Statutes of Limitations on Debt Collection by State

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Image shows four icons: a handshake, a contract, a credit card, and a home that says "MORTGAGE" on the side. Text reads: "Categories of debt each state has its own statute of limitations on debt, and the limitations vary depending on the type of debt you have. Oral agreements, written contracts—must include terms and conditions, open-ender accounts, promissory note—pay bak by a certain time and date"

The Balance / Theresa Chiechi

A statute of limitations on debt is the amount of time a creditor or debt collector has to sue you to try to get you to pay. Rules vary by state, with many having statutes of limitations ranging from three to six years, but some states allowing 10 years to pass before creditors lose their right to legal action.

The court system doesn't keep track of the statute on your debt. Instead, it's your responsibility to prove the debt has passed its statute of limitations.

Key Takeaways

  • A statute of limitations on debt is the amount of time a creditor or debt collector has to sue you to try to get you to pay.
  • Different types of debts may have different statutes of limitations; e.g., an overdue credit card bill may have a different time limit than a delinquent promissory note payment.
  • Each state has its own laws about statutes of limitations.
  • Once a judgment is entered, it may have its own, longer statute of limitations, and it may be able to be extended.

Time-Barred Debts

The statute of limitations usually starts when you miss a payment. Debts that have passed the statute of limitations are known as time-barred debts. However, just because the debts have aged past the statute of limitations doesn't mean that you no longer owe money or that your credit rating cannot be impacted. It just means the creditor won't get a judgment against you.

If one does try to sue you, you'll need to let the court know that the statute of limitations has run out, and provide some proof. Proof might include a personal check or bank statement showing the last time you made a payment, or your own records of communication that you've made about that debt.

Categories of Debt

Debts fall into different categories. It's important to know which type of debt you have because the time limits are often different for each type. Below are four main types, but some states have even more categories, such as auto loans, which may have separate statutes of limitations.

  • Oral agreements: These are debts that were made based on a verbal agreement about repayment, and there is nothing in writing.
  • Written contracts: All debts that come with a contract that was signed by you and the creditor fall in the category of a written contract—even if it was written on a napkin. Often a written contract includes the terms and conditions of the loan, such as the loan amount and monthly payment.

    But not always. For instance, medical bills may be considered a written contract, even if no repayment terms are included and the bill itself doesn't contain any signatures.
  • Promissory notes: A promissory note is a written agreement to pay back a debt in a certain number of payments, at a certain interest rate, and by a certain date and time. Home loans and student loans are two examples of promissory notes.
  • Open-ended credit: A revolving account you can repay and then borrow against again is open-ended. Credit cards, in-store credit, and lines of credit are all examples of open-ended accounts.


If you're in doubt about what type of debt you have or whether it's time-barred, you may want to check with a nonprofit credit counseling agency. A credit counselor can help you figure out the best way to handle your debt. You may also want to check with a lawyer.

Statutes of Limitations for Each State

Each state has its own statute of limitations on debt, and they vary depending on the type of debt you have. Usually, it is between three and six years, but it can be as high as 10 or 15 years in some states. Before you respond to a debt collection, find out the debt statute of limitations for your state.

If the statute of limitations has passed, there may be less incentive for you to pay the debt. If the credit reporting time limit also has passed, you may be even less inclined to pay the debt. The credit reporting time limit is how long a debt shows up on your credit report. It is independent of the legal statute of limitations.

Below are the statutes of limitation, measured by years, in each state, as of 2022. Note that in some states, credit card agreements are considered written contracts; but in others, courts have said they're oral contracts because card issuers can change the agreement without consent from the borrower.

State Oral Written Promissory Open
Alabama 6 6 6 3
Alaska 3 3 3 3
Arizona 3 6 6 6
Arkansas 3 5 5 5
California 2 4 4 4
Colorado 6 6 6 6
Connecticut 3 6 6 6
Delaware 3 3 3 3
Florida 4 5 5 5
Georgia 4 6 6 6*
Hawaii 6 6 6 6
Idaho 4 5 5 4
Illinois 5 10 10 5**
Indiana 6 6 10 6
Iowa 5 10 10 5
Kansas 3 5 5 3
Kentucky 5 10*** 15 10***
Louisiana 10 10 10 3
Maine 6 6 20 6
Maryland 3 3 6 3
Massachusetts 6 6 6 6
Michigan 6 6 6 6
Minnesota 6 6 6 6
Mississippi 3 3 3 3
Missouri 5 10 10 5
Montana 5 8 8 5
Nebraska 4 5 5 4
Nevada 4 6 3 4
New Hampshire 3 3 6 3
New Jersey 6 6 6 6
New Mexico 4 6 6 4
New York 6 6 6 6
North Carolina 3 3 3 3
North Dakota 6 6 6 6
Ohio 6 6 6 6
Oklahoma 3 5 6 3
Oregon 6 6 6 6
Pennsylvania 4 4 4 4
Rhode Island 10 10 10 10
South Carolina 3 3 3 3
South Dakota 6 6 6 6
Tennessee 6 6 6 6
Texas 4 4 4 4
Utah 4 6 6 4
Vermont 6 6 6**** 6
Virginia 3 5 6 3
Washington 3 6 6 6
West Virginia 5 10 6 5
Wisconsin 6 6 10 6
Wyoming 8 10 10 8

*Georgia appeals court cases have found that credit card debt is subject to a six-year period for contracts.

**In Illinois, credit card agreements are considered written contracts with a 10-year statute of limitations. However, the state appeals court ruled in 2011 that the debt collector must provide the defendant's individual credit card agreement, not a generic agreement. If they can't, the five-year statute of limitations for unwritten contracts applies.

***In Kentucky, creditors have 10 years to pay debt recorded in a written contract signed after July 15, 2014, including a credit card application, car loan, or medical treatment paperwork that you signed.

****In Vermont, the statute of limitations for a witnessed promissory note is 14 years, but if the signature is not witnessed, it's six years.


The information here refers to the time someone has to file a lawsuit. Once a judgment is entered, there is often a separate statute of limitations for collecting on the debt. It varies by state, but it's usually longer—at least 10 years—and sometimes it can be renewed, meaning it can last even longer. 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

When does the statute of limitations on debt begin?

The clock usually starts on the last day you had any activity on the account. Activity may include making a payment, establishing a payment arrangement, or simply acknowledging liability for the debt.

What can restart the debt statute of limitations?

Any new activity on your account can restart the statute of limitations for your debt. If you make a new charge on the account, set up a payment, enter an agreement, or conduct any other activity, the clock could start over.

Why are there statutes of limitations?

Statutes of limitations are meant to put a time limit on creditors or debt collectors that may seek to take legal action to collect a debt. If a debt passes the time limit, the creditor can no longer file a lawsuit against the debtor. This protects debtors from forever being exposed to liability for old debts.

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