If you're facing arrest and want to arrange for bail as soon as possible, you may think that it's better to be able to take care of it yourself instead of having a friend or family member get you a bail bond. Many jails are now accepting credit cards, and some will allow officers to bring you to an ATM to get cash if that's the only way to get the money (bail isn't always super high and often can be charged on the average credit card). However, posting bail yourself can be tricky, and there are a few bumps in the road that can stop your bail attempt. If you're really in a hurry to get out, bail bonds are a great alternative.
It seems strange, but poor credit -- even if it's due to something like medical debt or something that happened long ago -- can affect your ability to post your own bail. For jails that don't offer credit card payments, the court might want proof that you have the reserves or property to take care of the bail, but they might also look at your credit and how new you are in town. If you have poor credit or other factors against you, you may have to contact someone to help you get a bail bond.
The Card System Doesn't Always Work
For jails that do allow credit card payments, keep in mind those networks aren't specially built for the court, with amazing connectivity. They're still subject to the regular outages and problems that any credit card network or terminal can have. If the card system is down, you may have to sit in a cell until it's back up. Contacting a bail bond company right away to see if you can pay for a bond instead can solve that problem.
Fees Vs. Credit Limits
Another issue is that you might have enough room on the card for the bail but not enough for the fee that is charged along with it. That is a very frustrating situation and one in which you may want to have a bail bond company help you out. With bonds, you pay a percentage of the actual bail, lowering the amount that ends up on your card and lowering the amount you have to part with overall.
Once you find out what your bail is, you could try asking the court to try the credit card route. But if you want a sure way to get out fast without worrying about your limits or whether the card system will work, call a bail bond company instead. Most courts are surrounded by these, so arranging for a bond shouldn't take long.