Key takeaways

  • A lender can sue you for not repaying your payday loan as promised.
  • Payday lenders report missed payments to the credit bureaus, which could cause a drop in your credit score.

  • If a lender wins a lawsuit against you, it could garnish your wages to satisfy the debt.

Most of the time, people get a payday loan because they can’t get quick funding elsewhere. Unfortunately, the financial situation may get even worse if the borrower is not able to repay what they owe.

Depending on how long it’s been since you received the loan, the lender could threaten to file a lawsuit against you and garnish your wages. Borrowers in this situation do have options that could potentially help.

What can happen if you don’t repay a payday loan

While every situation may have differences, there are some typical consequences when you don’t repay a payday loan on time.

Withdrawals from your bank account

Most lenders repeatedly attempt to withdraw the funds from your bank account, as allowed per the loan agreement terms. If your bank declines the transactions due to insufficient funds, the lender may initiate withdrawals for smaller amounts.

Even if the lender collects a portion of the outstanding balance using this method, you could still face financial difficulties if other banking transactions are declined. Plus, the bank fees could pile up, costing you several hundred dollars in a short period.

Collection agencies getting involved

You can expect the lender to initiate collection efforts, including repeated calls and letters demanding payment, while continuously attempting to draft your account. The lender could also sell your debt to a collection agency or hire an attorney to collect what’s owed.

You may be able to halt collection actions by requesting an extension from the lender. Select states have laws that mandate payday lenders to grant extended payment plans to borrowers if requested. Be mindful that these extensions often come with additional fees and interest.

Credit score dropping

The lender could also report the delinquent account to the credit bureaus once it’s turned over to a collection agency. Your credit score will likely take a dip, and the negative mark will remain on your credit report for up to seven years. Consequently, you could find it challenging to secure competitive financing offers in the future.

You can take some action to start rebuilding your credit score after defaulting on a payday loan. First, review your credit report to identify any other past-due accounts and bring them current since payment history is the largest component of your credit score. You also want to look for errors and dispute them promptly.

Also, adjust your spending plan to free up funds that you can use to start paying down credit card debts in the near future. You want to do this to reduce your credit utilization ratio or the amount of revolving credit you use, as it accounts for 30 percent of your credit score.

Most importantly, keep tabs on your credit report and practice responsible debt management habits to give your credit score the best chance at strengthening over time.

Lawsuit from the lender

If the lender takes you to court, the burden of proof is on them to prove that you owe the debt. Simply request that they provide documentation or the agreement you signed when you took out the loan. The judge will likely dismiss the case if the debt collector cannot provide this information. But if the lender proves you owe and secures a judgment from the courts, you could be ordered to pay or have your wages garnished.

Quick note: If the lender threatens to have you thrown in jail, reach out to your state attorney general’s office promptly to file a complaint.

How to negotiate with a payday lender

Lenders may be open to negotiating with you because a lawsuit could cost money. You could ask the payday loan company to extend your repayment plan. While some lenders offer this service for free, others charge a fee.

Another strategy is to ask the lender if it will accept a debt settlement — a one-time payment that’s less than what you owe. A good starting point is asking to pay 15 percent of the debt. Afterward, ask to settle for a higher amount if the lender denies that request — up to 50 percent.

Before settling your debt, remember that you might have to pay taxes on the forgiven amount if it’s $600 or higher. Also, settling payday loan debt could harm your credit.

How to get the money to repay a payday loan

Instead of ignoring a delinquent payday loan and possibly ruining your credit, consider these options to repay the debt:

  • Apply for a peer-to-peer loan. If your credit score is low, a peer-to-peer loan is worth considering. You’ll find these loan products on online lending marketplaces that match potential borrowers with investors looking to lend funds to you in exchange for a return. You can compare multiple loans with one application, and you’ll typically need proof of income or assets to get approved.
  • Get a debt consolidation loan. A debt consolidation loan lets you roll high-interest debts into a single loan product with a lower interest rate. Most debt consolidation loans have a fixed interest rate, and you’ll make equal monthly payments over a set period. The most competitive loan terms are reserved for borrowers with good or excellent credit. Even with less optimal credit scores, your rate could be lower than what you received with the payday loan.
  • Consider a short-term emergency loan. Credit unions and select community banks commonly offer short-term emergency loans as payday alternatives. They’re usually available with slightly lower interest rates and for small dollar amounts, capped at $1,000, and may not require a credit check for approval.
  • Enroll in a debt management plan (DMP). It should be a last resort if you’ve exhausted all your options. DMPs are available through non-profit agencies. A credit counselor will reach out to the payday lender on your behalf to negotiate a modified repayment plan that works for your budget. You’ll pay the loan’s principal balance in full, but the downside is that enrolling in a DMP could prompt other creditors to close your credit card accounts, causing further credit damage.

You could also try talking to friends and family or looking for ways to adjust your finances to cover expenses, such as temporarily canceling streaming subscriptions or switching to a lower food budget.

How to rebuild your credit after defaulting on a payday loan

If your credit score took a big hit from defaulting on a payday loan, it’s possible to get back on track. These strategies will help you start restoring your credit health:

  • Make timely payments. Payment history is the most significant component of your credit score. So, it’s vital that you make timely payments each month and bring any past-due accounts current to avoid continued negative credit reporting. Delinquent accounts aren’t reported until they are 30 or more days past due, so work with your creditors to make a payment arrangement and avoid adverse credit reporting.
  • Lower your credit utilization ratio. This figure represents the amount of your credit limit on revolving accounts currently in use. So, if the total credit limit on all your credit cards is $5,000 and you owe $2,000, your credit utilization rate is 33 percent. Ideally, your credit utilization rate should be 30 percent or lower to have the best chance at a solid credit score.
  • Don’t close old accounts. Your credit age is also factored into the credit-scoring equation. If you have old accounts in good standing, keep them open to avoid a drop in the average of your credit accounts.
  • Only apply for credit as needed: A hard inquiry is generated each time you apply. It only drops your score by a few points, but too many inquiries in a short window could significantly impact your credit rating.

Most importantly, keep tabs on your credit health by monitoring your scores and reports regularly. If you notice any errors, file disputes with the credit bureaus promptly to have inaccurate information removed that could be dragging your credit score down.

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