It’s the 15th of the month. You just realized you didn’t make your credit card payment, which was due on the 12th. Or maybe you're checking your billing statement and find that a late fee has been assessed for a payment you thought you made; however, it turns out that you forgot to drop the check in the mail. An accidentally missed payment can happen to anyone. Even if you've been diligent about paying your bills on time in the past, changes to your normal routine can cause a slip up. Act quickly, and you may be able to lessen the damage to your credit and your wallet.
Make the Payment as Soon as You Can
If you're only a few days late, you can typically avoid a late payment on your credit report as long as you make at least the minimum payment before the next billing cycle starts. Since creditors usually report delinquent payments at the 30-day mark, making your payment before it's 30 days past due can save you from a seven-year blemish on your credit report and damage to your credit score.
Late payments stay on your credit report for seven years. The damage to your credit score will lessen over time, but the negative mark will follow you around for years.
Call and Ask for Leniency
If you were late for the first time on your Discover it or your Citi Double Cash card, your late fee is automatically waived as a perk of these cards. For any other credit card, you'll likely see the late fee applied almost immediately after the missed payment. Late fees can only be as high as your minimum payment or $28, assuming you haven’t been late in the previous six months. Despite a cap on late fees, you should avoid paying a fee if you can.
Your creditors may agree to waive the fee provided you’re not habitually late on payments. Contact your creditor, briefly explain why the payment was late, and ask that they waive the late fee. If the creditor denies your request, take it as a lesson learned, pay the fee, and be sure send your payment on time for future payments.
Timely payments become more important after the first missed payment. A second late payment in a six-month period can set you back by as much as $40.
Can You Protect Your Interest Rate?
Fortunately, you don’t have to worry about an interest rate hike after being a few days late on one payment unless you have a promotional rate. Credit card law specifies that creditors can’t impose a penalty rate increase unless you’re at least 60 days delinquent on your payment.
The bad news, however, is that missing a payment (despite the reason or degree of lateness) could cause you to forfeit any promotional rate. A creditor who’s willing to waive a late fee might not be as forgiving when it comes to your promotional rate.
Remember When Your Bills Are Due
If the accidentally missed payment was an isolated event, odds are that you have a good system for remembering your due dates. On the other hand, if you notice that you’re forgetting payments often, you need to develop a system of reminders. For example, a monthly bill payment calendar that lists the due dates & minimum payments for all your accounts might help you.
You can set up reminders in your email or calendaring system (e.g., Microsoft Outlook or Gmail). If you rely on your cell phone, use your phone’s calendar or a third-party app to send reminders for your bill due dates.
Send an email to FollowUpThen.com to get an email reminder to make your payment (e.g., Every5th@followupthen.com); don’t include any specific personal information, and set the reminder a few days before your payment is due. Send the email from an address that is linked to your phone so you can receive notification alerts.
Finally, you can set up an automatic payment through your bank’s online bill pay to eliminate missed payments. Just make sure the payment is set for at least the minimum amount due and before the due date, or you’ll be hit with a late fee. Also, be sure that you have enough money in your account to cover the payment to avoid paying an overdraft, insufficient funds, or returned check fee.
If your payment date conflicts with other billing due dates or your pay schedule, you can pay earlier or contact your credit card issuer to change your due date to a more convenient time of the month.