Can I keep using my credit cards until I file bankruptcy?

3,373 families filed bankruptcy using Upsolve.

Written by Andrea Wimmer, Esq.  
Updated January 27, 2020

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Once you’ve decided that you’ll be filing bankruptcy to deal with your debt, you should not continue to incur new debt. That includes making new charges on your credit card, or getting a new loan. 

Debts incurred with the intent to eliminate them by filing bankruptcy can’t be eliminated by filing bankruptcy. Otherwise, someone who knows a bankruptcy filing is in their future could just max out all of their credit cards. Bankruptcy provides relief for the honest but unfortunate debtor. It does not provide an avenue to cheat banks out of as much money as possible. 

In fact, if you incur any debt to purchase a luxury item in the 90 days before filing your case, it’s assumed that you did that on purpose so you wouldn’t have to pay for it.

What if I have to charge to buy necessities? 

If you’re stuck in the cycle of making your minimum payments on your credit cards in an effort to stay current and then using that credit card to buy necessities, such as food or prescriptions, the first thing you should do is stop making your credit card payments. This should free up enough money every month to pay for your necessities in cash or with your bank account by debit card or otherwise. 

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What if I’m filing next month and I just used my credit card to buy groceries? 

In an ideal world, you would pay at least the amount you just charged on the credit card before filing your case, even if it’s less than the minimum payment due. That shows the court that you acted in good faith and tried to do the right thing. 

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I just filed and made charges in the 3 months before filing - what can I expect? 

Ultimately, it really depends on how frequently and how much you charged. The more someone charged on their credit card in the 3 months before filing, the more likely it is that the credit card company will object to having the debt discharged. Learn more about what that means and how that would work in our article on objections to discharge

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Do I have to worry about this forever? How will I know that a creditor has an objection? 

You will be given the opportunity to explain what happened to the court. This is not something that the creditor can do in secret or at any point in time. The creditor only has a certain amount of time to raise this issue. Check your Form 309A for the deadline set by the court in your case and mark the date on your calendar. If you don’t hear anything from the creditor before then, the debt will be eliminated when your discharge is entered. 

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Upsolve is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that started in 2016. Our mission is to help low-income families who cannot afford lawyers file bankruptcy for free, using an online web app. Spun out of Harvard Law School, our team includes lawyers, engineers, and judges. We have world-class funders that include the U.S. government, former Google CEO Eric Schmidt, and leading foundations. It's one of the greatest civil rights injustices of our time that low-income families can’t access their basic rights when they can’t afford to pay for help. Combining direct services and advocacy, we’re fighting this injustice.

To learn more, read why we started Upsolve in 2016, our reviews from past users, and our press coverage from places like the New York Times and Wall Street Journal.

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