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What To Do When You Can't Make Your Minimum Credit Card Payment

Avoid the Penalties of Late and Missed Credit Card Payments

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Whether an unexpected expense depletes your budget, you're going through a period of financial difficulty, or you're simply overspent, it happens to the best of us at one time or another.

Consequences of a Missed Payment

When you can't make your monthly credit card payment, the absolute worst thing you can do is just let the bill go unpaid. Your creditor can take certain actions like charging you a late fee or reporting the late payment to the credit bureaus if it goes 30 days past due. Once upon a time, your other creditors would have raised your rates, too. Thankfully, universal default has been banned. But, you still want to avoid the other consequences.

Talking To Your Creditor

What should you do instead? Call your card issuer and explain the situation to them. Let them know it's a one-time occurrence and let them know when you'll be able to make your next payment. Some creditors will extend your due date, waive the late fee, and continue reporting a "current" payment status to credit bureaus.

Dealing with an unsympathetic creditor? Look for money in other places in your budget. Is there something you can spend less on this month? Perhaps you can borrow from a friend or family member or get a small advance from your employer on your next paycheck. See How to Get Money to Pay Your Debt for some ways to come up with cash to make your payments.

Juggling Bills is Risky

Be careful about putting off other bill payments because there could be consequences there, too. For example, if you don't pay your electricity bill, you face having your services disconnected. You should also avoid taking out payday loans which can trap you in a deeper cycle of debt.

Avoid falling prey to the "one dollar minimum payment myth." Contrary to what you may have read or heard, credit card issuers don't withhold late payment penalties just because you made an effort to pay. You must pay at least the minimum payment or make other payments arrangements to keep from being assessed a late charge or have your interest rate increased.

Rather than forgoing your credit card payment, do what you can to keep your cost of credit low and preserve your current credit standing.

Where to Get Professional Help

If you find that you're consistently having trouble making your minimum payments, consider credit counseling. A credit counselor can help you figure out how to restructure your budget or negotiate lower monthly payments with your creditor. Your credit card statement will contain a number that you can call if you're experiencing financial trouble. Or, you can reach out to the National Foundation for Credit Counseling to find a credit counseling agency in your area. 

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