The basic premise of a credit card is that the issuer gives you a line of credit for spending and you agree to pay at least the minimum payment on any balance you carry with them. Typically, your credit card statement will arrive a week or two after each billing cycle with all the charges you made during that period and the minimum amount due.

As long as you keep your account in good standing and make the appropriate payments, your credit line will remain open and usable. Even better than making the minimum payment is being able to pay off the full balance for each billing period. Let’s look at why paying your credit card bill on time is so important and how to take steps toward making that happen.

Why you should pay your bill on time

The biggest downside of not paying credit card bills on time is that you’ll have to pay interest and possibly late fees. A history of missed or late payments may even result in your account being closed, not to mention mounting credit card debt that can be hard to escape.

Late or missed payments can also have an impact on your credit, as payment history makes up 35 percent of your FICO credit score. This can lead to higher insurance premiums, difficulty getting approved for loans and credit cards (and higher interest rates if you are approved) as well as a number of other consequences.

The best way to help boost your payment history is to make on-time payments regularly. Also, whenever you pay off your credit card bill, your credit utilization goes down and that ratio accounts for another 30 percent of your FICO score.

What if you can’t pay your credit card bill on time?

If you’re worried you won’t be able to make a credit card payment on time, contact your credit card issuer. Your issuer may be able to help by offering a modified due date, reduced interest rate or payment plan. This type of assistance isn’t a guarantee, but asking for help can’t hurt and having open communication may lessen some penalties you might be facing. If you’re struggling financially due to the coronavirus pandemic, your issuer may offer special assistance programs.

If you don’t pay your bill on time, here is a general timeline of what you can expect to happen next.

If your payment is 30 days late

Once your credit card bill is 30 days past due, your issuer may:

If your payment is 60 days late

If you still haven’t made a payment after 60 days, your issuer may:

  • Charge additional late fees
  • Start charging a penalty APR
  • Report your missed payment to the credit bureaus

If your payment is 90+ days late

As time goes on, your issuer will probably:

Should you pay your credit card bill early?

If you’re used to playing by the rules, you may be wondering if it is bad to pay off your credit card early. Paying your credit card bill early is a great way to make sure you don’t accidentally forget to pay on time. Life happens and we get busy, so paying your credit card bill early can give you some added peace of mind that missing a payment won’t happen. Whether you want to pay on-time or early is up to you, but paying late is never a good path forward.

That said, there are some extra benefits associated with paying off your credit card early. If you are carrying a balance on your credit card, making an early payment—even if it’s not the whole amount owed—can help reduce the amount of compound interest that you’ll need to pay over time.

Can you pay multiple times per month?

You can make multiple credit card payments each month and doing so might give your credit score a boost since it can lower your credit utilization rate.

Some consumers like to pay off their credit card bills right away after every purchase they make if they’re using the card only to rack up points and rewards or if they want to build their credit. This may be a habit that works well for you if you’re not relying on the credit to make a purchase and pay it off over time.

How to pay your credit card bill on time

If you’re looking to ensure that you always pay your credit card bill on time, here are a few strategies to make it a little easier:

Change your due date

In some cases, you can choose when to pay your credit card. Plenty of credit card issuers allow you to change the day your credit card bill is due so you can pick a date that is convenient for you. For example, you may want to change your due date so that it lines up with your payday or so it doesn’t conflict with other bill due dates.

Set up automatic payments

One way to know that your credit card bill is certain to get paid on time each month is to set up automatic payments. After you set up automatic payments, funds will be withdrawn from your bank account automatically when your bill is due so that your credit card payment is made. You can choose whether you want to pay the full amount due, the minimum amount due, or a fixed amount. Just keep in mind that you’ll need to make sure there’s enough in your bank account to cover the automatic payment.

Make payments throughout the month

To speed up paying off big credit card payments and to lower your balance and monthly interest charges, you can make extra credit card payments each month. Credit card interest compounds, which means that making additional payments now can lead to a lot of saved money down the road.

Budget for payments

To make sure you have enough money to pay your credit card bill, it’s important to have a budget that takes these payments into account. Sit down and think about how much money you can put toward your credit card bills every month and how often you want to make credit card payments. Use Bankrate’s credit card payoff calculator to see how different payment amounts will affect your debt and how much money you might save in interest. Planning ahead and having a strategy in place can make it easier to pay credit card bills on time.