During times of financial uncertainty, it’s natural to want to maintain control of as much of your money as possible. But mistakes happen. You could hit the wrong key while paying your credit card balances online, or mistakenly make a check out for an incorrect sum.

Even after enabling automatic payments, you could end up overpaying—if you decide to pay off your balance manually before your scheduled automatic payment, for example, or your payment posts before you receive a refund from a merchant.

Overpayment happens. Paying more than what’s due on your credit card bills won’t negatively affect your account, and you won’t lose the money. But there are a few things that could go wrong if you overpay. Here are a few and what you can do to get your money returned.

Your overpayment may be considered fraud

Overpaying your credit card bill by a small sum will often result in a negative balance on your account. However, overpaying by a significant amount may be a fraud trigger for your issuer.

Sometimes overpayment of large sums can be the result of mistakenly adding an extra zero to your payment. But it is also a potential sign of refund fraud or even money laundering. Overpaying by a large amount may cause your issuer to freeze your account while investigating the issue or even closing your account altogether.

You can generally resolve an overpayment issue by calling your issuer and explaining the mistake. Once you verify your identity as the primary cardholder and explain the error, your card should be reactivated or your account restored.

Overpayment myths

If you’ve overpaid your bill by a small amount, you shouldn’t see any negative effects on your account. But you shouldn’t expect a credit boost, either.

Overpaying your bill won’t make up for any past missed or late payments, and it won’t increase your credit score or your credit limit. When you overpay, any amount over the balance due will show up as a negative balance on your account. Negative balances are simply reported as zero balances on your credit report and will not affect your credit utilization.

You also won’t earn interest on your negative balance. Interest applies only to balances you owe. And while overpaying may lead to a credit on your account, this credit doesn’t signify a permanent change in your credit limit. Once you spend the negative balance, your available credit will return to its standard limit.

Steps you can take after overpaying your credit card

Overpaying on your credit account isn’t a good thing or a bad thing. The simplest solution is to simply spend normally and allow the credit to roll over towards next month’s charges. Here are each of the steps you may consider.

Leave the negative balance to roll over next month

Generally, your overpayment will appear as a credit in the form of a negative balance on your account.

This negative balance will roll over towards any new charges you make or outstanding balances for the next month. If you don’t use the negative balance within six months, your creditor has a legal obligation to try to issue a refund. But if your card issuer can’t contact you because you’ve moved or changed your phone number, you may not receive that refund.

But if you continue making purchases with your card like normal, your overpayment should be resolved without any further action.

Request a refund

If you would prefer to have your money returned by your issuer, you can make a written request for a refund. Some issuers also allow refund requests by phone or through your online account.

It’s important to note that it is up to the issuer’s discretion how they would like to respond when you request a refund. Contact your issuer and try requesting a refund for the amount paid over the minimum due. Credit card issuers make a profit when you run a balance, and that balance accrues interest, so it may be a win-win.

Federal regulation requires creditors to follow up within seven business days of receiving the request. Your refund may come in the form of cash, check, money order or direct deposit to a registered bank account. Take note of when you should expect your refund, and follow up with your issuer if you don’t receive it by that date, to ensure the refund was processed correctly.

Set up autopay

One way to avoid overpaying in the future is by enabling autopay on your credit card bill. This feature will set up an automatic payment from an account of your choice to pay your bill.

You can set the autopay to pay the minimum payment, pay the bill in full or pay a fixed amount, You may also determine the date you’d like the payment to process each month. Log into your online account or mobile app to see your card’s specific autopay options.

Also, remember to check your account balance and payment schedule regularly. Staying aware of your account activity can help you avoid overpaying, if you plan to make an extra payment during a billing cycle and reduce the risk of late or missed payments.

How to avoid overpayments

Credit card overpayments can be more of a hassle than anything else because they may disrupt your cash flow for a period of time. However, keep a few things in mind when you’re going through your bills for the month in order to stay organized, such as the following:

  • When you sign-up for autopay, sign up for alerts so that you are notified when the due date is approaching. This simple step can help you avoid accidentally paying your credit card bill twice.
  • Double-check any pending transactions so you aren’t overlooking any recent transactions.
  • If you do find yourself in a situation where you overpaid your minimum balance, try to catch it while your payment is still pending so you can work with your issuer on the possibility of canceling the payment before it processes.

The bottom line

Overpayments happen, so don’t panic. You have options. Whether you decide to spend down the negative credit balance or request a refund, overpaying your credit card balance and carrying a negative balance won’t hurt your credit score—and it won’t help it either.