As far as I know, the direct object of pay (when meaning provide money for something) is who or what you want to pay.

However, I read the following sentence from a (supposedly) native speaker:

Can I pay my credit card?

From the context, it is clear that the writer did not want to pay for her/his credit bank, but with it.

Another example shows the use of transitive/intransitive forms with this verb.

I guess that using the transitive form in this context is acceptable. Yet, does it sounds informal, or can it be used in every situation?

EDIT: The sentence has been (possibly hastily) written in an email.

  • Nit: That's not the "previous" sentence, but the "following" sentence, since it comes after and not immediately before the current sentence. (Unless you're referring to the title, which still seems weird, since "previous" feels more immediate than that).
    – muru
    Commented May 17, 2019 at 7:50
  • @muru Oops. It corrected it. Thanks! Commented May 18, 2019 at 12:53

4 Answers 4


Weird. I would think they meant credit card bill but you say that’s not what they meant. Maybe my was a typo of by - “Can I pay by credit card?” This is the only way I could see them meaning they wanted to use their credit card to pay for something.

  • 11
    Or they accidentally the word "with" before "my". Commented May 15, 2019 at 19:44
  • 2
    @Accumulation I think you omitted the word omitted. I agree, Can I pay with my credit card? could have been the intended question too.
    – Mixolydian
    Commented May 16, 2019 at 11:39
  • 6
    Yes, I was being meta. Commented May 16, 2019 at 14:35

It doesn't sound correct.

  • Pay by credit card means pay the shop
  • Pay with my credit card means pay the shop
  • Pay my credit card bill means pay the bank
  • Pay my credit card might be understood as paying the bank, but is informal and not a standard usage

My guess is it was possibly misheard or a mistake on the part of the speaker/writer.

  • 7
    It is always the same problem with being a non-native speaker. You always assume that the (native) writer never make mistakes. Commented May 15, 2019 at 13:59
  • 1
    @unamourdeswann - Now you know better. :-)
    – J.R.
    Commented May 15, 2019 at 14:06
  • "Pay my credit card would be understood" Honestly, I disagree. As a native speaker, if somebody asked me "Can I pay my credit card?" I wouldn't understand and would ask them to clarify. Commented May 16, 2019 at 16:52
  • 3
    @DavidRicherby It's certainly non-standard. I was thinking of a sentence "I have no money: I can't pay the rent, I can't pay the electricity, I can't pay my credit card." -- which I think would be understood as pay the credit card bill. In a shop, I'd ask for clarification too. In many UK shops you can pay your credit card bill at the cash register, or pay for goods with one. I'll update to mark it as not clear.
    – jonathanjo
    Commented May 16, 2019 at 17:01
  • @jonathanjo I agree that your "I can't pay..." example clearly means pay the bill. Interesting example. Commented May 16, 2019 at 17:06

To add to Mixolydian's answer, they are probably using a swipe-style phone keyboard (you just run your fingers over the letters rather than typing each letter) and if so it would be very easy to get my instead of by.


"Can I pay credit card?" meaning "Can I pay with my credit card?" does sound incorrect to my (native English speaker) ear, but it's exactly the same construction as "Can I pay cash?"

I know I've heard the cash phrase for years, and probably used it a few times myself.

I can't say why cash sounds correct and credit card doesn't, but it may just come down to familiarity with a colloquialism, and the difference in words throwing off the familiarity. I'm stretching to come up with an example, but if a friend and I were at a bar and the friend appeared to be "unwell," if they said "Home" I would probably interpret it to be a request to take them home. If they said "Work" I'd probably ask "What about work?"

  • "Cash" is an abstract concept. "Credit card" is a physical object. "Can I pay coins" or "Can I pay notes" are the "exact" opposite of "Can I pay credit card," and those two sentences are not idiomatic English either.
    – alephzero
    Commented May 15, 2019 at 17:19
  • 1
    I might say "Can I pay credit?" but I wouldn't say "Can I pay credit card?"
    – barbecue
    Commented May 15, 2019 at 19:27
  • Cash is the thing you're giving in exchange for the thing being bought, so you are paying cash.Unless you're letting the other person have permanent possession of your credit card, you're not paying credit card. Commented May 15, 2019 at 19:48
  • @Acccumulation And then it would, IMO, be either "pay a credit card" or "pay credit cards". Commented May 16, 2019 at 0:46
  • 1
    @SolomonUcko Yes, "credit card" is a count noun, so the singular requires a determiner. In the original context, there's "my", which is a determiner. Commented May 16, 2019 at 14:36

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