|Credit card payment due date: You
may have a choice
If you're like a lot of people,
your monthly bills lack balance. They are weighted toward the beginning
or middle of the month, making it tough to scrape together enough
money to pay all the bills.
It's probably worst at the beginning
of the month, when you have a hefty mortgage or rent payment and
maybe a car payment and a credit card bill or two. Then, in the
middle of the month, your bills don't total nearly as much.
A balancing act
Why not move your bills around, so they're not so heavy one part
of the month and so light at another? Some issuers will allow you
to balance out your monthly payments by changing the due dates on
your credit cards. All you have to do is call the customer-service
number on the bill and ask.
Just make sure that you pay your bills on time
while the changes take effect. Don't expect this to be a quick fix
for a cash-flow crunch. It takes a billing cycle, and sometimes
two, before the date change takes effect. Meantime, you have to
observe your due dates before the change takes effect, or you'll
risk late-payment charges and possibly an unfriendly notation on
your credit report.
I know how this works firsthand because most
of my credit-card bills became due between the first and 15th of
the month. This made it hard to pay the bills because my mortgage
payment was due at the same time. After the mortgage payment took
a huge chunk out of the checkbook balance, I would have trouble
paying the credit card bills.
Different cards, different
I called two card issuers and got different results. MBNA, the issuer
of my MasterCard, allowed me to choose the payment due date no questions
asked. I pushed back the due date from the seventh to the 18th,
allowing me to pay the bill in the middle of the month, when my
only major bill was a car payment.
American Express, though, was inflexible. I
couldn't move the due date, but the customer-service representative
told me that Amex's due date is only a recommendation. As long as
the company receives payment before the next month's closing date,
it's not considered late. That gives customers almost a month-long
grace period -- enough time to pay when it's convenient to the cardholder.
If you carry a balance on your card, pushing
the due date back a few days could cost you a little more on your
next bill, because finance charges will continue to accrue. In other
words, if you push back your due date by 10 days, you might have
to pay 40 days' worth of finance charges on your next bill instead
of 30 days' worth.
But at least you might have enough in your checking
account to pay your credit card bill.