Credit Card Debt & Loans

Can You Go To Jail For Credit Card Debt?

Can You Go To Jail For Credit Card Debt?
Reviewed by Nima Vahdat
Updated March 13, 2024

The fear of debt and its consequences can be quite overwhelming, especially when it comes to credit card debt.

Many people have concerns about what can happen if they are unable to pay their credit card debt. In fact, one of the biggest fears is the possibility of going to jail for not being able to make payments. 

It’s important to understand that while there can be serious consequences for not paying credit card debt, going to jail is not one of them.


  • Credit card debt can be overwhelming and scary for many people, especially if their debt has become unmanageable.
  • One of the biggest fears is going to jail for not being able to pay it off.
  • While there can be serious consequences, jail time is not one of them, as credit card debt is considered a civil matter, not a criminal one. 

What Happens If You Don’t Pay Your Credit Card Debt?

If you are unable to make payments on your credit card debt, there are several consequences that you may face. 

For one, late fees and increased interest rates can add up quickly, making it even harder to pay off your debt. Your credit score will also suffer as missed payments and high balances are reported to the credit bureaus.

In addition, your creditor may take legal action against you in order to collect the debt. They may file a lawsuit and obtain a judgment, which allows them to legally go after your assets or garnish your wages. 

Debt collection efforts from the lender or a third-party agency may begin to burden you leading to debt stress.

Essentially, lenders and their debt collectors will do whatever they can to collect the money that is owed to them. 

Of course, this is bound within legal limits and there are laws in place to protect consumers from harassment or abusive collection tactics. 

As long as you’ve borrowed money responsibly from a licensed lender and make an effort to perform your payment obligations, you should not have to worry about illegal repercussions.

Debt Is Civil, Not Criminal

The first thing to understand is that credit card debt is considered a civil matter, not a criminal one. 

This means that if you are unable to make payments on your credit card, you will not be arrested or go to jail for it. Civil matters are handled in civil court and do not involve the criminal justice system.

The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) bars collectors from using jail threats for credit card debt. 

However, if you miss court-ordered payments or ignore a subpoena from the court, you may face criminal charges for contempt of court. This is why it’s important to handle any legal proceedings related to your debt and attend all court hearings.

So, while the initial stress of owing money may make you feel like you could end up in jail, it’s important to understand that this is not a possibility for credit card debt. 

Now, with that said, if you are unable to respond to legal proceedings or make court-ordered payments, the consequences could become more serious. It’s important to take any legal action related to your debt seriously and seek help if needed.

The Role Of Debt Collection Agencies

When you fall behind on credit card payments, your account may be sent to a debt collection agency

These agencies are hired by the credit card company to collect the debt from you. Collection agencies are required to follow the laws set forth by the FDCPA and cannot use abusive or deceptive practices when trying to collect a debt.

It’s important to know your rights when dealing with collection agencies. They are not allowed to call you at unreasonable times, such as before 8:00 am or after 9:00 pm. They also cannot use threats or harass you in any way. 

If a collection agency is violating your rights, you have the right to dispute the debt and report them to the Federal Trade Commission.

They can legally request your employer to garnish your wages, but only with a court order. They cannot threaten to do so without legal documentation. Once they have that permission, your employer cannot refuse to garnish your wages

However, there are limits on how much they can take from your paycheck.

What Can You Do If You Can’t Pay Your Credit Card Debt?

If you find yourself in a situation where you are unable to make payments on your credit card debt, there are steps you can take to address the issue and avoid any legal action.

First, you can try to negotiate with the credit card company for a lower monthly payment or interest rate. Many times, they are willing to work with you if you reach out and explain your situation.

You can also look into debt consolidation or credit counseling services. 

By consolidating your debt into one monthly payment with a lower interest rate, you can make it more manageable to pay off. Credit counseling services can also provide guidance and support in creating a budget and managing your debt.

If all else fails and you are facing legal action, it is important to seek the advice of a lawyer who specializes in consumer debt. They can guide you through the process and help protect your rights against any unfair practices by collection agencies or creditors.

It’s important to be proactive in addressing credit card debt and not ignore it. By taking action, you can avoid damaging consequences such as wage garnishment, property liens, and damage to your credit score.

Remember, there are resources available to help you manage your debt and get back on track financially. Don’t be afraid to reach out for assistance if needed to take control of your credit card debt. Your financial well-being is worth it!

You can’t go to jail for credit card debt, but that knowledge shouldn’t stop you from fixing your debt situation.

At Americor, we understand the importance of managing your finances wisely. 

As America’s trusted source for debt relief solutions, we aim to empower you with financial knowledge that can lead to informed decisions, whether it’s about savings, investments, or managing debt.

If your debt has become unmanageable and you have difficulty making your debt payments each month, then you should consider a free consultation call with one of our certified Debt Consultants, who can provide personalized advice tailored to your specific needs.

By taking proactive steps today, you can put an end to your financial stress and work towards a brighter financial future. 

Remember, there is always hope for debt relief, and our team of experienced professionals are ready to guide you on your journey to regaining control of your finances.

For more information on Americor’s debt relief services, contact us today to see how we can help you eliminate your debts, and get on the fast-track to becoming completely debt-free!