Non-imprisonment for credit card debts

The question that is frequently asked, as far as credit cards are concerned, is whether one may be imprisoned for failure to pay credit card debts.

This has often been posed by no less than the credit card holders, who, for some reasons, failed to pay their credit card debts.

In order to obtain the desired answer, there is an imperative need to examine the applicable law on credit cards.

And, for similar purpose, it is equally important to take a closer look at the pertinent provisions in our Constitution, particularly those found under the “Bill of Rights.”

RA 8484

Here in the Philippines, the law governing credit cards is Republic Act No. 8484 (RA 8484), otherwise known as the “Access Devices Regulation Act of 1998.”

Approved by the Tenth Congress of the Philippines on February 11, 1998, RA 8484 is an act crafted to, among others, regulate the issuance and use of access devices and prohibit fraudulent acts committed in relation to such devices.

Definition of an “Access Device” under RA 8484

An “Access Device” is “any card, plate, code, account number, electronic serial number, personal identification number, or other telecommunications service, equipment, or instrumental identifier, or other means of account access that can be used to obtain money, good, services, or any other thing of value or to initiate a transfer of funds (other than a transfer originated solely by paper instrument).”

Definition of a “Credit Card” under RA 8484

While a “Credit Card,” which is included within the meaning of an access device, is “any card, plate, coupon book, or other credit device existing for the purpose of obtaining money, goods, property, labor or services or any thing of value on credit.”

Mere failure to pay credit card debts

A careful reading of RA 8484 in its entirety will show that “mere failure to pay credit card debts” is not among the “Prohibited Acts,” constituting “Access Device Fraud,” which are declared to be unlawful and, thus, punishable with a fine and imprisonment.

What is punishable is the act of “obtaining money or anything of value through the use of an access device, with intent to defraud or with intent to gain and fleeing thereafter.”

Intent to Defraud

As far as the element of “Intent to Defraud” is concerned, RA 8484 provides for a prima facie presumption to the effect that “a cardholder who abandons or surreptitiously leaves the place of employment, business or residence stated in his application or credit card, without informing the credit card company of the place where he could actually be found, if at the time of such abandonment or surreptitious leaving, the outstanding and unpaid balance is past due for at least ninety (90) days and is more than Ten thousand pesos (P10,000.00), shall be prima facie presumed to have used his credit card with intent to defraud.”

Section 20 of Article III of the 1987 Constitution

What is clear is that “mere failure to pay credit card debts,” in the absence of fraud, will never give rise to any criminal liability on the part of any credit card holder.

But even assuming that “mere failure to pay credit card debts” is among the prohibited acts constituting access device fraud, which, as discussed, are declared to be unlawful and, thus, punishable with a fine and imprisonment, still, it will be struck down as void and, as such, of no effect for being unconstitutional, it being in direct contravention of the constitutional prohibition against imprisonment for debts.

Under Section 20 of Article III (Bill of Rights) of the 1987 Constitution, it is explicitly provided that “no person shall be imprisoned for debts,” and, this, no doubt, includes, within its scope, credit card debts.

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24 thoughts on “Non-imprisonment for credit card debts

  1. Good thing I dound your site.. It is indeed helpful. I do have a clarification tho, and your response will be highly appreciated.

    So, what happened was I received a final demand letter today bec of unpaid CC.. and in that letter includes a “criminal case” of “access device act etc” that will be filed to us if wont be able to settle the said balance as well. I am quite worried coz it says it is a criminal case..

    A brief story of what happened was we were not able to pay the bank for 2mos now coz I had to resign to my work and apply to a new one which took me 2mos to be able to start.. we were on online/email billing and what i am receiving from the bank every mo. Were purely bills.. we were not even informed that they already forwarded our acct to a 3rd party etc until the time that my spouse and I decided to call the bank’s callcenter to make some payment arrangement to settle the bill. Upon calling them we even gave them or updated my new company address and contact no.. my spouse even paid 3k to the bank 2days before we called their callcenter. We were told to call a number and look for a person which we did call. So it was a collection thingy already, we talked and discussed things but ended up I did not agree to pay the amout that they are demanding me to pay. After that I just activated my call blocking on my cellphone.

    So my worries are, will I go to jail bec of that act? Even tho I did not intentionally plan to not pay my cc..

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    1. Hi dew. No, you will not go to jail. And no, it is most certainly NOT a criminal case.

      Under RA 8484, you are only criminally liable if you leave the place of residence or employment stated in your credit card application, without notifying the bank that issued the card. Since you mentioned that you even updated your bank with your new workplace address and contact number, then it is a sign of goodwill on your part, therefore that supposed “criminal case” has no legal footing. It is only meant to stress you out needlessly, and now, it’s certainly not going to work.

      As long as you keep receiving notices from the collection agency, or they continue to be able to contact you otherwise, their threat of a criminal case has no merit whatsoever. It will be thrown out of the first trial court they file it in.

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      1. Also, do note that these so-called “law offices” are merely collection agencies in disguise; most of them may not even be staffed by actual lawyers. They are being aggressive in their collection efforts simply because their commissions are dependent on the amount they will be able to collect from you.

        What they can file in court against you is a CIVIL CASE e.g. sum of money. That’s it.

        But even then, they will think twice before resorting to that strategy, mainly because of the potential legal expenses they will incur (apart from the time and effort spent in attending hearings), which are likely to be disproportionately higher than the settlement they stand to gain from you (probably only half the amount of your outstanding debt, at best). In short, it will not be worth it on their part. So as much as possible, they are open to negotiation and restructuring your debt payment instead.

        Just take note of the calls and the letters you receive from them, since these all constitute proof that they can still locate you, therefore, you are not in violation of RA 8484. If they go too far in their collection methods i.e. resorting to deceit, intimidation or harassment, you have every right to report them to the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas for unfair collection practices.

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      2. Hi Sir, I also have the same concern here. I also received a call from the collector and she is shouting at me. I was shocked the way she handled the conversation. This is one of the reasons why I intentionally did not paid my CC. And now, I am again also receiving calls from them and I intentionally not answering the calls coz Im afraid of the same conversation. Now I received a notice that states I have to settle the payment otherwise I will be imprisoned. Can you please help me how to handle this? Or will I be imprisoned because of this?

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  2. may dumating noong nkaraang linggo na taga aiqon daw po cla at may dlang formal demand letter para sa akin. tpos nakalagay dun ang outstanding balance ng credit card ko sa isang banko tpos kinausap nila ako at pinagbbayad n lng ako ng amount sa lampas 10% dun sa aking outstanding at pinagfill up ako ng promissory note at pinalagay dun ung schedule ng pagbyad ko. natakot kc ako dahil sabi kpg di ko pa sinetel yun ifoforward n daw nila sa civil service. ask ko lng po kung saklaw p po b ng civil service ung ganong problema ng mga government employee. thank you in advancesa inyo pong magiging response

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  3. Maari din ba makulong ang isang tao sakaling di na ito makapagbayad sa call for cash na niloan nito sa cc?
    Kung sakaling wala ng kakayahang magbayad at di na ito talaga mabayaran? Anong kaso ang pwedeng makuha o legal action na pwedeng ibigay ng cc company sa kanya?

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    1. how to file po bankruptcy to let your bank know that you cant pay your cc loans and balances… And to settle things in a minimum capacity. Pls reply po….I have credit to cash via my credit card and it so happen my husband has no job.and my business is not earning much to pay for our bills and other expenses. Your response is very much appreciated. Thank you

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  4. Nakarecieve po ako ng text from anonymous number, text said expect official commo to issue court order (bench warrant) to issue writ of preliminary attachment to garnish my real & personal property and so fort.. so i am really afraid then i call the number to know really the case. I found out that is all about my unpaid credit card.. they push me to pay 10k para daw hindi na nila ipadala sa presinto ung bench warrant.. I pay then 8k nalang daw kulang ko.. Tama po ba ginawa nila?ngpadala daw po sila sa bahay ng notice pero wala nman kmi nareceive?dapat ko pa sila bayaran kasi 20k lng amount ng credit limit ko and kung itotal lahat 28k na binayaran ko.. please help me po..

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  5. It’s nice to know all these information. Got myself a problem as well so hope you could help me.

    I had a credit card in Saudi back 2016 with an outstanding balance. I went home to the Philippines with my wife and 3 months old daughter for a vacation and we used the card to purchase some things for my baby. We were about to go back to Saudi after a month. However, we got some problems with our documents and, in addition, there were bombings everywhere. Worried about my family, we decided not to return. Now, after 2 years, some of my relatives are being PM’ed on FB by someone looking for me telling them that they will go here to where I am with the Barangay chairman and some police. I’m worried if they can really file a CRIMINAL case against me, or not.

    Since the credit card was issued outside the country, does the collection agency has the right to file charges against me? Not to mention that I did not apply for their credit card when I was working in Saudi. They just called me and told me that I was “pre-approved” for a credit card and that they will send it to where I was working.

    Hope you could help me with this and Thank you!

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  6. Hi, I though No one goes to jail because of debt but my My problem is I have a credit card debt and we already transfer house due to two reasons. First we were told by our landlord to leave cause their son will arrived from abroad and will stay where we were staying and second is we did not inform the bank so is this “Intend to defraud “?

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  7. Attorney tulungan nyo po ako sa problema ko may naiwan akong utang sa hongkong pinipilit ko pong hulugan khit paunti unti sa bangko na binigay nila sakin pindalhan nila ako ng letter magkakaroon parin ba ako ng kaso kasi yun lang ang kaya kong hulog salamat po

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  8. hi good day pwede ba sila mag charge ng attorneys fee kapag nag file sila ng civil case? nag email sila sakin ng final demand notice tapos lagpas sa credit limit ko yung amount na sinisingil nila sakin.. bakit ganun tapos if ever mag file sila ako pa magbabayad ng attorneys fee pwede po ba nila gawin yun?

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  9. its been a year that they send me demand letter now we were force to transfer house as it is but rental due to fooding area then if I won’t inform them but they hve my number then is that intent to defraud will I have to inform those bastard who harassed me that I am in a certain house

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  10. Hello i just want to ask kase po ung mga debt na naiwan sa card ko is sa sister in law ko. Nung umalis po ako ng bansa nagsend po ako ng authorization letter para ung sister in law ko makipagtransact ng kahit ano sa cards ko. Sa laki po ng utang nila at ung interest nalang po binabayaran at di na kasya sweldo nila nagstop po sila ng payment tuwi pong tatawag ang card siya po ang kumakausap inaako nya naman sa lahat ng tatawag na sya ung may utan* and nakikiusap sya na kung owede hulugan nalang ng walang interest at minimal lang. Pro ayaw pumayag ng card. Magiging under parin po ba sa case ko ung RA 8484?

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  11. Hi good day po. Ask ko lang po ano dapat gawin.. may naiwan akong utang sa bank 4months na hindi ako nakapagbayad kasi nagkasakit ako tapos na force resign ako kasi hindi na kya katawan ko so jobless po ako now.wala ako pambayad sa credit card ko po.sinisingil ako nang 30k bayaran ko daw agad para hindi na nila tuloy yung sobpoena.makukulong po ba ako?

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  12. I have a question as well. I received an email and it is regarding the same RA 8484. Since i have debts from Home Credit. It is a loan. They also mention “Criminal Case” and a threat saying that i will be arrested by Police or NBI on my residence or place of work. Please help.

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  13. They also threat me that it will be posted to the news paper. This is a kind of harassment, right?

    Thank you for your reply.

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  14. atty, kagaya ng nag post dito, isa din ako sa hindi nakakabayad ng credit card ko.. nag offer ng settlement pero hindi ko naman po kaya kasi short term lang ang offer nila. nakiusap ako na para makabayad dapat i long term nila. since ayaw nila pumayag hindi tuloy ako nakabayad. ngayon, nasa legal office na nila ang case ko. ano dapat kung gawin? kakasuhan na ba ako? kukunin na ba properties ko? (ex. house and lot) thanks a lot

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  15. Hi, I just want to ask if it still a valid law until now. Kasi na fraud po ako. I received a call using a CP and the caller said he is from the bank , ang sabi nya is may update daw sya and e wave yung annual fee , naniwala naman ako . I gave all the info . Then, I received a text from an online shopping a transaction code , sabi numng caller they will send a discount coupon , though nag alinlangan ako id fraud na sya naibigay ko parin yung code kasi nnag panic na ako . I called the bank and ask if may nag transact and nag report po ako to block ny CC . It was blocked but unfortunately na closed na yung transaction . I just want to ask if makukulong ba ako if I will not pay the amount na transact sa CC ko? sabi kasi nung banker or CS ng bangko babayaran ko po yun kasi na closed na yung deal and parang nag authorized na po ako sa caller to transact kasi i gave the code. But wala po akng ka alam alam na yun na pala yun fraud na kasi nag papakilala sila na they are from the bank , which nis based in Makati where the credit dept of the bank located . I file a dispute but takot po akng sa investigation nila lalabas pa na ako yung may sala . Sa totoo po wala po talaga akong kinalaman doon. Please po , biyan nyo po sana ng sagot zang mga tanong ko , kasi nag wory na po talaga ako and parang na trauma na rin po ako sa nangyari, until now po I dont what to do na . Thank you po.

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  16. Good pm po… want to seek your advise po sana … kasi nakareceive po ang husband ko ng call from my mother inlaws baranggay na tumawag daw po ang hepe ng imus dahil tinawagan daw po ni COL Serapin Retallo ng Camp Crame V at sinabi na nagfile daw po ng ESTAFA CASE sa akin si Atty Gregorio Ortega at anytime daw po ako pede akong damputin ng mga pulis. Admittedly may narereceive po akong mga demand letter from my credit card … napabayaan ko po kasi ilang buwan po akong walang trabaho at sunud sunod na pagkakaospital ng anak ko… nalipat po ako ng trabaho .. hindi ko man po nainform si Metrobank sa nilipatan ko… nakikipagcommunicate po ako thru email at ngayon po ay nagbabayad ako kahit 1000 monthly… alam ko po na kulang ang ibinabayad ko buwan buwan… pero gusto lang po iprove na willing akong magbayad.. almost 500thousand na po ngayun ang balanse ko… maaari po ba akong makulong dahil dito…

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  17. hi please help may CC akong di nabayaran tapos send me a letter daw for hearing at d daw ako dumating syempre d ko natanggap na may hearing or any notice…tapos may bench warrant daw na naissue kasi d ako dumating sa hearing tapos kinontak ko ang incharge na atty at sabi nya need to settle down pra mawala ang case filed ko under article 315 daw ang case…any advice kasi ung penalty ko is 74k din bumaba ng 46k need to pay daw ASAP until July 31..please enlighten me at ano ang gagawin

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  18. hi please help may CC akong di nabayaran tapos send me a letter daw for hearing at d daw ako dumating syempre d ko natanggap na may hearing or any notice…tapos may bench warrant daw na naissue kasi d ako dumating sa hearing tapos kinontak ko ang incharge na atty at sabi nya need to settle down pra mawala ang case filed ko under article 315 daw ang case…any advice kasi ung penalty ko is 74k din bumaba ng 46k need to pay daw ASAP until July 31..please enlighten me at ano ang gagawin ko d2…on call nalang ko atwalang stable job d ko kaya bayaran ang hiningi pwede daw 50% muna until July 31 kung d kaya ang full payment…isa pa wla akong nakitang papel or case no. tumawag lang ang barangay sa akin na meron bench warrant under article 315 daw…please po tulong

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