Can a credit card company take me to court for non-payment on the balance?

I have an outstanding balance with a credit card company in the amount of 1,600.00. I haven't paid on it since August 2005 because of a lot of hard times that have hit me these last 2 years. I wasn't expecting them to happen when I opened the credit card, but things happen. Anyways, they called me last night and told me if I didn't make a payment by the end of December I was going to get summoned to court. I even cried on the phone and she said there was nothing she could do and I would be slammed by the lawyer fees and so on. I can't take this. Is it true they really could take me to court if I didn't pay by the end of this month or is it a scam to get my money quicker?

7 years ago - 30 answers

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You should have mentioned your country place.As in different countries the laws are differently applicable.

7 years ago

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probably. i don't have a credit card yet. still depending on debit

by Cruz'N Girl - 7 years ago

They sure can. But I doubt whether they do it for $1,600.

by Conta - 7 years ago

Yes, they can take you to court. The court can order a lien on any property you might have, for example, or garnish your wages (assuming you have any).

by thepenismightier - 7 years ago

Of course they can, you signed a cardholder agreement that says you will pay anything you charge to the card, by not paying anything you are in breach of contract.

Make a payment, even during hard times you should be able to pay something, credit card companies would rather receive the money over time than go to court for a settlement they may never receive.

by tommyguard3 - 7 years ago

Relax. It is HIGHLY unlikely that a credit card company will spend their money on lawyer and court costs for $1,600. That's peanuts to them.

Credit cards are unsecured debt so they cannot take a lien against any property you own like one poster wrote. That is completely false!

Now, they can indeed take you to court and the court can garnish your wages to repay the debt. But that's not usually done to the little guy. It's for the person who charges up $25,000 (for example) on their card and then doesn't want to pay.

Debt collectors will do and say ANYTHING to intimidate you. They will lie to you and promise you things (pay $15 now and we will set you up on a hardship program with no interest and low monthly payments) that they never deliver on.

by kja63 - 7 years ago

They can and will...and probably get a garnishment Order to either your bank account or paycheck....The Judgment will include lawyer fees, late fees, court costs.....$1,600 will balloon up to 2,500 or $3,000 plus interest.....

You need to propose a repayment plan (in writing) and get a written response....don't give them access to your account or post dated checks....they'll cash them all at once or clean your account out.

by Paula M - 7 years ago

Yes they can. You have a legal obligation to repay debts whiich you contracted to pay. If you had contacted them first they may have been more lenient but now you are just a delinquent "dead beat"

by ken c - 7 years ago

They have to take you to court if they want a judgement against you. The furthest they can go without court is collections. A judgement will allow them to attach your wages, income tax return, etc.

Suggest contacting them and making payment arrangements. They would much rather get something over a long period of time than have to go to court.

by tim2honorgod - 7 years ago

They can... but they won't. Credit card companies are owed billions of dollars. They have thousands of customers that owe 20 times as much as you owe. They are trying to convince you to pay the debt that you owe them.

The longer you wait to pay, the worse it will effect your credit. You should scrape together as much as you can and see if the CC company will settle the debt for less than the full price (25% - 50% of total).

by MR MONEY - 7 years ago

sure if the want, they can take u court

by udayashanker k - 7 years ago

Anyone or any company can file a lawsuit against anyone.

I would make payment arrangements with the company even if it's for $5 a month. This would show you're trying to pay at least.

by Theflawlessbrat - 7 years ago

Yes...but it's rare...the balance is too small to deal with. They will probably sell your debt to someone else and they too will send mail and call too with the same threats.

by dual_reality - 7 years ago

yes they can take you to court, but most likely they are using it as a scare tacttic. Offer to pay them a few bucks a month untill you get back on your feet.

by Lewis A - 7 years ago

I like Paula M's answer. Yes they can take you to court, but its a process. And that process takes time. I just got hit with a garnishment so I'm going to have to file bankruptcy to stop it. But they'd been threatening me and didn't go to court until 2004. And here two years later, the garnishment just started. I should have been proactive instead of reactive, but things happen. Don't listen to the creep slamming you becuase you are behind. Bad things happen to good people. I'm in the same boat. Be encouraged....

by mochachreme - 7 years ago

Yes they can. You agreed to all the bad stuff when you accepted the card.
They can attach all you own and take it when the judge ok's their ownership of your property.
You might try bankruptcy.

by sunpekes - 7 years ago

What you should do is to call the credit card company back when you aren't crying or hysterical. Calmly explain and tell them you want to work out a payment plan to pay them back. If they see you are paying something each month you might stay out of court. If you have no money to pay them and no ability then you should get a hold of a bankrupcy attorney and think about declaring bankrupcy. That will put off the creditors but you will not be able to get credit any longer.

If you ignore all of it, then can and will take you to court. Not paying anything in over a year is pretty serious.

by thunder2sys - 7 years ago

Call the company back and ask to talk to some one about making some kind of payment arrangement you can afford. As long as you pay something on it even if it is only ten dollars a month then they can't take you to court.

by nice3fishinggal - 7 years ago

The bottom line is don't talk to them. Tell them you are in the midst of filing bankruptcy with your lawyer and you are not acknowledging the debt.

If you own a home or a car worth over $2500 it may be worth it for you to file bankruptcy to protect your existing assets and prevent garnishment of your paycheck.

I doubt seriously that any company would go to court over such a small amount. It costs them money to file and if you have no assets they can go after it's a waste of their time and money.

If the calls are frequent change your phone number to unlisted or get a cell phone.

If they do take you to court do not appear. They will find for them in a default judgement for the money you already owe them plus court costs. But again highly unlikely it would go that far over measley $1600.

A year or so down the road you will get an offer from the lender to settle for half of the amount if you pay it off. If you have the money at that time pay it and get it off your credit record.

Otherwise after 7 years the debt has to be expunged off o your credit record whether you declared bankruptcy or not.

The worst downside to all this is that you will have to exist without credit for 7 years. Hopefully you will get used to this and never go back to paying those terrible interest rates in the future.

by aiguy - 7 years ago

Can they bring you to court: yes

Will they bring you to court: absolutely not.

This is a technique used by collection agencies to scare you into paying them.

Here's how it works:

When your bill goes into default, the credit card company sells your account to a collection agency. The collection agency pays roughly 10% of your debt to the credit card company, and then you owe them the money instead of the credit card.

The collection agency then calls and sends letters designed to scare you into paying them. They invested 10% of your debt in the hope that they can get you to pay the full amount, and they turn a profit. That's how the business works.

The threat of court is ridiculous. The company doesn't have the resources to take all of their clients to court. It would cost them more than $1600 in lawyer fees just to get you IN the courtroom, so even if they win, they lose money by taking you to court.

You have absolutely nothing to worry about. In seven years, this debt is erased from your credit score. Don't worry about it.

By the way, DO NOT offer to pay them ANYTHING or make ANY agreement with them of any kind. Simply hang up the phone when they call. If you agree to pay them ANYTHING, it resets the 7 year time table to erase it off of your credit history. If you do anything else, you're only making things more difficult on yourself than they need to be.

As far as garnishing your wages or placing liens on your property, most states do not allow it. I have relatives living in PA who owe tens of thousands of dollars in debt, and they cannot by law touch their paycheck, home, tax return, or anything else. The same goes for many other states. All they can do is send letters and call. Check the laws of where you live.

Anyone who tells you any different is wrong, or they're a liar.


by Bill Schweitzer - 7 years ago

There is a statutes of limitations on credit card debt. Look up what it is for your state. If you don't pay anything on it for 2 years or whatever it is then they can't claim it, it's too late for them. The credit card company sells your debt to a collection agency. Then they start calling and if send them money or promise to send money the clock starts all over again. It sounds like the agency is desperate to get just a $15 payment so that they have an other 2 years to get paid. If you really don't have the money than don't send anything and don't say that you will. I doubt that they will take you to court.


by kadan - 7 years ago

First of all, you haven't actually told us how much you're owing. This is a worldwide forum and there's no indication of the currency.
$US 1,600? $Can 1,600? $Au 1,600? $HK 1,1600? £1,600? 1,600 Euros? It makes a difference to the equation.

They can take you to court.

Or much more efficiently from their point of view they can put the debt into the hands of a collection agency which will work on commission and have ways of getting money out of people.

But far, far more important is the fact that if you don't pay that Credit Card company you'll go on an international black-list of non-payers and will probably be denied any more credit from anyone, if not for ever, then at least for many, many years.

Do the sensible thing. Pay something, however little, NOW. Level with them and come up with an offer of repayment of SOME set amount on a regular schedule.

The consequences of not paying are simply too dreadful to think about. We're not talking about a measly 1600 something in some currency. We're talking about your ability to operate even a bank account in the future.

by Feinschmecker - 7 years ago

The people saying they won't bother to sue don't understand how easy collection suits are--they will sue you over $1600. You have two choices--negotiate a settlement with them, or get sued. At this point, getting sued isn't as bad as you might think (though it is pretty bad) -- you probably don't want a lawyer yourself, and there isn't much you can do about your lawyer fees. Try to make an agreement with them so you don't hurt your credit any more than you already have.

If they have already sent you a summons, you have been sued. If they haven't yet, they could do so whenever they want--it sounds like they did you the courtesy of letting you know it will happen soon. If you ignore the suit, the court will decide in their favor and say that you owe the money, and issue a judgment. You should only fight in court if you don't owe the money--since that isn't you, you need to negotiate with the credit card company to allow you to make a payment you can afford to avoid or dismiss the suit.

If you can't reach an agreement with them you can afford, they will sue and get a judgment against you. (Even after they have the judgment, you can negotiate with them, but they can be less cooperative--they have done half the collection work.) Once they have the judgment, they can get a garnishment against your bank account or paycheck. You would need to be careful not to leave all your money in the bank, because the amount of the judgement could be frozen until you answer the garnishment, and they will take their money back from you. Also, you need to answer any garnishments you receive (and may need a lawyer for that) so that you can be sure that your exemptions for living expenses are allowed.

Regarding PP, don't go the bankruptcy route unless you have a lot more debt than $2000 on that one card--your credit will get better faster if you pay it off than declaring bankruptcy. That is a last resort.


by wayfaroutthere - 7 years ago

Yes, a bank or collection agency can take you to court, but it is not a criminal proceeding: they are suing you. It varies from state to state and country to country, but you should know right off the bat that it is not a crime to owe money to institutions that you can't pay.

9 times out of 10, for an amount as small as you mentioned, they won't even bother. They threatened you with lawyer fees, but you have to remember that they have their own lawyer and processing fees to consider. This is a large bank that doesn't go to the ends of the earth to get every cent owed to them, but is always considering the bottom line.

A typical court procedure is that the bank sues, you don't show up to defend yourself, the court rules in favor of the bank and orders you to pay up. Depending on the severity of the case and the court's mood, they may order you to pay the bank's court fees and have your wages to garnished (up to a certain percentage as allowed by your local government). It is extremely rare for a court to order property seized unless your debt is on par with the value of said property (i.e. you owe a hundred thousand dollars and you happen to own land).

Finally, if the case is really that bad, there is always another option: bankruptcy. filing for bankruptcy protects you from debt collection, wage garnishing and property seizure. When the procedure is through, your debt is wiped clean and you begin rebuilding your credit.

My final advice is this: get a professional opinion. Debt law is different everywhere, and maybe you live in some backwater state that thinks people in debt are scum, but probably not. Don't listen to people who say you deserve everything the bank does to you. Being in debt is a serious problem for most Americans, rich and poor, but there are second chances. There are even programs in many states that offer free debt counseling. Visit your state or municipal government websites or call them and ask.

Until you are actually officially sued, don't worry about court.

by dratboy - 7 years ago

Hard times or not....yes they can sue you and win.

by Jack - 7 years ago

From personal experience...THEY WILL SUE YOU AND WIN, THEN YOU WILL OWE THEM FOR THEIR ATTORNEY FEES, COURT COSTS AND ANY ADDITIONAL COSTS THEY CAN GET FROM THE JUDGE IN ADDITION TO THE ORIGINAL DEBT! They will garnish any wages you earn to the tune of up to 50% of your income, any income tax returns from the government (state and federal), and depending on the state you live in they can get a lien on any home or other real property you have. Also the longer it takes you to pay off this court judgment the longer they will be able to charge you for higher interest rates up to 75% of the original amount owed. You could wind up having to pay more than 50000 dollars on the 1600 you currently owe. Better to make advance arrangements to pay them at least 1/10 of the balance every month or about 160 dollars before they take you to the very least pay them something to keep it out of the courts.

by Tristam H - 7 years ago

$1,600 is not that much debt in the grand scheme of things. Even if you've fallen on tough times, you should at least try to pay something on the card, $30, $40, $50 a month, anything to show the creditor that you have intent to pay off the balance. (After over a year of not paying anything shows to the creditor you have no intention of paying off the debt.)

Also, do an Internet search on "Consumer Credit Counseling services". A CCC company will work with you and your credit card company to waive any ongoing interests fees to help you pay off the debt. Also, if you come across a CCC service that charges you a fee for their services, then don't use them. There are services out there that don't charge anything. Good luck!

by RockC - 7 years ago

They did it to me for $2400. Actually at that point it was the collection agency. They took me to court. The thing they can put a freeze on your bank account which is what they did to me. The freeze didn't come off unitl I went to court. It was really horrible because I didn't have any cash for weeks because my account was frozen. It was also very EMBARSSING. Once I got to court I found out they can't take any cash under a certain amount don't remember how much exactly ($2500 - $5000) but if I didn't make a payment plan with them they would start garnishing my wages which would be even more embarassing. So I made a payment plan with for like $100 a month. Then what I did is used my income tax return and neogiated my balance down with them by telling them i could afford to pay less then the balance due but they would get it all at once or they could just keeping accepting my $100 monthly. I ended only paying $2000 of $2400 I owed.

by Sophie - 7 years ago

wow, you have alot going for you ( in a bad way)! You are pregnant. You are 20 years young. You owe money. Well, it's not that bad, your life will be better soon, don't worry! Why not just pay it with another credit card or loan some money from your parents? Or your boyfriend/husband for that matter. I heard you work so that means you can just call them up (the collection agency or whoever is threatening you to court) and set up a payment installment plan of $50 dollars a month or more. It depends on what you can agree on. Crying on the phone won't do you any good. there are dozens and dozens of people in your same position (I mean about the dept thing) and so you shouldn't feel like they would care if you cried to them. But I feel sorry for you, you seem like you are all alone in this so just do your best.


by Girl_in_love - 7 years ago

no scam, they will take you to court and get a judgement against you. I don't think they do it that fast though. They just told you by the end of the month so they can get you to pay without having to go to court. These kind of court cases take a long time so maybe you should try to make a settlement with them. It will look better on your credit report than a judgment.

by Theresa M - 7 years ago