It’s the 15th and you realize you didn’t make the credit card payment that was due on the 12th. Or, you check your billing statement to find a late fee for a payment you thought you made, but turns you forgot to drop the check in the mail. An accidental missed payment can happen to anyone, but it doesn’t have to be the end of the world.
Make the payment as soon as you can. If you catch the missed payment a few days after the due date, rather than when your next billing statement comes, you can prevent a late payment reported to the credit bureaus. Creditors report typically report delinquent payments once they become at least 30 days late, so make your payment for your delinquency reaches that point.
Call and ask for leniency. Check your account online and you’ll probably see that a late fee has already been added. Late fees can only be as high as your minimum payment or $25, assuming you haven’t been late in the previous six months. Despite the recent cap on late fees, you still want to avoid the fee if you can and you should definitely try.
Many creditors are willing to waive a late fee as long as you’re not habitually late on payments. Contact your creditor, briefly explain how the missed payment was an accident, and ask that your late fee be waived. If your creditor won’t budge on the fee, don’t press the issue. Simply take it as a lesson learned, pay the fee, and be sure to send your payment on time next month and every month thereafter.
Can You Protect Your Interest Rate?
Fortunately, you don’t have to worry about having your interest rate jacked up just because you were late on this once payment, unless you have a promotional rate. The new credit card law specifies that creditors can’t impose a penalty rate increase unless you’re at least 60 days delinquent on your payment. Since just one accidental payment won’t make you 60 days late, your rate is safe, at least from the default rate.
The bad news, however, is that you’ll forfeit your promotional rate if you miss a payment, even if it’s accidental and just by a few days or even minutes. A creditor who’s willing to waive a late fee might not be as forgiving when it comes to your promotional rate.
Remember When Your Bills Are Due
If this accidental missed payment was an isolated incident, odds are that you have a good system for remembering your credit card payment. But, if you notice that you’re forgetting payments more often, you need to come up with a way to remind yourself. For example, a monthly bill payment calendar that lists the due dates & minimum payments for all your accounts might help you.
You can set up reminders in your email or calendaring system, e.g. Microsoft Outlook or Gmail. Or, if you rely on your cell phone, use your phone’s calendar or a third-party app to send reminders for your bill due dates.
Send an email to FollowUpThen.com to get an email reminder to make your payment, e.g. Every5th@followupthen.com, but don’t include any specific personal information and set the reminder a few days before your payment is due.
Finally, you can set up an automatic payment through your bank’s online billing to eliminate accidental missed payments. Just make sure the payment is set for at least the minimum or you’ll be hit with a late fee. Your creditor may not waive the fee the second time around.