Can you bail yourself out of jail with a credit card?

The difference between spending a night in jail and getting out on bail may depend on whether your wallet contains a credit card.

The short answer is Yes, you can bail yourself out with a credit card. But, there’s more to it.

The difference between spending a night in jail and getting out on bail may depend on whether your wallet contains a credit card.

In an increasing number of jails across the United States, credit cards can be used to post bail. Though the bail bondsman industry hates it, the swipe-and-go option has many fans. Jail officials see it as a way to keep jails from being overcrowded by minor offenders. Cardholders gain the obvious benefit — escaping jail before the fingerprint ink dries. They can even earn rewards points for bailing out.

In Madison County, N.Y., where the program has been in operation for several years, Sheriff Ronald Cary lauds credit card bailouts as a benefit to arrestees. “If they have a credit card and it meets the criteria, they can get out of jail,” he says. “Not everybody deserves to be in jail and it allows us to get them out earlier.”

It usually works like this: Defendants, family members or friends swipe their plastic through a reader. The bail is paid, with a fee assessed on top of the bond amount. A key turns. The prisoner walks.

To the legal system, it’s just like any other bail payment: When the bailee shows up in court, the bailer gets his or her money back, less the fee. Warrants are issued for those who don’t show up.

Let’s say you can’t easily write a check for the amount of bail, nor is your credit limit high enough to put it on a credit card (assuming they permit payments by credit card). Your next stop is a bail bond agency. There will be one or more near the jail. In general, they will post bail for you, for a fee of about 10% of the bail amount. (So a $10,000 bail would cost you $1,000.) Most likely, you can put that amount on your credit card. The bad news: It will be treated like a credit card cash advance, according to TheStreet, and those can be very expensive. (In general, you’ll pay a 3% fee, and interest — higher than your normal credit card interest — begins accruing immediately, with no grace period.)

Krystine Snyder, director of public relations for Experian, said the only way she could think of an arrest or bail payment getting on a credit report would be if a person failed to repay a debt to a bonding agency, and the debt went to collections. “The entry on the report might say ‘Bob’s Bail Bonds Collection Agency,'” she said, adding that she’d never heard of that. Otherwise, your credit report would yield no clue to any arrest records or bail.

As always, the best option is to contact Atlas Bail and go over available info and all the details. With our experience, knowledge and great customer service, we can have your loved ones back to you as soon as the law will allow us. From the moment you show up in our office we understand your need for guidance and help. The fact that a person is in jail is only the beginning of the process. Selecting AAA Atlas Bail is an important first step. With years of experience in our office, we most definitely will have the right answer for you.


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