When I left Dubai in 2019, I did not refund my credit card. I am now in my home country and due to the Covid-19 pandemic I have lost my job and have no stable income.
Since I left three years ago, I have not been able to make any payments on my UAE credit card, which had a limit of 1,000 Dh ($272).
However, the total amount due has now reached around Dh45,000 ($12,253), which I cannot afford to pay.
I tried to email the bank as I plan to return to Dubai for work but am afraid I have a problem at the airport regarding credit card debt. I don’t know if the bank reported the matter to the police.
Can you advise me on what to do? LC, Philippines
Debt 1 panelist: Steve Cronin, founder of DeadSimpleSaving.com
It’s scary how a credit card with a Dh1,000 limit can generate Dh45,000 in debt in just a few years.
There are thousands of people in the same situation as you – so much so that one of my main recommendations is that you read the previous Debt Panel articles on The Nationalthe website of.
You are right to be concerned about showing up in Dubai unannounced because the bank may have filed a complaint against you. At Dh45,000 this is unlikely to be a criminal case, but a civil case can cause problems getting your work visa and starting a new job.
Emailing banks seems futile – you have to call them. Tell them that you plan to return to Dubai and what your salary will be, if you know.
Apply for a payment plan or personal loan conversion so you can start making payments before you arrive or when you start earning. Also try to find out if the bank has filed a complaint against you.
The bank may not be very cooperative. You may have to call multiple times until you find someone helpful, or you may have to insist on speaking to a manager who can make decisions.
The bank may only accept the full refund, even if it is impossible for you to do so. Contacting the bank may cause them to file a complaint against you, if they haven’t already.
Alternatively, you can show up in Dubai and nothing happens. If you have renewed your passport, your debt history may no longer be linked to you. But it’s a big risk to take.
You may want to discuss your situation with your new company’s human resources department, but you should try talking to your bank first to understand their position.
If the bank is difficult and insists on full payment before they drop their case, you may need to look for work elsewhere in the area to raise money first and pay off your debt before returning to Dubai.
Debt Speaker 2: R Sivaram, Executive Vice President and Head of Retail Banking Products at Emirates NBD
Before leaving the UAE in 2019, you should ideally have contacted your bank and explained your situation.
Although you did not indicate how much you have spent on your card, it is disturbing to note that against a limit of Dhs 1,000, you now have a balance of Dhs 45,000.
Failure to repay the amount due to the bank is a breach of the credit card agreement and a bank is expected to take action if payments are missed for so many months and there is no communication from you .
I suggest you contact the bank first and explain your current situation, as well as your intention to return to the UAE.
I’m not sure about your current financial situation, but since you are planning to return to the UAE and if you have found a job, check if you can set up a payment plan with your bank.
You need to demonstrate that you are ready to repay your debt and start making regular payments to make the bank more responsive.
Since there was no communication with the bank and no payment either, there could be an outstanding police case and it could have been registered with immigration.
This means that you may not be able to enter the UAE. But again, the bank will know if there’s a police case.
A bank might be willing to start a discussion and it might be possible to have some of the interest and fees waived.
To do this, however, a bank will likely ask for a lump sum payment before agreeing to lower the interest and set up a repayment plan that you can afford to make consistently.
In any case, I recommend that you contact your bank to ask what is possible. Make sure anything you agree to is confirmed in writing.
Once you have reached an agreement, the police file can be lifted, assuming there is one, and any immigration bans with it. But make sure you have bank confirmation before you travel.
Alternatively, you can dip into your savings and investments or ask family members to help you with an interest-free loan to settle your credit card debt.
Debt 3 Panelist: Carol Glynn, Founder of Conscious Finance Coaching
Increasing your outstanding balance is unfortunately a common situation with credit cards.
Often people don’t understand the financial impact of non-payment of credit card debt. This also happens with unused cards as most have annual fees which generate fees and then interest and penalties on the unpaid annual fee.
As you can see, the cumulative effect of outstanding balances plus annual fees, interest, fines and late payment penalties results in a very rapid increase in the amount owed.
Continue to communicate with the bank. Keep track of all your email correspondence to date and in the future.
It is important to also call the bank and request information regarding your debt. When you come to the UAE, go in person to the branch, as this is usually the most efficient solution.
Discuss repayment options with your bank. Make sure you read and understand all the terms and conditions of any repayment option suggested by the bank. If you are unclear, ask an independent person you trust to help you understand the offer.
It is unlikely that the bank has taken legal action against you for a balance of this size but during your discussions, ask them to confirm if they have taken this action. You can also call the police and ask if there are any open cases against you.
Dubai Police website also offers a free service to check if you have a travel ban against your name.
If you can’t afford to repay the debt, one option would be to take out a personal loan and use the funds to pay off the credit card in full.
A loan will carry a much lower interest rate than your credit card. I recommend that you cancel the credit card immediately and make sure you get an authorization letter from the bank confirming that it is closed and your debt is cleared. Keep this letter in a safe place in case you need it in future years.
If you’re concerned about monthly loan payments, you can extend the term of the loan to lower the payments to an amount you can afford.
It’s also wise to manage your expenses and budget to make sure you can allocate enough to pay your monthly payments each month.
It is best to pay off the credit card balance as soon as possible. If a personal loan isn’t an option, could you borrow from a family member or friend and then pay them back in installments from your salary?
The Debt Panel is a weekly column to help readers manage their debts more effectively. If you have a question for the panel, write to [email protected]
Updated: March 09, 2022, 05:00