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What Should I Do if I Can't Pay My Credit Card Bill this Month?

Updated on January 14, 2013

It is an unfortunate fact that incidences of credit card repayment problems have increased dramatically in number in recent years. Millions of people are finding it more and more difficult to make all sorts of different bill payments each month, credit cards being but one of them. Often, these problems are due to circumstances beyond the individual's control. Few who have credit card debt are safe from finding themselves in this position at some point, so it is important to know the required course of action should the dreaded situation arise.

Scenario One: Short to Medium Term Cashflow Problems

Receiving a credit card bill and not having the necessary funds to make the minimum repayment can be a horrific experience
Receiving a credit card bill and not having the necessary funds to make the minimum repayment can be a horrific experience

Step #1 - Keep Calm and Don't Panic

Different people react in different ways to financial problems. There are some who will simply shrug the matter off, others who will break down in tears and probably a majority who will fall somewhere in between. Whatever the initial emotion you experience when it becomes clear that you are not going to be able to pay your credit card bill in any given month, it is imperative that you take any necessary time to compose yourself. You will have some hard thinking to do and calculations to make before you take the first proactive step towards resolving the issue and this can only reasonably be achieved with a clear and rational mind.

Step #2 - Don't Ignore the Problem and Hope it Will Go Away

You may encounter a temptation if you find yourself in this situation to, "Bury your head in the sand," and either hope the problem will go away, or alternatively, tell yourself that you will make it all right before anyone notices or any real harm is done. You may tell yourself - and genuinely mean it - that you will pay double the next month and everything will go on as before. This is in most instances a huge mistake...

A problem of any type which goes unaddressed is only likely to grow. The bigger a problem gets, the harder it becomes to tackle. Determine to attack the problem head on, right from the start, and maintain that mindset until the issue is fully resolved.

Contacting your credit card provider as soon as you realise you are experiencing credit card repayment difficulties is an essential step
Contacting your credit card provider as soon as you realise you are experiencing credit card repayment difficulties is an essential step

Step #3 - Collate the Pertinent Facts and Statistics and Contact your Credit Card Provider

When you have determined to tackle the problem in an appropriate fashion, it is time to gather together all the information you will require for the next stage in the procedure. It is imperative that you get in touch with your credit card provider and advise them that there is a problem. You should bear in mind above all at this time that it is very much in your credit card provider's interest to help you resolve the matter. They will not be over-bearing and demanding, insensitive to your difficulties and insistent that you pay them to the exclusion of all else, including food for your table. They will listen to you. They will offer advice. They will work with you to the best of their abilities to find a way forward and to establish a solution to the problem. Contacting your credit card provider at this stage may also lead to the good will suspension of late/missed payment fees.

When you contact your credit card provider, they will require certain pieces of information from you and it will expedite the procedure if you already have that to hand:

What your credit card company will want to know
Information (where applicable) you should be ready to provide
What specifically has caused the problem?
Details of any additional and unavoidable expenses this month. Details of any reduction in regular income.
How much can you pay this month?
Any sort of nominal payment is seen as a very positive step. Have a figure in mind.
Is the problem likely to be short or long term?
As close an estimate as possible as to when you can start making regular payments again and work on clearing your arrears.

There are some very important points to bear in mind both when preparing this information and for determining your tactics for dealing with your credit card provider:

  1. Be absolutely honest with regard to your financial circumstances. Do not make false claims or promises which you are unlikely to be able to keep.
  2. Ensure that any expenses which have contributed to your situation are wholly justified and unavoidable. While the annual golf club outing or the wife's birthday are expenses which it is nice to be able meet, offering them as an excuse for being unable to pay your credit card bill is extremely unlikely to elicit a sympathetic response...
  3. Be nice! Be positive! Be ready to offer solutions before they are suggested to you and be seen to be looking for ways to address the problem in a proactive fashion. Adopting a defensive or petulant attitude will do you no favours in either the short or long term.

You should now be ready to make that call. The number for the, "Customer Services," department of your credit card provider can be found from such places as the reverse of your credit card, the top of your most recent statement, your credit card provider's website, or even the telephone directory.

Step #4 - Agree a Course of Action with your Credit Card Provider

Ideally, your credit card repayment problems will be extremely short term and you will be able to agree with your credit card provider both to clear your arrears and make your scheduled repayment amount the following month. Even in this situation, it will still have been worth making contact as your credit card provider will appreciate your honesty and positive approach. This may well stand you in good stead should future issues arise.

Where the issue is not so clear cut, your credit card provider will try to make some form of short term arrangement with you to clear the arrears. This will vary dependant upon your card provider and circumstances but it is likely that some form of mutual understanding can be reached where the problem can clearly be seen to be short term and, if nothing else, your immediate concerns can be put to rest.

Remember above all, however, that should your circumstances change again, for better or for worse, re-establish contact without delay

Scenario Two: Longer Term Cashflow Problems or Loss of Employment

Where credit card repayment difficulties are immediately recognised as being more serious - or they subsequently become so - a number of other tactics will clearly be required. Steps 1, 2 and even 3 above still apply but the action going forward is likely to be more formal.

Longer Term Credit Card Repayment Difficulties - Debt Consolidation

There are two options which may be considered where it becomes clear that your financial difficulties are likely to continue for the longer term.

Is it possible to consider consolidating your debts(s) with an unsecured personal loan? Loans of this type are likely to know an interest rate considerably lower than that of most credit cards. They can help you spread the cost of servicing your debt over a longer term for a reduced monthly repayment amount.

A formal financial analysis document should be completed honestly and in full to the best of your ability
A formal financial analysis document should be completed honestly and in full to the best of your ability

Longer Term Credit Card Repayment Difficulties - Formal Payment Arrangement

This is where you explore the possibility of arranging a formal repayment schedule with your credit card provider over a fixed/reviewable period of time. If this option is to be considered, it is likely that your credit card provider will wish you to complete a financial analysis document. This will take account of all of your income and expenditure and it is vital that it be completed honestly and in full that a realistic agreement may be reached.

Credit Card Repayment Difficulties - Loss of Employment

Where your credit card repayment difficulties are due to loss of employment through circumstances beyond your control, or perhaps ill-health, it may be that you have an insurance policy to cover such a scenario. Where this is the case, it is important that you contact both your insurance company and credit card provider without delay.

Where no such policy exists - or exclusions render it invalid - the actions above and below will/may have to be considered.

Red letters or worse coming through your door signifies the time for even more drastic action
Red letters or worse coming through your door signifies the time for even more drastic action

Help!! I Have Too Much Debt and I Can't Cope - What Can I Do?

Regrettably, even where the options suggested above have been explored in full, there are still going to be instances where debt arrears continue to mount up and agreement with your creditors is not possible. Even at this stage, it remains imperative that you be proactive and continue to explore your options in full. It is not too late to receive help!

If you are starting to receive the dreaded, "Red letters," from your creditors and they are becoming increasingly demanding of payment, it is time to seek formal, independent advice and assistance. Specifically what is available to you will depend upon the country in which you live. A simple Google search should reveal what reputable organisations are available to assist in this respect in your immediate locale and hopefully constructive advice and practical assistance will be found close at hand.

Getting Out of Credit Card Debt: One Man's True Story

The excellent video featured below summarises many of the points included on this page. It lasts less than five minutes and tells the true story of how one man took control of his mountainous credit card debts and cleared them in an auspicious fashion.

Click the arrow in the centre of the screen to watch the video - it may be the best five minutes you have ever spent...


Thank you for your visit to this site. I hope that you have found some valuable advice included on this page and that it proves beneficial to your circumstances. Any comments or feedback which you have may be left in the space below.


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