smart spending

It pays to get ahead of late fees

Know the rules, grace periods and due dates
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Know the rules, grace periods and due dates

Due dates for all your monthly expenses are clearly printed on your bills and statements, but they can change. Under the Credit Card Act, a credit card company must send you a notice 45 days before they can change fees, rates or other terms, but other bill issuers and monthly expenses are not bound by those rules. While the Credit Card Act extended the grace period to 21 full days (from 14 days), the grace periods for other companies and service providers vary. Knowing this information for each of your creditors can save you late fees.

"The consumer who is going to win against late fees is one who notes due dates on a calendar and works toward setting a shadow date to pay recurring bills a month early in advance," says Ulzheimer.

If you're desperate, making a phone payment, paying in person or paying online (note any lead times for posting) by the end of the grace period can help because the consequences of convenience fees (typically up to $15) are much less than the consequences of the late payment and late fees (typically $25-$39 and up).


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