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

Written by Kim PinnelliUpdated: 18th Feb 2021
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Times are tough for millions of people. If you can’t pay your bills, you may let your credit card payments go.


The results are devastating. Discover below what happens if you don’t pay your credit card and what you should do instead.

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

Not paying your credit card has immediate and long-term effects. If you can’t pay your bill, contact the credit card company immediately.

They often have programs to help, even if it means deferring the payments for now and letting interest accrue. It’s better than damaging your credit score.

But, if you don’t pay, here’s what may happen.

Missing One Payment:

Missing one payment isn’t the end of the world, but there are consequences.

First, credit card companies charge a late fee, sometimes as high as $27. You’ll likely lose your ‘good’ APR too. Credit card issuers can legally raise your rate to 29.99%.

They may not be that drastic, but they’ll likely raise your rate, especially if you have an introductory rate.

Two-Three Payments:

Once you’re over 30 days late, credit card companies report it to the credit bureaus. This can be devastating to your credit score since your credit history makes up 35% of your credit score.

If you miss 2 or 3 payments, it not only damages your credit score, but it increases your late payment fee and interest accrual. It’s hard to dig your way out once you miss 2 or 3 payments.

As soon as you hit 60 days past due, your credit card company will likely shut your credit card off and may increase your credit card APR again.

Three or More Missed Credit Card Payments:

Once you miss 3 or more credit card payments, credit card companies turn your account over to their collection department.

If the collection department isn’t successful in recouping the funds, they’ll charge your account off, which means they sell it to collections.

Related: What Affects Your Credit Score?

Long-Term Consequences of Missing Credit Card Payments

If a credit card company charges your account off, the collection agency takes control and reports it to the credit bureaus.

Now you not only have a 90+ day late payment, but you have a collection that will sit on your credit report for 7 years even if you pay it (unless you negotiate a pay for delete or use a credit repair agency).

Collection companies can be ruthless in their efforts until you make good on the debt. They won’t work with you like your credit card company would if you were honest with them from the start.

#2. Severe Credit Card Damage

Late payments, especially 90+ day late payments, are devastating to your credit score. Not only is it hard to bounce back from, but the late payment history remains on your credit report for future lenders to see.

Even if you get current, you’ll have to explain the situation and why you feel so far behind when you apply for new credit.

#3. Unfavorable Loan Terms

When you apply for new credit, lenders will use your late payment history as a factor when choosing your loan terms.

Some lenders may turn down your application. If any lenders approve your application, it will likely be at much higher rates and less favorable terms than you could get if you had a solid payment history.

#4. Hurt Employment Opportunities

It sounds crazy, but late payments can hurt your chances of securing certain jobs. Some employers pull your credit to see how financially responsible you are.

If you have a history of late payments, they may worry that you don’t operate responsibly and may choose another applicant.

#5. Declaring Bankruptcy

If you can’t get current on the debts and the credit card company or collection agency files a judgment against you, bankruptcy may be your only choice.

A Chapter 7 Bankruptcy liquidates your assets, pays your creditors from the proceeds, and writes off the remaining debts.

A Chapter 13 BK restructures your debts, so you can pay them off in a few years under the trustee’s guidance.

How Long Can You Go Without Paying a Credit Card?

90 days is the max that credit card companies will deal with the delinquency. They’ll charge the account off and give it to a collection agency to handle. This starts a downward spiral to financial destruction.

What Happens to Your Credit Card Debt if You Move Out of the Country?

Leaving the country doesn’t wipe the slate clean. You’ll still owe the credit card debt and companies can still sue you.

The issues might follow you to the new country. It depends where you go, but no matter what, they’ll be here for you if you return.

Bottom Line: What Happens If You Don’t Pay Your Credit Card?

Don’t find out the hard way what happens if you don’t pay your credit card. Get help. Talk to your credit card company, go to a credit counselor, or ask friends and family for help.

Letting your credit cards go is the number one way to destroy your credit, make new loans hard to get, and maybe even make it hard to get a new job. Don’t take the chance.

More Credit Resources:

Kim Pinnelli
Kim Pinnelli

Kim Pinnelli is a Senior Writer, Editor, & Product Analyst with a Bachelor’s Degree in Finance from the University of Illinois at Chicago. She has been a professional financial writer for over 15 years, and has appeared in a myriad of industry leading financial media outlets. Leveraging her personal experience, Kim is committed to helping people take charge of their personal finances and make simple financial decisions.