Credit cards can come with shiny benefits like a rewards program, no yearly fee, and exclusive discounts all while claiming to be good for your credit score. However, they are designed this way to make you spend more money, and get you into debt so they can make money on the interest you pay them. The Army Air Force Exchange Service (AAFES) Military Star Card is no different.
The monthly payments on the Military Star Card can easily take over the bulk of a military member’s income if they are not careful.
The Exchange Credit Program can be a benefit to United States service members because it offers 2% cash back on purchases, saves you 5 cents a gallon on gas, and offers 10% off at some on base restaurants. However, if used irresponsibly, it can cause a lot of financial hardship.
Over my time in the Air Force, I have seen multiple military members rack up AAFES debt with the Military Star Card, and never even bother to make a payment. It gets to the point where the minimum payment due every month becomes too much for a military member to afford.
Remember, failing to pay financial obligations is punishable under the Uniform Code of Military Justice.
So how do you get relief from racked up credit card debt? Continue reading to find out.
Paying Off Credit Card Debt
The best way to get relief from AAFES Military Star Card debt is to pay it off. That means you have to focus on throwing every dime that you have at your debt to get it out of your life.
If you are struggling with credit card debt, and you want to pay it off with honor, follow these steps from the debt snowball method.
1. List your debts from smallest to largest including all unsecured debts, direct loans, and federal student loans. The interest rates do not matter.
2. Make minimum payments on all of your debts except for the smallest.
3. Pay as much on the smallest debt that you can.
4. As you pay a debt off, repeat these steps until you are debt free.
You build tremendous momentum with this debt repayment method, and you will have more money to throw at your bigger debts all at once as you pay off the smaller ones.
While you are in the process of paying off your debt, you need to be as frugal as possible. Avoid eating out, cancel all unnecessary subscriptions, and consider starting a side hustle. Check out my article, How to Grow Your Savings Account While in the Military for financial tips on saving money while in the military.
Credit Card Debt Collections
Traditionally, credit card companies with unpaid debts will sell their debts to collection agencies. When this happens, the debt collectors will be hassling you for you to repay your debt. Depending on the amount in the collection account, they will get ahold of you through phone calls, texts, social media messages, or even talking to your family members.
It can get ugly, but as you will see in the garnishment section of this article, AAFES Military Star Card can skip the collections process, and automatically involuntarily take your pay by notifying your commander.
If you have credit card debt that debt collectors are harassing you for, you need to know that you have rights under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act
This is a code of federal law that explains what debt collectors can and can’t do. Learn the law, and report them if they break it.
However, just because they have broken the law, it doesn’t mean your debt is forgiven. You still need to pay it. If they cross the line, and you have proof, bring your proof to a lawyer to see if it is possible to sue the debt collections company.
Traditional debt has a Statute of Limitations. This is legalese for when a debt can no longer be sued for. Credit card companies offer open ended accounts which have mostly very long statute of limitations. Read the fine print of your terms and conditions, and seek legal advice if you think the company is being dishonest.
Military Star Card Debt Settlement
If you are swimming in Military Star Card debt, and you cannot afford your monthly payments, you need to try settling your debt.
Settling your debt is when you negotiate paying a percentage of your total balance to get the debt settled and clear.
DO NOT use a third party debt settlement company or take out a debt consolidation loan. Debt settlement companies will take advantage of your weak financial situation, and get you deeper into debt.
It is a good idea to handle any debt settlements yourself. Follow these steps on how to deal with settling your debt with a credit card company.
- Call the credit card company, and let them know that you cannot afford your monthly payments.
- Negotiate and offer to pay a percentage of your debt lump sum.
- Stand your ground throughout the negotiation process, and accept a deal that you can afford.
- Get the offer in writing through an email or a letter.
- Pay the settlement. DO NOT give the company electronic access to your bank account or pay with a personal check. Use a cashier’s check to protect the assets in your bank account.
You may need to take out a loan from a credit union or a bank to get this done. That is okay because loans from financial institutions offer a lower interest rate, and it will be a smaller amount that you will be paying on. If you do this, pay off this debt ASAP.
There are success stories of getting Military Star Card debt settled. In the linked forum, the guy got his $7800 balance settled on a $2000 lump sum payment.
Military Star Card Garnishment
Garnishment happens when you fail to make your payments, and the company that you owe takes the wages that you work hard. Most credit card companies are required to sue you in court before garnishing your wages.
AAFES collections is different. AAFES can skip this step and garnish your wages by taking an allotment from your pay without taking you to court by notifying your commander.
Additionally, while you are suffering from a garnishment, credit card companies can take income tax refunds, and any taxable income that you make.
If you are under a garnishment, you need to try to settle your debt ASAP.
If your ability to pay for food, shelter, necessary bills, or transportation is threatened, you may need to consider filing for bankruptcy.
Bankruptcy is a process where all of your financial situation and documents are reviewed in court, and a plan is court ordered to get you to repay as much debt as you can.
The most common types of bankruptcy are Chapter 7 and Chapter 13.
Chapter 7 bankruptcy is when all of your assets are sold off, and the money is used to repay as much debt as you can. Usually, your debt is forgiven through this process, and you start from a clean slate.
Chapter 13 bankruptcy is when you are given a court ordered repayment plan to pay off your debts within 3 to 5 years. You are forced to pay a specified amount, and you are forced to stick to a strict budget. The benefit of this version is that you can try to keep your assets if the court allows it.
The decision to file for bankruptcy should not be taken lightly, and it should only be done in a last ditch effort to repay your debts. It will wipe out your credit score, but it is a way to start over with a clean slate with less debt.
Student loans, federal debt, child support, and any expensive purchase on credit right before filing for bankruptcy WILL NOT be forgiven.
To file for bankruptcy, you are going to need to get a lawyer, and you will have to pay a large amount of legal fees.
The Enlisted Experience
I have seen too many military members pile up credit card debt through the use of their Military Star Card. The best way to pay off your credit card debt is to never have it to begin with. Pay off your credit card balance in full every month or even weekly. If you know that you are not responsible enough to handle that, then use your bank debit card.
Good luck. You can do this!
– The NCO you Never Had