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Credit card autopay explained

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If you’re tired of having to remember to pay your credit card balance or minimum payment manually each month, consider inquiring about autopay options offered by your issuer.

Automatic payment options are offered on many billing platforms such as utilities, subscription services and memberships. Despite the prevalence of autopay in other industries, however, many consumers find autopay to be confusing when it comes to credit cards. Here’s what you need to know before enrolling in autopay with your credit card issuer.

What is autopay?

Automatic payments or “autopay” is a feature offered by most credit card issuers that allows you to have your balance or minimum payment automatically paid from a bank account when your statement is posted. You can set up autopay with your credit card issuer over the phone or online. The payment may come out of your bank account on the bill due date or your credit card issuer may allow you to choose another payment date. You can discontinue the feature at any time.

Who offers autopay?

Issuer Automatic payment options
Chase Enrollment available online, in the mobile app, over the phone at 1-800-935-9935 and in person at a local Chase branch
Discover Enrollment available online, through the mobile app or by calling customer service at 1-800-347-2683
Barclays Enrollment available online, through the mobile app or by calling customer service at 1-888-710-8756
American Express Enrollment in autopay available online, through the Amex app or by calling American Express customer service at 1-800-528-4800
Capital One Enrollment available online, through the mobile app or by calling customer service at 1-877-383-4802
Bank of America Enrollment available online or by calling customer service at 1-800-432-1000
Wells Fargo Enrollment available online, through the mobile app, over the phone at 1-800-869-3557 or in person at a Wells Fargo branch

Autopay options

If you decide to enroll in autopay with your issuer, you will be presented with three options: pay the minimum, pay the full balance or pay a fixed amount.

  1. Pay the minimum: Automatically paying your minimum can ensure that you aren’t hit with late fees if you forget to pay your bill on time. Minimum payments vary, with some issuers charging a flat rate, such as $25 a month, while others charge a certain percentage of your total balance. As with manual payments, only paying your minimum will cost you a lot in interest over time, so if you enroll in autopay at the minimum amount monthly, be sure you’re making supplementary payments often to avoid getting into long-term debt.
  2. Pay full balance: When it comes to credit cards, paying your monthly balance off in full is always the best practice. If you choose this option for autopay, be sure that your checking account has enough money at the time of the automatic withdrawal each month. If a payment posts to your account and you incur an overdraft, you could be hit with overdraft charges and a return payment fee from your issuer.
  3. Pay a fixed amount: This can be a good debt reduction strategy if you’re steadily working to pay off a large balance because you can tackle your debt with payments that work for your budget. However, keep in mind that paying anything less than your full balance results in added interest. If you’re worried about missing a payment, setting up autopay for a fixed monthly amount can offer you peace of mind.

The benefits of autopay

The most obvious benefit of setting up automatic payments is that it saves you from late fees and hits to your credit score that occur when you forget to pay your credit card bill.

When life gets hectic, it is easy for a payment deadline to slip through the cracks. If this happens, services like automatic payments offer backup to make sure you never miss a payment. Setting up automatic payments gives you the freedom to use your credit card and earn rewards without the hassle of remembering to pay your balance monthly.

Things to consider before enrolling in autopay

While autopay is certainly convenient, it may not be for everyone. Before enrolling in autopay, take note of your current financial health and decide if now is a good time to take your eye off your charges.

Autopay makes paying your bills a simple process, but it also means that you may spend less time monitoring your credit card statement and spending habits. It’s also important to monitor your account to watch for fraud or accidental overspending. When you set up autopay with your credit card, you also run the risk of an overdraft if you spend more than expected.

The bottom line

The value of autopay depends on how you use it. If you’re looking for extra protection against the added fees that come with forgetting to pay your balance, then autopay could be a great option for you. But, if you forget to check your credit card activity regularly, setting up autopay could lead to more problems down the road.

Autopay is a great way to ensure that you never forget a payment deadline, but it can’t replace the important practice of diligently monitoring your accounts and spending habits.

Written by
Meredith Hoffman
Credit Cards Reporter
Meredith Hoffman is a personal finance writer covering credit card news and advice at Bankrate. She is originally from Columbia, S.C., and received her bachelor's degree from the Univ. of North Carolina at Wilmington. Before joining Bankrate in October 2019, Meredith worked as the news editor of Wilmington’s local newspaper, The Seahawk.
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