Posting bond can be very expensive, and it often means holding people already in a difficult situation to the task of coming up with a large sum of money.
If you’re in a situation where you have to post bond and don’t know how you’ll be able to pay, you may consider doing so with a credit card. Many jails across the country have instituted ways to pay by credit card as it can take a while to come up with cash to pay bail.
Jails that have instituted credit card payments have seen more people be able to avoid spending the night in a cell, decreasing overcrowding.
How to pay bail with a credit card
Payment services like GovPayNet give you a variety of ways to pay bail with a credit card. For starters, you can do so onsite in over 500 jails nationwide. Some jails have kiosks set up for this purpose, while others will process your payment behind the counter.
You can also pay online at GovPayNow.com and over the phone at 1-877-EZBAIL5. Paying bail through a payment service will allow you flexible and secure payment processing. You’ll also be able to use multiple cards to make a single payment if need be. Just know that paying this way does have some fees attached. Court processing fees, credit card processing fees and commissions have all been charged on credit card bond payments.
However, paying with a credit card does not have the same kind of repercussions as some other payment methods. While you may have to deal with a debt collector if you have difficulty paying back your balance, more jail time is not a consequence of missed card payments.
Does every jail allow it?
While using a credit card to pay bond is possible, your ability to do so will depend on the jail and the county. Many jails across the country have adopted credit card payments, and there should be visible signs at the jail that credit cards are accepted.
However, you may have another issue even if the jail accepts credit cards. If your belongings, including your credit card, have been confiscated as evidence, you won’t be able to use your card to pay.
Instead, you would have to go through a middleman to take care of it for you. If you have a family member that has access to your accounts, they can pay using your information. If not, you’ll have to go through a bail bondsman or agency. Many bail bondsmen accept credit card payments. However, if you can’t access your card, you may be able to pay the premium off with your card once you are released. Of course, that hinges upon your belongings being returned to you.
Using a card to post bond over the phone
Paying your bail with a card over the phone is a possibility and is one of the fastest ways to do so.
If you go through the GovPayNet service, you’ll be connected with a payment specialist that can walk you through processing payment with your credit card. The specialist can also help you come up with a payment strategy if need be. If you are going the route of the bail bondsmen or agency, you’ll have to check to see if they accept credit cards first. Most bondsmen and agencies will list this information on their website. Any processing fees that you’ll incur should be found there as well.
You can earn rewards for posting bail with a credit card
There are certain advantages to posting bail with a credit card, such as the ability to pay faster and to pull from multiple card accounts. While there will likely be a processing fee, it’s a small price to pay for your freedom.
One advantage you may not have thought about is the earning potential. If you have a general rewards card of some kind, you could potentially earn points, miles or even cash back for paying your bail. Many rewards cards have a general rewards category that offers earnings on any purchase you make. You could be looking at earning one to two percent cash back or one to two points or miles for every dollar you use to post bail.
Posting bond with a credit card: The potential impact on your credit score
Using a credit card to pay your bail has its advantages, but there are also some drawbacks. The main one being the amount of credit you will have to use to post your bond. It’s very possible that you will have to max out your credit card in order to pay your bail. And you may even have to tap into a second credit limit to meet the amount you need. When you use that much of your available credit, it can have a negative effect on your credit score due to your credit utilization exceeding the recommended percentage of your available credit.
Generally speaking, you only want to use about 30 percent of your available credit at any given time. The ideal usage, however, is closer to 10 percent. When you go over 30 percent usage of your available credit, your credit utilization is reported as being too high. This can cause your credit score to go down. Credit utilization makes up 30 percent of your credit score calculation, so it’s important to keep it under control. If at all possible, you want to avoid using more credit than you can pay off in a few billing cycles.
Consider other bail payment methods
Credit cards can offer a quick and easy way to post bail and get your freedom back, but there are other ways you can pay your bail.
There’s always the traditional route of a surety bond through a bail bondsman. You’ll only have to pay a percentage of the bail and the bondsman will cover the rest. This system of bond payment has been in place for many years, and while it’s not without its pitfalls, it’s a common option for dealing with bail.
Another choice you have is a real property equity bond. This bond allows you to use your car, house or a piece of property as collateral to set bail. This option does come with a bit of risk, however; if the defendant does not appear in court, you are set to lose your property.