A person sits on the floor holding fanned-out credit cards in their hand with scattered papers and a calculator in front of them.

What Happens If I Can’t Pay My Credit Card?

Last Updated: January 9, 2024
1 min read

Key points about: missed credit card payments

  1. A missed credit card payment can happen to anyone, but it’s helpful to know about the potential costs to your finances.

  2. A missed payment can result in late fees and increased interest rates, which cost you more money in the long run.

  3. A missed or late payment typically shows up on your credit report and may impact your credit score.

When you can’t pay a credit card, you could get hit with late fees, increased interest, and damage to your credit score.

If you feel like you can’t make a credit card payment, you should contact your credit card issuer right away. Your credit card company may be able to advise you on a payment plan or provide you with other helpful resources. If you do miss a payment, there are a few things you can do to help manage your credit card debt.

What happens if you miss credit card payments?

If you missed a credit card payment by one day, you may not see much change to your credit. However, the longer your bill goes unpaid, the more severe consequences you may face.

If you develop a history of missed or late credit card payments, you may seriously lower your credit score. After you regain control over your payments, you may want to take steps that could improve your credit score. A secured credit card can help you build credit with responsible use.1

Late fees and penalty APRs

When you don’t make the minimum payment by the payment due date, the first consequence is likely to be a late fee on your credit card bill. If you continue to miss payments on your next billing cycles, your late payment fee may increase. You should check the terms and conditions of your credit card to find out how much your late fee would be.

Missed payments could lead to more than just late fees, though. Depending on your credit card company, and how late your payment is, you may see an increase in your interest rate. If you miss multiple payments, your account could be sent to collections.

Reduced credit score

Even one late or missed payment may impact your credit report and credit score. Credit card issuers generally report your credit card activity every month to the major national credit bureaus (TransUnion, Experian®, and Equifax). Late or missed payments often don’t show up on your credit report for at least 30 days after the payment due date. Lenders use credit scores to determine the creditworthiness of an applicant before loaning them money. Your payment history is an important component of your credit score and missed payments may be harmful.

Missed payments can also impact your credit score in another way. When you miss a credit card payment, you may increase your credit utilization by accruing more interest without reducing your balance. Your credit utilization is another important factor in determining credit scores.


If you don’t make a monthly payment for six months it may result in a charge-off. A charge-off is when a lender or creditor has written your credit card account off as a loss, closes the account, and you’re no longer allowed to make charges on the account.

A charge-off may show up on your credit report and remain on the report for up to seven years. At this point, and sometimes even earlier, your account may be placed with a collection agency (also called a debt collector) or attorney, which means the collection activity on your debt will be from the collection agency or attorney and not from the card issuer. You’re still responsible for repaying the debt.

What can you do about a missed payment?

If you miss a credit card payment, your card issuer may send you overdue notices. These notices could be in the form of calls, emails, letters, and text messages. You should make a payment as soon as possible to try to lessen the impact on your credit score.

If you can’t pay your credit card, one of the best things to do is call your card issuer and explain the situation. Maybe you’re going through a tough time, such as a job loss or have some unexpected medical bills. Whatever the case, let your creditor know and they might be able to work with you on a repayment plan or offer other help.

How long do missed payments stay on your credit report?

Late payments can remain on a credit report for up to seven years. According to Experian, if the account is still open after seven years, the late payment is the only thing that’s removed.

What can you do if you can’t make the minimum payment?

To help get you back on track, here are some things you can do if you think you’ll miss a credit card payment.

See what expenses you can cut

If you can’t make your credit card payment, you should see what expenses you could cut out. Any money that you free up may help with paying the minimum amount due on your credit card.

Still, if you can manage to pay more than the minimum amount, you should. If you can repay the full balance, you’ll avoid getting interest charges on your account.

Go with autopay

Maybe you’re missing payments for a different reason. With all the bills you have to juggle, it can be easy to forget your payment due date.

You should check to see if your credit card issuer has automatic payments available. With autopay, your credit card company makes an automatic payment from your bank account to pay your credit card on the due date. The trick is to make sure you have enough money in your bank account to pay your credit card account each month.

Did you know?

Text and email alerts could help you stay on top of your credit card due dates. With Discover, you can also receive security alerts and notifications for exceeding payment limits that you set, all by text or email.

Consider moving your payment date

Maybe you want your credit card due date to align with when you get your paycheck from your job. If so, you can ask your card issuer to move your due date.

To move your due date, you should reach out to your credit card company as soon as possible. Sometimes you can change your credit card payment date yourself online or over your issuer’s mobile app.

Research credit relief programs

If you’ve just been laid off or had a medical emergency, you may not be able to make your minimum payment for a while. Luckily, your credit card company may be willing to work with you. Some credit card companies offer payment relief programs and other payment plans. You should discuss your situation with your credit card company to see if there’s an option for you.

Consider credit counseling

Credit counseling organizations help people learn ways to manage their money and expenses. A credit counselor might be able to offer personalized advice on how to handle credit cards and other forms of debt.

You should carefully research before choosing a credit counseling service to help with debt consolidation. You should be wary of any organization that promises that your debts will go away or that your credit will be improved quickly. Check your credit card statement for contact information for non-profit third-party credit counselors.

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  1. Build/Rebuild Credit History (Secured Card): Discover reports your credit history to the three major credit bureaus so it can help build/rebuild your credit if used responsibly. Late payments, delinquencies or other derogatory activity with your credit card accounts and loans may adversely impact your ability to build/rebuild credit.
  • Legal Disclaimer: This site is for educational purposes and is not a substitute for professional advice. The material on this site is not intended to provide legal, investment, or financial advice and does not indicate the availability of any Discover product or service. It does not guarantee that Discover offers or endorses a product or service. For specific advice about your unique circumstances, you may wish to consult a qualified professional.