Are you worried because you’re late paying your credit card bill? A late payment starts the process of credit card delinquency, but the good news is that you have options to fix this problem and potentially minimize the negative impact to your credit history as a result of missed payments.

Getting caught up on payments as soon as possible is the best way to get your account back in good standing and keep a healthy credit history. If you’re a Discover Cardmember, what you may not realize is that if you call us to discuss your situation, we might be able to offer assistance so you can get back on track.

In fact, if you get your account current within 30 days of your first missed payment, that late payment should not even show up on your credit report.

But if you don’t get caught up on payments and your credit card goes delinquent, you could face late fees, credit card suspension, account closure, and eventually the account being charged off as a bad debt.

Credit Card Suspension

When your credit card gets suspended, it simply means that your card issuer has stopped charging privileges on the card, but there are different kinds of suspension to be aware of.

A suspended account is not closed, but the card will be declined if you try to use it to pay for a purchase online or at a store, says nationally recognized credit expert John Ulzheimer. The credit card issuer suspends a delinquent account to help keep the total owed in check, according to Ulzheimer. “There’s no point in letting the consumer go deeper and deeper into debt,” he says.

When does a credit card get suspended?

Again, there are different kinds of suspension that can happen at different times, and you may hear the term “suspension” be used interchangeably for these situations. For instance, a creditor may “stop” or “pause” purchase authorization, such as when a cardholder has reported the card as lost or stolen, and this is not necessarily dependent upon being past-due. Early in delinquency — perhaps in the first few days or months — the creditor can stop authorizing purchases to go through if you try to use your card. Later in delinquency — usually when you’re 3-4 months late — your creditor may suspend your account and certain actions are required to reverse the suspension. This may include making the full minimum payment in order to bring the account current again, and the creditor conducting a regular, systematic review of the account before it can be unsuspended.

How does card suspension affect your credit?

A card suspension isn’t considered a negative on its own, but it may lower your FICO® Score when paired with other negatives such as late payments, says Can Arkali, principal scientist of analytics and scores development at FICO.

Your payment history makes up 35 percent of your FICO® Score, so late payments may have a negative impact. “Payment history is one of the most important drivers of the FICO® Score,” Arkali says.

What can you do if your credit card account has been suspended?

The best way to get your account back in good standing and minimize some of the negative impact to your credit is to pay the required minimum payment plus the late fee, according to Ulzheimer. “You have to live up to your end of the obligation,” he says.

But what if you simply can’t pay? A cardmember who is going through a financial hardship such as a job loss and lacks the funds to pay the required amount might be able to get back on track by contacting the credit card issuer. In doing so, you can find out if you’re eligible for customized repayment options. Another option is to work with a nonprofit credit counselor, who might be able to draw up a debt management plan that could include lower payments and reduced interest. Keep in mind, these are typically programs that your credit counselor communicates with your creditor, and it must be agreed upon by you and your creditor.

Credit Card Revocation

If more time passes and you still haven’t made acceptable payments towards your past due balance or worked out a payment arrangement, the card issuer may revoke your credit card. “Revocation is a fancy way of saying your card has been closed,” Ulzheimer says.

If your credit card gets revoked, you’ll never be able to use the card again, even if you immediately pay your balance in full. So it’s best to avoid revocation by dealing with delinquency sooner rather than later.

When does a credit card get revoked?

The time frame can vary by credit card issuer, but it generally happens after four to five months of missed payments.

How does card revocation affect your credit?

Having a card revoked can negatively affect your credit utilization ratio, which is the percent of available credit you’re using. For example, if you have $4,000 in available credit on two cards and you owe a total of $1,000, your credit utilization ratio is 25 percent. The lower your utilization ratio, the better. If an account is revoked, that line of credit no longer counts as available credit, Arkali says. “That can increase your utilization ratio,” he says. Your credit utilization ratio is a key piece of how your credit score is calculated. “Amount owed” makes up about 30% of the score, so using up too much of your available credit can have a negative impact.

Even if your card has been revoked, you still have options. At any point, you can always reach out to your creditor to discuss repayment options or seek the help of a nonprofit credit counselor.

Credit Card Charge Off

One of the final states in delinquency is called a credit card charge off. By the time an account gets charged off, the account typically has been in delinquency for about six to seven months without acceptable payments that bring the account current.

A credit card charge off means that the credit card issuer has changed the way it categorizes the debt, from an asset to a loss. However, that does not mean that the creditor will stop trying to collect the amount due. The cardmember still owes the debt and is still expected to pay it back in full.

A charge off will be reported to the major credit bureaus and will stay on your credit report for up to seven years. The resulting drop in your FICO® Score depends on many factors, but it could go down by 100 points or more, Arkali says. “Charge offs are considered severely negative events.”

Bottom Line

It’s best to do whatever you can to avoid letting your credit card account get to the later stages of delinquency. By contacting your creditor and seeking help when necessary, you can get through a delinquency, repay your debt and keep negative impacts to your credit score to a minimum.

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