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What Should You Do If You Miss a Credit Card Payment?

by Miranda Marquit

We’re always being told about the importance of your credit report, and how what’s in there can affect your credit score. Since your payment history is one of the most important factors that go into your credit score, missing a credit card payment can be a real problem. Missing several credit card payments can be even worse. But sometimes it seems unavoidable. So, what should you do if you miss a credit card payment?

Pay What You Can

Missing several credit card payments at once is sometimes worse than just missing one. Once your other bills are taken care of (if you want to keep your home, you should pay your mortgage before paying on your credit card), pay what you can on your other credit cards. The passage of the Credit CARD Act of 2009 ended the practice of universal default, so other credit card issuers can’t raise your interest rate if you miss a payment on one card.

If you know that you are going to be struggling in the coming months, due to a job loss or to some other financial problem, you can contact your creditors directly. Explain your situation and let them know that you want to make your payments. In some cases, you might be able to work out a payment plan that does not result in late fees or a higher interest rate. However, you might have to close your account when you go this route. But, showing that you are willing to pay what you can afford might prevent you from taking as big a hit on your credit score.

If You Miss a Payment Due to an Oversight

One of the annoyances that comes with credit cards is that you can are charge late fees and missed payment fees. However, if you are late or if you miss a payment due to an oversight, you can often have the problem remedied. Many credit card issuers won’t immediately impose the default rate if you are late once. Additionally, if you have been a good customer and generally pay on time, you can call and have your fee waived in many cases.

Keep it From Happening Again

It is important to maintain a good payment history, so you want to keep missed credit card payments from happening again. One of the best ways to do this is to live within your means so that you have the money available to make your payments. You can also look for ways to earn additional income if you are struggling with living within your means. Find places to cut your spending, and create a budget that will help you meet your obligations.

If you are having a hard time making credit card payments on time, you can solve this by planning ahead. Most credit card issuers allow you to schedule payments online. As soon as you receive your statement (you can get this via email), you can go in and schedule your payment. I like to schedule mine for the day before it’s due. That way, your payment is scheduled, and comes automatically from your checking account. You can also create bill pay reminders using calendar applications and using personal finance applications.

There are ways to remedy the situation if you are having difficulty making credit card payments, and you can keep it from happening again. However, it does take some advance planning, and it could take some effort on your part. But once you get back on track, you can watch your credit score begin to recover.


Published or updated May 29, 2013.
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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

1 LoveBeingRetired

I am working with my kids to understand the danger of credit cards as well as their benefit. Basically, credit cards are an emergency mechanism to cover short term issues and you want to pay them off immediately. Outside of that, if you cannot pay cash for something now, you cannot afford to have it now. If you really want it, start saving. The satisfaction of reaching your savings goal along with the ability to buy your item outright is worth the wait. At least that is the message – we will see how well they incorporate into their lives!

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2 Cynthia

Great article. When I was in college I got my first credit card. At the beginning, I started charging things I wouldn’t have otherwised bought without a credit card. For a while, while the balance was $200 or less each month, I paid off the balance. But one day one of my buddies said “You pay off your balance each month? It you just pay the minimum, you only have to pay like $3 in interest.”

Fast forward to 9 years, a law degree and a year and a half of unemployment – I now have 6 credit cards that have balances – and I owe a little over $28,000 total. Right now, even with my law degree, my yearly salary is $45,000 and I’m paying over $5,000 in interest on all my cards combined each year. I take home about $2600/month, but after paying all my credit card mins I’m automatically out of $1,100. I’m living paycheck to paycheck and very unhappy.

I’m a slave because of poor financial mistakes. And what do I have to show for it?? Not much. A lot of my charges were for things that I didn’t need like open bar tabs, travel plans, excessive dining out and online shopping.

I can’t wait to be debt free!!!

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