Can a Credit Card Company Sue Me If I'm Making Partial Payments?

If you make less than the minimum payment on your credit card, expect debt collector calls and possibly a lawsuit.

By , Attorney · University of Denver Sturm College of Law

If you fail to make the required minimum payments due on your credit card, the creditor could potentially sue you, among other things, even if you're currently sending in payments. When you got your credit card, you signed an agreement with the credit card company either electronically or in writing. Under that agreement, you agreed to make a certain minimum payment each month.

Making a payment less than the minimum amount due counts as a default under the agreement. It's effectively the same thing as missing a payment. For example, say your minimum payment is $50, but you only have $20 to send to the credit card company. Even if you pay the $20, your credit card company will still consider you delinquent on the account.

What Happens When You Default on the Credit Card Agreement

If you default under the terms of a credit card agreement, the credit card company may take specific actions, like:

  • charging you late fees (in 2024, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau finalized a rule limiting the maximum late fee amount in most cases to $8)
  • lowering your credit limit
  • reporting the delinquency to the credit bureaus, and
  • raising your interest rate to a much higher penalty rate, often in the 30% range.

Debt Collectors Will Start Calling

Each month that you make a partial payment, your credit card account falls further and further past due. If you keep falling behind, the credit card company will probably send your account to its in-house debt collections specialists or hire a third-party debt collection agency to pursue you for payment.

The collector will likely call you seeking payment and letting you know what will happen if you don't pay. In some instances, the collector might offer you a way to settle the debt without paying the full amount by waiving some of the fees that have accumulated, for example.

The Credit Card Company Might Sue You

If you still don't get caught up, the credit card company might decide to sue you for payment. Alternatively, the credit card company might sell the debt to a debt buyer.

Credit card companies often sell even small debts to debt buyers, which purchase the old debts for much less than is owed and then try to collect them. The debt buyer might also sue you.

What You Should Do if You Can't Make Your Credit Card Payment

If you know you won't be able to make the minimum payment on your credit card, call the credit card company's customer service department. You can find the phone number for your credit card company on the credit card itself or on the credit card company's website. When possible, contact the credit card company before you miss a payment or send a partial payment.

When you speak to the customer service representative, tell the representative that you won't be able to make your minimum payment on time. If this has never happened before, make sure the customer service representative is aware of this fact. Request that the representative change your due date and ask if the company could waive your late fee. You can also ask if any other options are available.

If you know you won't be able to make the required minimum payments for a while, find out if the credit card company can lower your interest rate, which would lower your monthly minimum payment. Your credit card company might also be able to temporarily reduce the minimum payment or even reduce the balance you owe.

Talk to a Debt Relief Lawyer

If you need help negotiating a debt, consider talking to a debt relief lawyer.

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