Home > Credit Cards > Help! I Can’t Pay My Credit Card This Month

Comments 0 Comments
Advertiser Disclosure


When you’re not sure if you can pay your credit card bill each month, it can be excruciating just to look at your statement. When this happens, your total outstanding balance will jump out at you, and even the amount of your minimum payment can cause your pulse to race.

If you are having trouble paying your credit card bills, there are some positive steps you can take to meet your obligations while protecting your credit history.

Payment Shortfalls

When people talk about having difficulty paying their credit card bills, they could be referring to one of two different problems. About half of all American credit card users always avoid interest charges by paying each month’s statement balance in full and on-time. For these cardholders who are intent on paying no interest, having trouble paying their entire statement balance can still feel like a crisis, even though they can at least avoid going into default by paying the minimum. (It’s understandable why not being able to pay in full could cause someone consternation, given how quickly credit card interest can add up and the fact that high debts can hurt your credit score.) 

The other credit card payment problem is for those who have been carrying a balance, and are now unable to pay the minimum. These cardholders are already paying interest on their existing balance, but they are now unable to pay at all. 

How to Avoid Interest 

If you have been in the habit of avoiding all interest charges by paying your credit card balances in full each month, but are in danger of not being able to do so this month, there are some ways you might be able to continue avoiding interest charges. If your statement period hasn’t ended, you will want to avoid new spending as much as possible, or at least postpone any new purchases until your next statement period.

Next, you can try to find any purchases that are still eligible for return. Thankfully, many credit cards come with a return protection benefit that can offer you a refund if the merchant is unwilling to accept a return.

You could also consider opening a new credit card account with 0% annual percentage rate (APR) promotional financing for a limited time. These offers allow you to transfer your existing balance to a new account that doesn’t incur interest until the promotional financing period expires (usually between six and 21 months). Unfortunately, some credit card users with very high debt-to-credit ratios will not be able to qualify for these promotional financing offers. In addition, most of these cards will impose a balance transfer fee of 3% to 5% on the amount transferred — and it’s best to pay your balance off in full by the time the offers expires, otherwise you may be faced with retroactive interest. 

It’s also important to keep in mind that applying for a new balance-transfer credit card can create a hard inquiry on your credit report, which can ding your score. This may be worthwhile, if the offer will help keep your debts from snowballing, but is another reason why you’ll want to try to apply only for cards your credit score can qualify for. (You can view two of your scores for free every 14 days on Credit.com.)

How to Avoid Default 

Credit card users who are unable to meet their card’s minimum spending requirements are in risk of default, which can result in late fees, a penalty APR, severe damage to their credit and and the closure of their accounts. Needless to say, you should avoid these consequences at nearly any cost. First, you will want to prioritize all of your existing debts, trying to delay payments that might not affect your credit. You will also want to return all of the purchases that you can, and try to uncover all remaining sources of funds to meet your minimum payment.

But if you are still unable to make your minimum payment, then you will have to take steps to mitigate the consequences. You can start by contacting you card issuer and explaining the problem, including any extraordinary circumstances such as illness, divorce or job loss. This isn’t an easy conversation to have, but it’s a necessary one. And if you can get your card issuer to accept a reduced payment, then it might not affect your credit. You will also want them to waive late fees and refrain from imposing the penalty interest rate, if possible.

If you’ve contacted your card issuer and worked out the best possible payment agreement, but you are still anticipating future payment problems, then it’s time to get help. You can consider contact a local non-profit credit counseling service that can help you to examine your options going forward. The Federal Trade Commission has recommendations for choosing a credit counselor on its website. 

It’s difficult to come to grips with the possibility of missing a credit card payment, but there are some possible ways out. By exploring all of the options that are available, you can find the one that allows you to get out of this situation as quickly and easily as possible.

Image: ferrantraite

Comments on articles and responses to those comments are not provided or commissioned by a bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by a bank advertiser. It is not a bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

Please note that our comments are moderated, so it may take a little time before you see them on the page. Thanks for your patience.

Credit.com receives compensation for the financial products and services advertised on this site if our users apply for and sign up for any of them.

Hello, Reader!

Thanks for checking out Credit.com. We hope you find the site and the journalism we produce useful. We wanted to take some time to tell you a bit about ourselves.

Our People

The Credit.com editorial team is staffed by a team of editors and reporters, each with many years of financial reporting experience. We’ve worked for places like the New York Times, American Banker, Frontline, TheStreet.com, Business Insider, ABC News, NBC News, CNBC and many others. We also employ a few freelancers and more than 50 contributors (these are typically subject matter experts from the worlds of finance, academia, politics, business and elsewhere).

Our Reporting

We take great pains to ensure that the articles, video and graphics you see on Credit.com are thoroughly reported and fact-checked. Each story is read by two separate editors, and we adhere to the highest editorial standards. We’re not perfect, however, and if you see something that you think is wrong, please email us at editorial team [at] credit [dot] com,

The Credit.com editorial team is committed to providing our readers and viewers with sound, well-reported and understandable information designed to inform and empower. We won’t tell you what to do. We will, however, do our best to explain the consequences of various actions, thereby arming you with the information you need to make decisions that are in your best interests. We also write about things relating to money and finance we think are interesting and want to share.

In addition to appearing on Credit.com, our articles are syndicated to dozens of other news sites. We have more than 100 partners, including MSN, ABC News, CBS News, Yahoo, Marketwatch, Scripps, Money Magazine and many others. This network operates similarly to the Associated Press or Reuters, except we focus almost exclusively on issues relating to personal finance. These are not advertorial or paid placements, rather we provide these articles to our partners in most cases for free. These relationships create more awareness of Credit.com in general and they result in more traffic to us as well.

Our Business Model

Credit.com’s journalism is largely supported by an e-commerce business model. Rather than rely on revenue from display ad impressions, Credit.com maintains a financial marketplace separate from its editorial pages. When someone navigates to those pages, and applies for a credit card, for example, Credit.com will get paid what is essentially a finder’s fee if that person ends up getting the card. That doesn’t mean, however, that our editorial decisions are informed by the products available in our marketplace. The editorial team chooses what to write about and how to write about it independently of the decisions and priorities of the business side of the company. In fact, we maintain a strict and important firewall between the editorial and business departments. Our mission as journalists is to serve the reader, not the advertiser. In that sense, we are no different from any other news organization that is supported by ad revenue.

Visitors to Credit.com are also able to register for a free Credit.com account, which gives them access to a tool called The Credit Report Card. This tool provides users with two free credit scores and a breakdown of the information in their Experian credit report, updated twice monthly. Again, this tool is entirely free, and we mention that frequently in our articles, because we think that it’s a good thing for users to have access to data like this. Separate from its educational value, there is also a business angle to the Credit Report Card. Registered users can be matched with products and services for which they are most likely to qualify. In other words, if you register and you find that your credit is less than stellar, Credit.com won’t recommend a high-end platinum credit card that requires an excellent credit score You’d likely get rejected, and that’s no good for you or Credit.com. You’d be no closer to getting a product you need, there’d be a wasted inquiry on your credit report, and Credit.com wouldn’t get paid. These are essentially what are commonly referred to as "targeted ads" in the world of the Internet. Despite all of this, however, even if you never apply for any product, the Credit Report Card will remain free, and none of this will impact how the editorial team reports on credit and credit scores.

Your Stories

Lastly, much of what we do is informed by our own experiences as well as the experiences of our readers. We want to tell your stories if you’re interested in sharing them. Please email us at story ideas [at] credit [dot] com with ideas or visit us on Facebook or Twitter.

Thanks for stopping by.

- The Credit.com Editorial Team