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What happens if you miss a credit card payment?

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Slipups happen and if you miss your credit card payment by one day, you most 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. It is always best to pay your monthly payments on time and in full, but even the most organized cardholder’s can miss a payment. With that in mind, here is what you need to know if you miss a credit card payment.

What happens when you don’t pay your credit card

Once all returns to normal, so will the consequences of missing payments.

Other than ushering in higher interest rates, late fees and the potential of a closed account, unpaid credit card bills and late payments negatively affect your credit score (in turn affecting your future approval chances). 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 credit score. However, a few factors play a role in overall impact, including how often you pay late, and how severe or recent it is.

If you miss a payment by a few days and you manage to catch it on time (you 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 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.

It’s crucial that you do your best to pay your credit card bills on time, if you don’t want to be haunted by a late payment for the next seven years. Keep in mind: 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.

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. Late fees can average between $25 and $37 (and that’s just for your first late payment). Most credit card companies will increase the late fee charge for subsequent late payments. For example, Citibank’s late fee goes from $29 to $40 for any subsequent late payment within the next six billing periods for some of its cards.

Your interest rate may go up

In addition to the late fee, your current interest rate will be applied to your balance. Depending on your credit card agreement, one late payment could cancel your promotional APR and your interest rates could balloon to the max amount. For some, this could mean interest would apply to the entire balance retroactive to the date of purchase.

What to do if you miss a credit card payment

It is not the end of the world if you miss a payment due date because at the end of the day, 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:

Contact your credit card issuer

If you find yourself unable to make payments, contact your credit card issuer. If your payment is late, you’ll still incur fees, interest and penalties, but your issuer may be able to work with you or extend resources that can help your situation. It’s better to ask for help than not communicate at all. 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 about resources that may help.

Pay the minimum amount as soon as possible

If you are in the position to pay off your late statement balance, or at the very least your minimum payment, the easier it will be to avoid late charges, interest fees 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 is 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 you can.

Aim to not miss another payment

Don’t fret too much if you miss your credit card payment for reasons that may be out of your control. Perhaps you missed a payment because you forgot to replace your expired credit card set up on autopay. Accidents happen but now is the time to get organized. The best way to work towards ensuring you won’t miss another payment is by setting up payment notifications and automating your payments each month.

Most credit card issuers make the process to set up autopay quite easy. Start by logging on to your mobile account. Autopay can be set up for the minimum payment, total statement balance or another desired amount. If you don’t want to commit to automatic payments, you can set calendar reminders or opt in for text or email reminders from your issuer for when your statement is available, due or posted.

Frequently asked questions

    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 compound the longer you wait to pay your credit card statement. If you forgot to pay the bill, or need help moving the due date, contact your issuer as soon as possible.

    If you’re having trouble paying your credit card bills each month, there are options you can look into so you don’t miss payments and risk damage to your credit. One popular option is to use a balance transfer card (preferably one with no penalty rates), another is a debt consolidation loan. You can’t get approved for these methods unless you have a stellar credit score, so it pays to keep up with your payments.