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What Happens If My Credit Card Payment Is Late?

Last Updated: November 25, 2021
5 min read

When a credit card is past due, it means that you’ve failed to pay your card’s minimum payment due amount by its due date. Late payments can come with certain consequences, including late fees, interest accrued on the credit card balance and potential negative impacts to your credit score. However, there are a number of ways to avoid missing your due date in the first place and things you can do if you have missed a payment. Make sure you understand what happens when you miss a credit card payment, and that you’re well-versed on how to use your credit card responsibly.

1. What happens when you miss a payment

When a credit card is past due, the potential penalties range from increased interest rates, to late fees, to credit score impacts. Therein lies the importance of making sure you pay your card on time every month.

  • Late fee: If you missed a payment, you may see a late fee added to your balance. This fee can range in amount so check your credit card agreement to learn how much a late payment will cost you.
  • Penalty APR: Credit cards come with either a fixed Annual Percentage Rate (APR) or a variable APR—and either type can adjust to a higher APR if you miss a payment, though some cards don’t use a penalty APR. If your credit card company does increase your APR if you’ve missed a payment, it means that interest will accumulate on the revolving balance at a higher rate. This all depends on what terms are associated with your credit card, and not all creditors will change your APR for paying late. Be sure to check your terms and conditions and make sure you understand the details.
  • Credit score impact: Your credit score may also be affected if your credit card is past due. On-time monthly payments are one important component of credit scores, so when payments are reported as late from your credit card to the credit bureaus, that can have a negative impact on your overall score. Your credit score is used by credit card companies, banks, and other lenders to determine your creditworthiness, therefore if you want to apply for loans or credit cards in the future, a strong credit score can be crucial.

If your due date has passed, still do your best to make the payment as soon as possible. Some cards provide a grace period before a late charge is assessed. Also, a missed payment may be recorded on your credit report, and could remain there for up to seven years.

Your card’s terms and conditions outline all of the associated consequences of missing your due date — and they’ll vary for every card. You can always double-check this information if you’re ever unsure of late payment repercussions.

2. How to avoid missing your payment

There are a number of tools available that make paying your credit card on time a breeze.

  • Know Your Due Date: Your due date on a given card is usually the same date every month. Knowing that date is the first step to avoiding missed payments. Your credit card’s due date can be found on your statement. Alternatively, you can always log on to your issuer’s online account center and find your statement due date there.
  • Payment Alerts: Most credit cards allow customers to opt in to receive text or email alerts for when the payment is due. Odds are you regularly check your phone and email, so you’ll at least know that a payment due date is coming up. Actually making the payment is still your responsibility.
  • Automated Payments: Setting up automated payments means never having to think about your due date. This option can help you avoid ever missing a payment — assuming the associated bank account always has enough cash to cover the payment. Pulling automated payments from an account that can’t cover payment can actually put you in a worse situation than where you started, though. (Imagine: your credit card is past due and you’re being charged an overdraft fee by the bank.) That’s why it’s important — if you decide to use automated payments — to make sure your bank account can always cover your bill.

3. Focus on smart spending

Sometimes missing a credit card payment isn’t because you forgot the date – it could be due to struggles with paying that bill. Perhaps you have a few bills around the same date and your paycheck comes afterward, or you’ve had some larger purchases come up. One frequently cited tip is to spend what you can afford to pay back each month in order to avoid building up debt month-to-month, but it bears repeating.

A helpful place to start is deciding whether a budget can help you, plus getting a quick refresher on discretionary purchases (luxuries that you want) versus necessary costs (your basic needs). While this isn’t a fun task, try being brutally honest about needs: housing, transportation, and food are among them. Many other purchases might fall into the discretionary category, instead. Cutting back may not have to last forever – just until you get back on track and feel able to charge what you can pay back each month.

Either way, this isn’t the end of the road. The best approach is to contact your credit card customer service team to discuss it, and they may be able to offer a payment program that can fit into your financial situation.

By knowing your credit card’s due date, and arranging to make your payments on time every time, and knowing when to reach out to your credit card company, you can avoid the negative effects of a late credit card payment.

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