, Debt strategies

Jesse Campbell photo.

Jesse Campbell is the Content Manager at MMI, with over ten years of experience creating valuable educational materials that help families through everyday and extraordinary financial challenges.

  • Better Business Bureau A+ rating Better Business Bureau
    MMI is proud to have achieved an A+ rating from the Better Business Bureau (BBB), a nonprofit organization focused on promoting and improving marketplace trust. The BBB investigates charges of fraud against both consumers and businesses, sets standards for truthfulness in advertising, and evaluates the trustworthiness of businesses and charities, providing a score from A+ (highest) to F (lowest).
  • Financial Counseling Association of America Financial Counseling Association of America
    MMI is a proud member of the Financial Counseling Association of America (FCAA), a national association representing financial counseling companies that provide consumer credit counseling, housing counseling, student loan counseling, bankruptcy counseling, debt management, and various financial education services.
  • Trustpilot Trustpilot
    MMI is rated as “Excellent” (4.9/5) by reviewers on Trustpilot, a global, online consumer review platform dedicated to openness and transparency. Since 2007, Trustpilot has received over 116 million customer reviews for nearly 500,000 different websites and businesses. See what others are saying about the work we do.
  • Department of Housing and Urban Development - Equal Housing Opportunity Department of Housing and Urban Development
    MMI is certified by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to provide consumer housing counseling. The mission of HUD is to create strong, sustainable, inclusive communities and quality affordable homes for all. HUD provides support services directly and through approved, local agencies like MMI.
  • Council on Accreditation Council On Accreditation
    MMI is proudly accredited by the Council on Accreditation (COA), an international, independent, nonprofit, human service accrediting organization. COA’s thorough, peer-reviewed accreditation process is designed to ensure that organizations like MMI are providing the highest standard of service and support for clients and employees alike.
  • National Foundation for Credit Counseling National Foundation for Credit Counseling
    MMI is a longstanding member of the National Foundation for Credit Counseling® (NFCC®), the nation’s largest nonprofit financial counseling organization. Founded in 1951, the NFCC’s mission is to promote financially responsible behavior and help member organizations like MMI deliver the highest-quality financial education and counseling services.