Q: Should I pay off old debt from department store credit cards that are at least 10 years old? It seems like my creditors re-sell my old credit accounts to a new collection agency every few years.
A: If a delinquent debt is more than 10 years old, it should have already fallen off your credit report. If not, dispute it with the credit bureaus.
Also, chances are those old creditors can no longer legally collect that debt from you. But you need to know about two important time frames.
The first is how long something will be reported on your TransUnion, Experian and Equifax Credit files. Generally speaking, that will be seven years from the date you last paid an account.
The Statute of Limitations Explained
You also need to know the Statute of Limitations on the debts in question. This refers to the legal period after which a creditor can no longer sue you in court or get a judgment against you.
The Statute of Limitations varies state by state and based on what kind of debt is involved. But generally speaking, the Statute of limitations on credit card debts run anywhere from 3 to 10 years in all states.
Dealing With Debt Collectors
The bottom line: as long as you didn’t pay anything on the debt over the past 10 years – or even promise to pay – you probably have not “re-started the clock” and re-activated a Statute or Limitations or a credit-reporting time limitation.
If you’ve not had any activity on those accounts, then you are no longer legally required to pay those old debts. Of course, if you have the financial capacity to do so, then by all means go ahead and pay those debts in full – but only after you get a letter from the creditors/collection agencies saying they will remove any negative information from your credit reports.
If that’s not possible, I would suggest letting these old debts remain exactly where they are – in the past. Again, provided the Statute of Limitations has expired, then those collection agents – even new ones to whom you debt might be sold – can’t do anything to you. If they call you or write, simply hang up on them or ignore their letters.