4 Min Read | Updated: January 19, 2024

Originally Published: February 14, 2020

Managing Credit Card Debt After a Job Loss

Losing your job can be daunting, especially in an economic downturn. These tips may help you manage and get some relief from credit card debt.

Managing Credit Card Debt After a Job Loss

This article contains general information and is not intended to provide information that is specific to American Express products and services. Similar products and services offered by different companies will have different features and you should always read about product details before acquiring any financial product.


Managing credit card debt is one of many financial challenges you may face if you’ve lost your job.

It’s a good idea to consider all of your options – there might be some help available to you, particularly during an economic downturn, for example.

With patience and perseverance, you could delay some of that debt without any penalties.

Losing your job can present daunting challenges, especially in the midst of an economic downturn. Putting more of your day-to-day spending on your credit card may seem like a solution to cash-flow problems, since it allows you to push out the date when you actually have to pay for life’s essentials. But credit card debt has to be managed carefully. Otherwise, pretty quickly, you can find yourself owing more than you bargained for in debt, interest, fees, and penalties.  


Here are some tips from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), consumer advocates, and other financial experts, about how to manage credit card debt after a job loss.

Getting a Break on Credit Card Debt

Your first priority after losing a job may be to hold onto whatever cash you’ve got – not worrying about paying debts. However, instead of avoiding bills coming in, you might be better off if you talk through your situation with the companies you owe money to.  


Creditors – such as credit card companies, banks, landlords, and utilities – may consider hardship relief for people affected by economic hardships. But it’s not usually automatic; you have to ask. Your credit card company might help with lowering your monthly payment, waiving late payment fees, or other accommodations.1

Contacting Your Card Company

Here are a few things to keep in mind when contacting your card company:


  • Companies may be handling high call volumes, so it might take a while to get through on the phone.
  • The company’s website might be a good first stop for information that can speed up the process. If you have an account, you may be able to get online chat assistance after logging in.
  • Make sure to get a copy of any agreements and program terms by email to help if questions come up later.2
  • Calling early, and staying on top of your debt, may be key. It could negatively impact your credit if you fall behind on payments.1
  • There are no guarantees; credit card financial relief is usually decided by your card company on a case-by-case basis.3

The CFPB suggests you have the following information on hand before you call your credit card company:4


  • Your current financial and employment situation.
  • How much you can afford to pay.
  • When you might be able to restart regular payments.
  • Other details about your income, expenses, and assets.

Credit Card Management Tips

It’s also a good idea to stay on top of other basic credit card management details, such as:


  • Your credit limit: Card companies’ policies may be in flux, and changes to your limit could have short- or long-term impacts as you try to get back on your feet.
  • Cash advance expense: A cash advance on your credit card could seem like a lifeline after a job loss. But cash advances should be weighed carefully due to their transaction fees and generally higher interest rates.5

Saving on Credit Card Refunds and Purchases

You might be able to conserve a little cash by combing through your credit card statement itself. Here are some examples:


  • Membership services: If you’ve lost your job recently, you might consider cutting unnecessary subscriptions and their automatic monthly payments.6 Before taking such a step, contacting the gym, for instance – if it hasn’t already contacted you – can avoid problems down the road.
  • Card member benefits: Some card companies may offer special benefits for card holders, such as discounts on products or services, or cashback bonuses that can be applied to your statements.7

The Takeaway

Losing your job raises many questions about your current and future finances. Your credit card company could help answer at least some of the challenges you face and may help provide some temporary relief from credit card debt. Additionally, credit counselors are available to help with these and other questions.1,8

Karen Lynch

Karen Lynch is a journalist who has covered global business, technology, finance, and related public policy issues for more than 30 years.


All Credit Intel content is written by freelance authors and commissioned and paid for by American Express. 

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