No, you cannot be thrown in jail for not paying your credit card debt. There are no “debtor’s prisons” in the United States and it is not a violation of any state or federal criminal statute to not pay back your creditors. A payment dispute between you and a credit card company has nothing to do with your obligations to any governmental unit – therefore you cannot be charged with any crime if you fail to pay.
Credit card debt is classified as unsecured debt. This means that you are not pledging any property to guarantee (secure) your agreement to repay the credit card companies. Your agreement with the credit card company includes your promise to pay, but the only remedy available to the credit card lender involves filing a collection lawsuit against you.
If you don’t pay credit card debt, the issuing bank, a debt collector hired by the bank, or a debt buyer who purchases delinquent accounts from the issuing bank can write you or call you to demand payment. Aggressive collection by the bank or a debt collector is called dunning and collection agents are allowed to dun you for payment – to a point.
If you are unable or unwilling to pay your credit card debt, the issuing bank, or the debt buyer can hire a lawyer and file a collection lawsuit against you. This lawsuit has to be served on you by either a sheriff’s deputy or by a process server, and, per Georgia law, you have 30 days to file a written answer with the clerk of court.
If you lose this lawsuit – either because you failed to answer (default) or if the judge rules against you, the worst thing that can happen to you is the issuance of a judgment. If the creditor obtains a judgment, it can seize your bank account, garnish your wages or file a lien against your property. All of these are bad but the judgment creditor cannot have you put in jail.
If you are struggling with credit card debt, Ginsberg Law may be able to help. Please call us today at 770-393-4985 for straightforward, no-pressure advice about bankruptcy and non-bankruptcy options.