Help when you're in debt

People get into financial difficulties for many reasons. If you find yourself in debt, there is help available.

Make a repayment plan

If you cannot meet your financial commitments, contact the creditor (the business or person you owe money to) as soon as possible to discuss a repayment plan.

When negotiating a repayment plan, be realistic about what you can pay, taking into account your other financial commitments. Be honest with the creditor or debt collector about your situation.

Prepare and stick to a budget to avoid debts building up and taking you by surprise.

Keep copies of bills, payment receipts or receipt numbers, any letters you send or receive, and notes of any conversations you have with the creditor.

Seek financial counselling

A free and independent financial counselling service may be able to help you if you are having trouble paying your debts or managing your budget.

Free financial counselling services are available in every state and territory – find out more on ASIC’s MoneySmart website.

Seek legal advice

If you’re threatened with legal action, get advice about your options as soon as possible. Free legal aid and community legal services are available in every state and territory.

Consider using a dispute resolution scheme

Many industries (such as banking, telecommunications, energy, water and insurance) have their own ombudsmen & dispute resolution schemes.Legal proceedings against you generally cannot be started while a matter is being considered by an ombudsman.

The Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS) handles complaints about banking, credit, loans and debt collection, life insurance, superannuation, financial planning, insurance broking, stockbroking, investments, managed funds, timeshares, general insurance, finance and mortgage broking.They cover complaints where the value of the claim is $500,000 or less.

Check your credit report

Your credit report has information about your credit history and is used by credit providers to work out whether you can afford a loan.

You should check your report to confirm the information is accurate and fix any mistakes. For more information on credit reports, including where to obtain a copy of your report and how to make sure it is accurate, visit the  ASIC MoneySmart website.

Other services

A debt consolidator can provide services to help people struggling with debt. However they will charge a fee, either up front or as a commission on a new loan.

Be cautious and find out what services you’re getting from such a business and how much it will cost you. You may be able to get the same services from a financial counsellor for free.

Bankruptcy

For some people in debt crisis, bankruptcy or a Bankruptcy Act agreement may be an option, although this has serious consequences.

If you are thinking about filing for bankruptcy, it’s very important that you get advice from a free and independent financial counsellor or a qualified financial adviser. You can also get information on personal bankruptcy from Australian Financial Security Authority.

Visit ASIC’s MoneySmart website

MoneySmart

More information

Dealing with debt – your rights and responsibilities