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Credit Cards

3 steps to take if you can't pay your credit card bills

If you're struggling to make your credit card payments, call the card issuer and seek help.


Americans currently hold a record amount of credit card debt — over $1 trillion. Adding to the difficulty are rising interest rates, with the average credit card APR over 20%.

All of this has made ends tough to meet. If you can't pay your credit card balance, there are options available before needing to resort to debt consolidation or debt relief. Here are three steps to take if you're struggling to pay your credit card each month.

What to do when you can't pay your credit card

Call the card issuer

As soon as you believe you won't be able to make a credit card payment, reach out to your credit card issuer. Late payments for credit cards typically won't show up on your credit report for at least 30 days. So you may have time to put together a plan.

Explain your situation to your bank or credit union and see what options are available. Ask if the issuer has hardship programs and explain the specifics of your situation if you have unexpected medical bills, funeral expenses, a job loss or reduced income. You may be able to defer or delay the payment, especially if this is the first time you've been unable to pay. There may be options to temporarily reduce your interest rate.

If you can work out a solution with your card issuer, you'll want to get it in writing. Be sure you understand the fine print so you know what you're getting and what you need to do to hold up your end of the deal.

Seek financial help

Programs exist to help pay certain expenses, such as food and utilities, which could free up the cash you need to pay your credit card bill. To find and apply for assistance that's available in your area reach out to your local and state governments and ask who you can talk to about receiving help to pay your bills. United Way operates the "211" hotline, which you can call and get connected to local organizations that provide help with housing, food, healthcare, employment and more.

To understand all of your options for addressing your debt, you could work with a credit counselor. You can find a reputable credit or debt counselor through organizations such as the National Foundation for Credit Counseling (NFCC) and the Financial Counseling Association of America (FCAA). Generally, these services offer no- or low-fee advice initially and fees apply depending on what, if any, services you use.

Make a plan

Assessing your income and expenses and setting up a budget may not help you as much as you'd like in the short term, but these steps are vital to maintaining your long-term financial health.

There are plenty of budgeting apps and free budgeting tools that can help you but whatever tools or systems you use, you want to understand how much you have coming in and you want to be able to see where it's all going. Once you understand where you're spending money, you can start making choices based on what your priorities are. There may be subscriptions you no longer need or expenses that have low- or no-cost alternatives.

Having a system in place to track your spending throughout the month is helpful. This way you can stay on top of your bills throughout the month, instead of waiting until the end and hoping it works out.

Can 0% introductory APR credit card offers help?

No-interest credit cards can be a great way to give your debt repayment plan a boost, especially when average credit card interest rates are high. Today's high interest rates make offers such as the 0% intro APR offer available with the Wells Fargo Reflect® Card very appealing. New card members receive a 0% intro APR for 21 months from account opening on purchases and qualifying balance transfers (18.24%, 24.74%, or 29.99% variable APR afterward). Balance transfers made within 120 days from account opening qualify for the intro rate, BT fee of 5%, min $5.

Wells Fargo Reflect® Card

On Wells Fargo secure site
  • Rewards


  • Welcome bonus


  • Annual fee


  • Intro APR

    0% intro APR for 21 months from account opening on purchases and qualifying balance transfers.

  • Regular APR

    18.24%, 24.74%, or 29.99% Variable APR on purchases and balance transfers

  • Balance transfer fee

    Balance transfers fee of 5%, min $5.

  • Foreign transaction fee


  • Credit needed


See rates and fees. Terms apply.

The biggest hurdle with 0%-APR credit card offers is you'll typically need good to excellent credit to qualify. So if you've already missed a credit card payment, you may not be eligible for these cards. Also, even if you are eligible for a 0%-APR card offer, you should still have a plan in place to repay your debt. Once the no-interest period expires, the standard APR applies to your card balances.

Find the best credit card for you by reviewing offers in our credit card marketplace or get personalized offers via CardMatch™.

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Bottom line

Rising interest rates have made debt harder to pay off. If you're struggling to pay your credit card each month the first step is to call your card issuer. Afterward, see if you qualify for assistance in paying other bills and seek out advice on the best steps for you to take to begin improving your situation.

If you miss a credit card payment, it's important to monitor your credit report for any changes. You can use a free service, such as CreditWise® from Capital One or Experian free credit monitoring. Paid services, like IdentityForce® UltraSecure and UltraSecure+Credit come with extra features like social media monitoring and score tracking so you can compare your credit score over time.

Catch up on CNBC Select's in-depth coverage of credit cardsbanking and money, and follow us on TikTokFacebookInstagram and Twitter to stay up to date.

To learn more about IdentityForce®, visit their website.

Editorial Note: Opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the Select editorial staff’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any third party.
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