It’s getting easier to pay child support with a credit card

Paying by card is convenient for parents and more reliable for recipients

Kelly Dilworth
Personal finance writer
Specializing in new trends in credit

It's getting easier to pay child support with a credit card

Parents who owe child support no longer have to trek to a local clerk’s office or send a check via snail mail. 

A growing number of counties are trying to make child support payments easier and more convenient – and thus more reliable for recipients – by allowing parents to pay via card or mobile payment app or by visiting a nearby participating retailer. 

Many counties, for example, have long allowed parents to pay with a credit or debit card online or in person, rather than require them to pay with cash or through an employer. But others, such as Charleston County in South Carolina, have just started allowing credit and debit card charges for the first time. 

Charleston County officials are hoping that adding a new payment option will not only ease the burden on parents, but also cut down on delayed payments. “We’re hoping to increase collections by making payment more convenient,” said Charleston County Family Court Manager Dave McKeown in an interview with the Post and Courier. 

Paying by card can help your budget and your credit

It should also make it easier for parents who are having a hard time making ends meet continue to support their families. Late or nonexistent child support payments have long been a problem for many families, in part because some noncustodial parents struggle to pay their bills. 

By allowing parents to pay via credit card (and thus spread out their payments over time if they are short on cash), county officials are making it more likely that the parents will be able to meet their obligations – and protect their credit, too. 

Although missed credit card payments can wreck a person’s credit standing, so can late child support payments. For example, if the late payments are sent to collections, parents’ credit scores will take a major hit. 

Late payments could also deter lenders. By law, states are required to report late payments to credit reporting agencies (although, according to credit expert Barry Paperno, not all states actually follow through). Even though late child support payments aren’t factored into a credit score, lenders may still see them.  

See related: Behind on child support? 9 ways you could be made to pay

Ohio county sees surge in on-time child support payments

Making payments more convenient could also help push parents who may otherwise procrastinate or struggle to show up to an in-person payment center. The child support enforcement agency in Butler County, Ohio, for example, reported a surge in on-time payments after the county began accepting credit card payments over the phone. According to the county’s local newspaper, the Journal-News, payments increased more than 500 percent in the first three months of 2018. 

“This huge influx in over-the-phone payments is a testament to the desire by our customers to be able to pay their child support in the most simple, convenient and cost-effective way possible,” said Butler County’s Narka Gray in a Journal-News interview.

Previously, Butler County parents could only pay by card in person or charge their card online and pay a separate convenience fee, the Journal-News reported. 

More options to pay via mobile or with cash 

Other counties are exploring even higher tech options. Since 2016, Georgia parents have had access to a mobile app that allows parents to check in on their cases, track appointments and pay their child support through their phone. (The app is available through the Apple iTunes store and through Google Play.)

Parents who would rather pay with cash also have a growing set of options. For example, a number of participating retailers, such as 7-Eleven, CVS and Family Dollar, now accept child support payments that are routed through a service provider called “PayNearMe.”  

Not all counties accept credit card payments or offer PayNearMe options. If you owe child support and would like a more convenient way to pay, check with your child support office to see what’s available. 

Watch out for fees 

Be sure to read the terms before you pay child support with a card. Many counties that accept credit card payments, for example, charge a hefty convenience fee. You may decide it’s cheaper just to pay with cash or have your employer withhold your payments and send them to the child support office for you. 

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Updated: 02-19-2019