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If you miss your credit card payment by one day, you likely won’t experience end-of-the-world consequences — especially if you already have a demonstrated history of paying on time.
In the past, going weeks or months without paying would give rise to a number of consequences in addition to a late payment fee. However, there are steps you can take in order to minimize the potential repercussions that accompany missed payments.
While it’s best to pay your monthly payments on time and in full as much as possible, even the most organized cardholders can miss a payment. With that in mind, here’s what you need to know if you miss a credit card payment.
What are the consequences of missing credit card payments?
Other than higher interest rates, late fees and possibly facing a closed account, unpaid credit card bills and late payments may also negatively affect your credit score. Once all returns to normal, so will the consequences of missing payments (usually).
Here is what you can expect if you miss a credit card payment:
Your credit score will take a hit
Payment history makes up 35 percent of your FICO credit score, making it the single most important factor when determining your score. However, the type of impact you’ll see depends on how often you pay late and how severe or recent the missed payment is. Recent late payments impact your credit score more than older ones, and missing several payments over a short period of time can be more harmful than missing a single payment.
If you miss a payment by a few days and you manage to catch it on time (you’ll have up to 29 days), nothing will appear on your credit report. However, you will most likely still face late payment fees from your creditor. Once a late payment is at least 30 days late, the lender will typically report a missed payment to the credit bureaus, which has the potential to live on your credit report for up to seven years from the original delinquency date.
You will face late fees
If your credit card bill is 30 days past due, a late fee will be added to your minimum payment and any promotional APRs could be revoked. With most credit cards, you’ll typically face a fee of up to $40 for late payments, but be sure to check your card’s terms and conditions. Most credit card companies will increase the late fee charge for subsequent late payments, too. However, note that all Discover credit cards do not charge a late fee for the first late payment (after that, you’ll face a fee of up to $41).
Your interest rate may go up
In addition to a late fee, you may face a penalty APR, which often hovers around 29.99 percent. If you have a promotional APR, one late payment could cancel your promotional APR and your interest rates could balloon to the max amount, depending on your credit card agreement.
What to do if you miss a credit card payment
It’s not the end of the world if you miss a payment due date — there are steps you can take to get back on track. Let’s take a look at the most important steps to take when you miss a credit card payment:
If able, pay at least the minimum amount as soon as possible
If you’re able to pay off your late statement balance — or, at the very least, your minimum payment — it will be easier to avoid penalties or a ding to your credit score. Remember, credit card issuers won’t report a late payment to the credit bureaus until it is at least 30 days past due so it’s always better to submit a payment as soon as you can. If your finances are tight and you fear you aren’t able to make the minimum payment, call your credit card issuer immediately and communicate your needs as best as you can.
If you can’t make a payment, contact your credit card issuer
If you find yourself unable to make a payment (or payments), contact your credit card issuer. If your payment is late, you’ll still face penalties, but your issuer may be able to work with you or offer resources that can help you. Consider asking your creditor for a modified due date, reduced interest rate or payment plan (should you be experiencing long-term financial difficulty). Your issuer may or may not honor your request, but it never hurts to ask.
If able, aim not to miss another payment
Don’t fret too much if you miss a credit card payment for reasons that may be out of your control. Accidents happen. The best way to work toward ensuring you won’t miss another payment is by setting up payment notifications (via text or email) or automating your payments each month.
Most credit card issuers make setting up autopay easy. Simply log in to your account or call your issuer to set up your autopay preferences. Autopay can be set up for the minimum payment, the total statement balance or a fixed amount. If you don’t want to commit to automatic payments, you can set calendar reminders or else opt in to receive text or email reminders from your issuer for when your statement is available, due or posted.
Frequently asked questions
In the United States, you cannot go to jail for not paying your credit card bill. A creditor or debt collector should never threaten you with jail for not paying your bill.
Your credit card issuer will contact you if you neglect to pay your bills. If you don’t pay the amount that they request, your account will default, and your issuer will seek legal action against you.
Yes, your wages can be garnished for not paying credit card debt, but for this to happen, you must first be taken to court and a judgment must be filed against you. Then, a court order must be submitted directing your employer to deduct funds. This process takes a while to happen and occurs after your debt is charged off. By that time, you would have received notification the account was overdue and sold to collections. You would also get a notice of litigation and be given a chance to appeal. Once a judgment is granted to garnish wages, 25 percent of your disposable earnings can be garnished from your paycheck. Some states may differ in the amount that can be taken.
The bottom line
Letting credit card payments lapse will only damage your credit and add to an already increasing debt balance. Late fees and interest will grow the longer you wait to pay your credit card statement. If you forgot to pay a bill, or need help moving a due date, contact your issuer as soon as possible.
If you’re having trouble paying your credit card bills each month, there are other options to consider. One popular option is to transfer your balance to a credit card with a 0 percent intro APR for a limited time. Another option is to consider a debt consolidation loan. However, it’s worth noting that these methods typically require a good to excellent credit score.