Don't feel like paying off your credit-card debt? How about half?


Even if your credit card company refused to cut you a deal on your credit card balances just a few months ago, you might want to try again. The New York Times reported today that some credit card companies have changed the rules and are giving front-line customer service reps the right to cut your principal balance, as well as interest and penalties, if your balance is past due.

Credit-card companies are realizing it's better to get something than nothing. (And customers seem perfectly happy with the arrangement, if the photo of one smirking consumer in the story is any indication.) Now that people don't have equity in their homes, there really is no option for unsecured debt.

In the past, credit-card companies could take you to court, get a judgment, and then try to collect by putting a lien on your home or garnishing your wages. But with unemployment high above 9%, even wage garnishment is often not an option for collecting from deadbeats.

Credit-card companies must write down a balance to zero once a person has been delinquent for six months. That doesn't mean they won't stop trying to collect the debt, but it does mean they have to show the loss on their books. With 6.5% of credit card debt at least 30 days past due in the first quarter -- the highest percentage since the Federal Reserve starting tracking it in 1991 -- credit-card companies need to do something, however desperate, to stop the bleeding.