How many bills do you get every month? And they’re all easy to read and keep track of, right? That’s what I thought.
It can happen to anyone: Missing a credit card payment. A survey found that about 16% of Americans expect to miss a payment every year. If you’re one of those, either by an overlooked bill or overspending, there are steps you can take to fix it.
"It is better that you should not vow than that you should vow and not pay." Ecclesiastes 5:5 ESV
If you have the money to make the full payment
Pay it off
Make the payment in full, right away. The quicker the better on this. If your payment is received before it is 30 days past due, it will be better for your credit score. According to Experian, one of the credit reporting agencies, if your payment is received before 30 days have lapsed your credit score will not be damaged.
Call your credit card company
Ask about any late fees or penalties for the late payment. Kindly ask for these to be waived given your swift action to fix the situation. It’s more likely for a fee to be waived on a first offense than repeat occurrences. There are some cards that will automatically waive late fees associated with your first time making a late payment. Call anyway to do what you can to avoid this and make sure your account reflects a paid off balance. A survey found that 9 out of 10 people that tried to get a late fee waived were successful.
If you don’t have the money to make the full payment
Make a payment
Pay at least the minimum and more if you can. This is key to minimizing the damage to your credit score and the interest you may have to pay. Remember, credit card balances carry some of the highest interest of any debt you can have. Make a plan to pay this off as quickly as you can.
Call your credit card company
If you are unable to pay the full balance, you need to ask about two things: late fees and interest charges. Explain the good faith steps you are taking and ask what they can do to help. In some cases, your quick action may get you a break on the fees and perhaps some interest. It costs nothing to ask. If your balance is beyond what you think you can pay back soon, ask the company about your options. They may have a payment plan option they can set up for you.
As a reminder, if you’re not able to pay off the balance, don’t add anything else to the card. The first step to climbing out of a hole is to stop digging it deeper.
How to avoid missing a payment
Keep track of your spending
Over the course of the month, keep track of what you spend on your card. It doesn’t matter if this is in an app on your phone or a notebook in your back pocket. The key is being on top of this.
Autopay is your friend
Credit card issuers give the option to link your checking account. This saves you from having to manually do this each month and potentially miss a payment again. Most bill pay providers also let you set this up as an automatic option.
Notifications and reminders
You probably don’t want more notifications or texts from companies. If it’s the difference between you making a payment and not, then set it up anyway to keep this top of mind.
Companies that make hammers believe that everyone needs nails.
Consider closing the card
Companies that make hammers believe that everyone needs nails. Companies that offer credit cards believe everyone needs a plastic card. Neither of these is true. Some people, for a host of reasons, just shouldn’t have credit cards. It’s worth talking over with your spouse to see if your household might be better off without one.
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