What to Do When You Absolutely Can’t Pay Your Credit Card Minimum Balance

by Contributor

Your credit card bill is due on Tuesday, at the end of business hours – do you know where your minimum payment is due? If you think you might not even be able to make your minimum payment this month, here are some handy ways to get that money or at least mitigate the damage before your credit card payment is due:

Pick up a temp job

Temp jobs last only a few days and can get you cash fast. Your local temp agency, employment agency, seasonal work office, or employment office can generally put you in touch with someone who needs work done now and is willing to pay fast. If you can swallow your pride and work at a less-than-glam job for a few days, you can often come up with enough cash to cover your bills. And maybe you’ll have enough left over to stash in your savings, too.

Dip into savings.

If you have a savings account, this is the time to go in and take out enough money to cover the minimum payment. Just note how much you took out and as soon as you get your paycheck, replenish the funds. Try not to make early withdrawals from your retirement accounts though, because early withdrawal penalties will eat you alive.

Sell something.

Extreme? Not really. There are people who borrow against their paycheck one month, roll over the debt, and wind up thousands of dollars in debt. That’s extreme. This might be a good time to hold a yard sale to get rid of that junk you never use or a good time to put an ad in the paper to get rid of that atrocious love seat your Aunt Edna gave you. Most of us have homes and storage units filled with stuff we don’t use. Someone would love that stuff and would even pay you for the privilege of getting it out of your life.

Call your credit card company to let them know you’ll be late.

If you can’t scrape together enough change from the sofa cushions, if the temp job falls through, if your savings account has an echo due to terminal emptiness and if you haven’t a thing to your name you can sell, you need to let your credit company know the payment will be late. Calling may mean eating a tiny bit of humble pie, but it may prevent your credit card company from reporting you to credit bureaus. If you have a stellar record of payment, you can even ask for a few extra days and receive no penalties. It’s a slim chance, but well worth pursuing.

Take a reality check.

Plenty of people whine about not being able to make payments, even as they sit around sipping designer coffees or as they head out to the movies. If you have enough cash to pay for treats for yourself, you can pay that credit card bill, so get to it. You don’t want to become one of those obnoxious types who drives around in a BMW and complains about not having enough. Or maybe you do, but that’s another blog post.

Make sure it doesn’t happen again.

So maybe you sat around while the deadline for paying your credit card went by. Whatever happened this month, start working to ensure that this is the last month you have scrounge around for sofa pennies to make a payment. Start putting money aside, make a budget, rein in your spending, and make sure that you have enough money for everything important next month.

I am currently on vacation. This is a guest article by Jonathan, who writes the blog Master Your Card, a blog about getting out and staying out of debt, and mastering credit card use.

Published or updated January 27, 2010.
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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Rebecca

Another great way is through craigslist!

a) look up the recent “free items” posted and consider fixing it up and take it to the pawn shop (or sell it) for small amounts due.

b) Search for a job needed done today! I’ve seen many posts for babysitting emergencies, personal assistant needed for a day, etc.

Never forget that this isn’t to make into a habit! Just to help out in times of stress – afterwards I would suggest sitting down and considering what is truly important to you and what expenses are in line with your values.


2 MoneyEnergy

About calling credit card companies: I only just recently first tried doing this, but it is true that some will actually listen to you, hear your case. I called in to ask them to lower my interest rate and the service rep. just had to talk to her manager. I reduced rates on both my cards by 6% or more. So it’s worth it to call and try.


3 Ryan


Interesting idea about getting free items on Craiglist. I’ve never though of that. I agree, it’s probably not the best habit to get into, but it could help someone through a difficult time.


I’m glad you were able to get your rates reduced. It never hurts to ask!


4 Ralph

Great post. It’s humorous to me that Rebecca mentioned Craigslist, because we bought some living room furniture on Craigslist and then after I refinished the pieces, we decided the end tables were just too big for our living room. We ended up making some nice extra money when we sold them.

Keeping with the idea of a temp job, now is the time of year when people are dealing with lawn maintenance. You could also pick up some extra money towards that minimum payment by doing some odd jobs along those lines.


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