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Using Credit Cards to Post Bail

Written by Nickel - 20 Comments

Okay, this just makes me laugh… According to a blurb in the most recent issue of Bottom Line/Personal, many jails accept credit cards for posting bail. But wait, it gets better:

“Cardholders can go home quickly – and may get reward points on their credit cards.”

So if you’re looking for another way to make use of your reward credit card, look no further than you local jail.

Published on December 26th, 2007 - 20 Comments
Filed under: Credit Cards, Humor

About the author: is the founder and editor-in-chief of this site. He's a thirty-something family man who has been writing about personal finance since 2005, and guess what? He's on Twitter!

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20 Responses to “Using Credit Cards to Post Bail”

  1. 1
    Mrs. Micah Says:

    Oh.

    If you don’t run away, do you get your bail back? If so, I’m going to get arrested and make me some money….

  2. 2
    Amanda Says:

    I have actually tried to post bail with a credit card (long story) but they only accepted cash.

  3. 3
    That One Caveman Says:

    And what happens when you don’t pay the bill? Do they repossess you?

  4. 4
    kitty Says:

    I assume if you don’t run away they post credit. But if you do run away before paying you CC bill, credit card looses money. But this will never happen because either everyone who posts their bail with CC is innocent or criminals can always be counted upon to pay their debts. Brilliant.

    So here is a scam. Rob a bank, stash the money to some Swiss bank account. If you get caught, pay the bail with a credit card and off you go to a nice tropical country without extradition treaty.

    I wonder which official came up with this brilliant idea.

  5. 5
    Minimum Wage Says:

    My first thought was actually, do you get points?

    But I’m a little confused.

    Let’s say your bail is $1,000 and you pay it with your credit card. The jail would pay a merchant fee of, say, 3% or $30.

    So does this mean you’d have to pay more than $1,000 to post $1,000 bail?

  6. 6
    Mrs. Micah Says:

    Good question, MW. Maybe the jail just loses $30 on the deal.

    The only reason I can come up with is perhaps they expect that people would be more likely to post bail if CCs are allowed. Thus more money for them overall. But….it’s confusing. What if they have to refund? Do they still lose the $30? Do you get a cash refund that you have to apply to the CC? Does it just cancel the transaction?

  7. 7
    nickel Says:

    Mrs. Micah: Yes, if you show up in court you’re supposed to get your money back, which is why it works. Imagine if you just paid a fee to get out — there wouldn’t be a compelling reason to go back and show up in court. With bail, you have a substantial chunk of money on the line.

    When it comes to bonds, it’s a different story. In that case, you pay a bail bondsman 10% (usually) of the bail amount and they guarantee that you’ll show up for your court date or they’ll be on the hook for the bail. If you don’t show up, then someone like Dog the Bounty Hunter will come looking for you (otherwise they’ll be out the bail money). In this case, the bond amount isn’t refundable.

  8. 8
    Foobarista Says:

    I suspect it’s because running a jail costs money, and the more convenient it is to let people post bond, the cheaper it is to run the jail. The merchant fee is nothing compared with the several hundred bux/day to keep someone in a lockup.

  9. 9
    her every cent counts Says:

    haha, that’s hilarious. I can picture it now: pay bail on your credit card, get airline miles for the bail, travel out of the country… and so on.

  10. 10
    Mrs. Micah Says:

    So I suppose the incentive to pay by credit card is that you get it all back, vs. paying much much less and getting nothing back.

    As an amusing note, I once carried a bail bond amount with me when I went to a protest. Sewed it into my underwear so that nobody could get at it. Didn’t need it, but I did it just in case (I wasn’t planning to do anything stupid, but I could see accidentally getting caught up in the middle of something).

  11. 11
    Albert Clarke Says:

    There are companies that offer payment bycredit card for cash bail to government agencies. These companies charge a fee for the service so the agency has no merchant fees they owe. This is a great idea because it allows people to be released (likely low $$ bond amounts, after all who could pay $10 K or $20 K on a credit card) while creating space for the folks we all want to see remain locked up (pedophiles, rapists, murderers, etc.). I know in Cook County cash bail can be paid with a credit card. Never used it and hope I never need to, but it is something to keep in mind.

  12. 12
    dePriest Says:

    I did it, darn it, and used the wrong card!

  13. 13
    Prince of Thrift Says:

    LOL, to funny. When I read your post I couldn’t help but chuckle at the thought of someone paying bail with a credit card.

  14. 14
    Matt Says:

    I wish they had this when I had to post bail. I as arrested(long story) very early in the morning and I couldn’t get a hold of anyone to post bail for me. I had enough for the original amount ($500) but not on me. So they dropped it to $20, but I only had $7 on me. Of course they won’t take you to the ATM to get money.

    I finally got a hold of someone after a few hours but if they had accepted credit cards my arrest would have been much more pleasurable. The charges ended up getting dropped, which is another long story, I really didn’t do anything.

  15. 15
    Debt Free Revolution Says:

    This is actually quite brilliant! Credit card receipts will make it so much easier for the skip tracer or bounty hunter to find you once you jump bail LOL

  16. 16
    Early Retirement Extreme Says:

    Oh wow, that’s classy! The next obvious thing would be to offer a prison credit card with 5% discount on time served for good customers :-)

  17. 17
    Dan Ray Says:

    Hi, I’m the editor in chief of CreditCards.com, which is the source of the “jail and bail” article cited in Bottom Line Personal (they do no original reporting, but publish, with permission, condensed reprints).
    To see the original, go to http://www.creditcards.com/jai.....t-card.php

    As you might expect, we got an earful from bail bond firms, who don’t like the idea one bit.

  18. 18
    MoneyNing Says:

    Haha :)

  19. 19
    kitty Says:

    “This is actually quite brilliant! Credit card receipts will make it so much easier for the skip tracer or bounty hunter to find you once you jump bail LOL”
    Yes, right… As if everyone who jumps bail after paying by a credit card is going to continue using the same card. It seems that unless you change your identity and get credit cards under a completely new name/SSN, it’s rather stupid to use anything but cash when you are on the run. No personal experience, mind you, just based on detective novels…

  20. 20
    Ned Mills Says:

    Suppose you’re arrested for credit card fraud? LOL!
    That almost as hilarious as paying cash for your bail after being arrested for counterfeiting!

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