Does Posting Bail Affect Your Credit?

An interesting reason some people give for refusing to bail friends or family out of jail is they're afraid doing so will affect their credit. Seeing as the process involves money and contracts, their concern is understandable. Generally, posting bail for someone has no impact on your credit score, but here are two instances when it can.

Your Account Goes to Collections 

Most people use bondsman services to bail their loved ones out of jail. It's cheaper because you only have to pay a non-refundable fee for the service, which is usually a fraction of the bail amount required by the court. Since you must pay the full fee upfront, these companies don't do credit checks to establish the account, so there is no impact on your score.

However, your credit may get dinged if you owe them money and do not pay. This can happen if the defendant's bail is forfeited because they failed to show up for court. To recover the money they lost covering the defendant's bail, the bondsman will try to collect the amount from the person who signed the contract. If that person refuses to pay, the account will usually be sent to collections, which will be reported to the credit bureaus.

To avoid this outcome, it's important you make sure the defendant shows up for their trial dates. If the person does jump bail, do everything you can to help the bondsman locate the individual. Sometimes the court will cancel a bail forfeiture if the defendant is found and taken into custody within a certain period of time. You'll avoid being on the hook for the money, which will save your wallet and your credit score.

You Use Loan Products to Pay the Fee

As noted previously, the fee bail bond companies charge is usually only a small fraction of the total bail amount (around 10 to 20 percent). Even that can be unaffordable if bail is set high enough. For instance, a $50,000 bail would require you to pay the bondsman at least $5,000 to get the defendant released.

Most people don't have that kind of cash on hand, so it's not unusual for them to use a credit card or take out a loan to pay the fee. Not only will your credit get dinged when the lender checks your score to see if you qualify, but they will report your payment history to the credit bureaus until the loan is paid off.

You want to make sure, then, that your budget can fit the monthly payments, so you don't end up defaulting on the loan and damaging your credit. If you'd rather not use loan products, ask the bondsman if they would be willing to take payments for the fee. Just be certain to pay as agreed to avoid landing in collections.

Contact a local bondsman or visit a site like to learn more.