If you use credit cards, you’re going to receive credit card bills and will need to know how to pay them.
Should you make online credit card payments, or pay by phone? Is it possible to visit an ATM and pay a credit card bill with cash? Can you pay a credit card bill with another credit card?
A lot of people make online credit card payments every month; many also automate their credit card payments to make the process even easier. But not everyone knows that there are strategies you can use to pay off your balances more quickly, save on interest and improve your credit score.
Let’s take a look at how to pay your credit card, when you should pay your credit card bill and how you can choose the best credit card payment options for your long-term financial goals.
When should I pay my credit card bill?
When is the best time to pay off your credit card? You have two good options: On-time or early—late is never a good option.
Why you should pay your credit card bill on time
Your credit card payment history makes up 35 percent of your FICO credit score, which means that regular on-time payments are an essential part of building good credit. Missing a payment or making a late payment is not only bad for your credit score, but it can also cost you—if you don’t make your payments on time, your credit card issuer might charge late payment fees or raise your interest rates to the penalty APR level.
On the other hand, you might not have to pay any interest on your purchases if you pay off your credit card statement balance every month. Most major credit cards offer a 21-day grace period before charging interest on new purchases, as long as you pay your statement balance in full and on time, every time.
Why you should pay your credit card bill early
Believe it or not, you can save money and improve your credit score by paying off your credit card bill early. If you’re carrying a balance on your credit card, making early payments against that balance will reduce your monthly interest charges—which means that early payments might not only save you money this month but also reduce the amount of compound interest you pay over time.
Plus, lowering your balance can help you lower your credit utilization ratio. Credit utilization makes up 30 percent of your FICO credit score, which means that every time you make a payment against your credit card (you can make multiple payments every month if you want to), you might give your credit score a boost.
How can I pay my credit card bill?
There are many ways to make a credit card payment. Many people make online payments on their credit cards, during which money is transferred from a bank account to a credit card account. If your credit card issuer offers mobile banking, you can also make payments through your credit card app. Online payments are easy to make and even easier to automate, which is why they’ve become so popular.
If you want to make a credit card payment over the phone, call the number on the back of your credit card. Before you make the call, make sure you have the bank account number of the checking or savings account from which you’d like to have the payment deducted. You can even mail your credit card issuer a paper check—just follow the instructions on your credit card statement.
What about paying a credit card bill with cash? Although some credit card issuers still accept cash payments deposited in a bank branch or at an ATM, other issuers have started to restrict or eliminate the cash payment option. Check your credit card issuer’s guidelines before attempting to pay your bill with cash.
Some people wonder whether it’s possible to pay a credit card with another credit card. While it is technically possible to take out a cash advance on one credit card and use that cash to pay another credit card, this is rarely a good idea. Cash advances can be extremely expensive since they come with both cash advance fees and high interest rates. Plus, any cash you take from a credit card becomes new debt—and if you can’t pay off your credit card without borrowing from another credit card, it’s time to take a serious look into debt management options.
Should you carry a balance on your credit card?
Whenever possible, try to avoid carrying a balance on your credit card. Carrying a balance can cost you a lot of money; not only will you be charged interest on your outstanding balance, but that interest can also compound over time and contribute to your overall credit card debt.
Plus, carrying a balance means losing access to your credit card’s grace period. Most credit cards offer a 21-day interest-free grace period on purchases—but that grace period only applies if you pay your statement balance in full each month. If you can’t pay off your statement balance in full, you’ll be charged interest not only on your outstanding balance but also on all new purchases made with the card.
If you can’t pay your statement balance in full, try to pay off as much of your credit card balance as possible. If you only make the minimum payment on your credit card, it could take you a very long time to pay off your debts—especially if you’re stuck with high interest rates. Bankrate’s minimum payment calculator can show you just how much money that minimum payment will cost you, as well as how much you could save if you made a fixed payment every month.
When do you receive your credit card bill?
Every credit card issuer has a billing cycle that generally lasts between 20 and 45 days. You’ll receive your credit card statement at the end of your billing cycle, either by mail or electronically, depending on your preferences.
The Credit CARD Act of 2009 requires credit card issuers to give consumers at least 21 days between the date the statement is mailed or delivered and the date the payment is due. This gives you time to decide whether you want to make the required minimum payment, pay off your statement in full or make a partial payment against your balance.
Your credit card bill due date should be the same date every month, and you should expect to receive your credit card bill on or around the same date each month. It’s a good idea to keep track of when you can expect your credit card statement in the mail or your inbox. That way, you can give yourself enough time to review your statement, dispute any unfamiliar charges and make your payment.
Tips for paying a credit card bill
If you want to get even better at paying your credit card bill, here are some expert-level tips:
- Change your due date. Many credit card issuers make it very easy to change your credit card bill due date. You can move your due date so it coincides with payday, for example, or you can stagger your credit card due dates throughout the month so you don’t have to pay multiple credit card bills on the same day. Figure out a due date that works for you and your finances and request it.
- Set up automatic payments. If you want to make sure you pay your credit card bill on time every month, automatic payments are one of the best ways to get the job done. When you set up autopay, money is automatically withdrawn from your bank account to make your credit card payment, and you can decide whether to make the minimum payment, pay off your statement balance in full or pay a fixed amount every time.
- Make multiple payments. If you’re trying to pay down credit card debt, making extra credit card payments can help you whittle down your balances and lower your monthly interest charges. Since credit card interest compounds, each additional payment you make now could save you a lot of money later.
- Have a plan. The most important thing you can do in terms of paying off your credit cards is to have a plan. How much money are you going to put toward your credit card bills each month? How often are you going to make credit card payments? Should you use the snowball method or the avalanche method to help you pay down your debt? The more you plan ahead, the more likely you’ll be able to develop a strategy that will help you pay your bills on time (and, over time, pay off your credit card debt in full).