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Ask Creditnet: Is Failure to Pay Off Credit Card Considered Fraud?

Dear Creditnet: I've heard that it's considered fraud if you get a credit card, use it, and then can't make any payments. If I unexpectedly lose my job and can't make my credit card payments, could I get sued?

Answer: Yes, you could eventually get sued for the debt if you fail to pay, but it wouldn't be for fraud. Failing to make your credit card payments as agreed isn't considered "fraud" if you had the intention to make payments when you signed the application; however, it is a breach of the contract you signed with your credit issuer.

The point I want to make here is that you shouldn't ever put yourself in this situation when using credit cards. Credit cards aren't meant to be used as a way to pay for things now that you can't afford to pay off until a later time. That's a dangerous way to use your card, and it will most likely get you into trouble at some point. If you feel as though you're ready to use credit cards as a personal financial tool, then you need to make sure you're also ready to follow rule #1 of responsible credit card use— only buy what you already have the cash to pay for. In fact, you should really think of your credit card like cash.

If you don't have the cash to buy something, don't whip out your plastic instead! It's as simple as that. If you can follow this one rule, you'll never have to worry about what could happen if you lost your job and all of sudden couldn't make any payments on your card. Balances would always be paid in full at the end of each month, and even if you did unexpectedly lose your job, you could still make payment in full and then scale back the use of your credit card until your spending falls in line with your new budget.

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Elisabeth Chan's picture

Elisabeth Chan is Creditnet's resident credit card expert. Elisabeth graduated Magna Cum Laude from Brigham Young University's Marriott School of Business.

When she's not rating and reviewing credit cards, Elisabeth enjoys gushing over her daughter (who is her exact clone), eating out (sushi and Chinese are favs), or attempting to conquer the pilates reformer machine (so far, all attempts have been futile).

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