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Credit Card Late Payment Consequences

By Ashley Kilroy · July 18, 2023 · 9 minute read

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Credit Card Late Payment Consequences

Missing a credit card payment can happen to anyone. But a credit card late payment may also come with certain consequences, such as late fees, interest accrued on the credit card balance, and potential negative impacts to your credit score. The longer you go without paying your bill, the more consequences you may experience.

Here’s a look at what happens if you miss a credit card payment and solutions to help prevent this from happening in the first place.

When Is a Credit Card Payment Considered Late?

As soon as you fail to pay your credit card bill by the due date, it’s considered past due. Your credit card company may send you notices about it in the form of calls, emails, letters, or texts. You could also face some financial consequences for being late.

What Happens if You Make a Late Credit Card Payment?

The Credit Card Balance Could Increase

Even if you didn’t use the card to make new purchases during a particular billing cycle, making a late payment could still potentially increase your balance in a few different ways.

With even the first missed due date, the credit card company can charge a late fee of up to $30. If you miss another payment within the next six billing cycles, the late fee can go up to $41.

The silver lining here is that the late fee can’t be more than the minimum amount due on the account. So, for instance, if your minimum payment is $25, your late fee won’t exceed $25.

There’s also a chance the creditor could increase your interest rate if your payment is late by a certain number of days. Increasing your interest rate will also increase your total credit card balance because that new, higher rate (generally referred to as a “penalty APR”) will apply to the entire unpaid balance.

Not all credit card companies have penalty APRs for late payments, so check with your credit card company to verify.

Recommended: What Is APR on a Credit Card?

Your Credit Score Might Be Affected

Your credit score includes information about your credit history, such as your payment history and the standing of your accounts, so a late payment could have a negative impact.

Generally, creditors send information to credit bureaus using different codes to indicate if a payment is current or late. Since there is no credit code for payments that are one to 29 days late, they may use a “current” code.

Once the payment is more than 30 days late, however, creditors generally use the “late” code to denote that the payment is delinquent. But different creditors will send different codes at different times so there’s no way to know for sure when you will see the late payment reflected in your credit report.

Creditors may not report a late payment to credit bureaus until a full billing cycle has gone by with no repayment (typically 30 days). So, for example, if your payment’s due date was the 11th and you paid on the 13th, there’s a chance your credit won’t take a hit.

Although every situation is different, a late payment might end up staying on your credit report for several years. And because credit history is just one factor used to determine your credit score, it’s hard to predict exactly how a late payment will impact your overall score.

The Balance Could Be Charged Off

Another consequence of not paying your credit card bill is that the credit card company may not allow you to continue to use your card for other purchases until your account is in good standing.

What’s more, if your payment is 180 days past due, the credit card company can close your account and charge off the balance. “Charging off” means the credit card company will permanently close the account and write it off as a loss, but the debtor still owes the balance remaining.

Sometimes, credit card companies will attempt to recover what’s owed through their own collection department, but charged-off debts are sometimes sold to third-party collection agencies, which then attempt to get payment from the debtor.

Credit card companies do have leeway to work with their customers. Under FDIC regulations governing retail credit, the creditor can help customers who have had financial setbacks — like job loss or the death of a family member — get back on track.

This leniency is typically shown to people who are willing and able to repay their outstanding debt, and the FDIC encourages creditors to proceed with this step with a structured repayment plan and to monitor the progress of the plan.

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How to Resolve a Credit Card Late Payment

Make a Payment Right Away

If the payment just slipped your mind, don’t panic. Paying the credit card balance in full immediately helps avoid accruing interest charges and potentially saves your credit score from dropping. Alternatively, you might want to ask your credit card company about arranging a payment plan to minimize the damage.

Negotiate Fees

Even though your credit score may not drop because of one missed payment, you may incur late fees or a penalty interest rate (or, more accurately, a penalty APR as mentioned above), which will likely increase your total balance.

However, sometimes credit card companies are willing to work with customers to waive those fees. Calling your credit card company to request a waiver of late fees could be a first step, especially if your account is up to date and you’re not a repeat offender.

If your credit card company seems unwilling to change your rate back to the original amount, you might consider asking if they will do so once you show responsible payment history.

Automate Your Credit Card Payments

To help prevent any late payments in the future, you may want to consider setting up autopay to cover the minimum payment on your credit cards.

This way, if a payment slips your mind, you shouldn’t face any late payment consequences. Setting your bill to be automatically paid in full a few days before the payment is due can ensure you pay your balance in time.

If you would prefer not to sign up for autopay, many credit card companies have an option to sign up for notifications that remind you when your payments are due.

Getting Out of Credit Card Debt

To avoid late credit card payments once and for all, you may want to consider solutions for getting out of credit card debt entirely. Strategies depend on your unique financial situation, of course, but here are some you might want to explore.

Budget to Get Out of Debt

Creating a budget can help you better manage your money so you know what you have coming in and going out. You can use either a simple spreadsheet or a spending tracker app to simplify your efforts.

Once you have a handle on how much extra money you can put toward your debt, you may want to select a debt repayment strategy, such as the snowball method or avalanche method.

With the snowball method, the focus is on paying off the smallest debt balance first and then moving on to the second smallest debt balance, and so on, while still making minimum payments on all debt. This type of method is meant to give a psychological boost.

The avalanche method tackles the debt with the highest interest rate. Since you’re starting with the most expensive debt, this strategy can be a big money saver in the long run.

Open a Balance Transfer Credit Card

If your credit is in good standing, opening a balance transfer credit card could be a solution. Usually, these types of credit cards come with low or 0% APRs for a certain period.

Some companies may offer up to 21 months of interest-free payments during the promotional period. But it’s important to note that while the introductory period might be interest-free, you may still have to pay a balance transfer fee between 2% and 5%.

Ideally, you would pay your credit card balance in full by the time the introductory period is over, which would allow you to avoid interest payments on the debt.

Keep in mind, however, many balance transfer credit cards have restrictions. For example, if you make a late payment, you may lose your introductory rate.

Another limitation may be that your introductory APR only applies to the transferred balance and all other transactions may have a higher rate.

Before taking out another line of credit, understand that it can impact your total credit score. Credit scores are calculated using several factors, including credit history and new credit, both of which could be affected when opening a new account.

Consolidate Debt with a Personal Loan

Another option may be to combine separate payments into one credit card consolidation loan, hopefully for a reduced interest rate. While a loan doesn’t erase your debt, it can help you focus on one monthly payment, which might enable you to pay down your debt faster.

As you compare rates, it’s important to understand how a new loan could pay off in the long run. If your monthly payment is lower because the loan term is longer, for example, it might not be a good strategy, because it means you may be making more interest payments and therefore paying more over the life of the loan. You can use an online personal loan calculator to get an idea of how much interest you could save by using a personal loan to pay off debt.

Recommended: 11 Types of Personal Loans & Their Differences

The Takeaway

Late credit card payments can happen to anyone, but unfortunately, they may come with consequences, like late fees, interest, or a temporary hit to your credit score. And the longer your bill goes unpaid, the more consequences you may experience. Fortunately, there are ways to resolve a late payment, starting with making a payment as soon as you realize one is overdue. If you incurred penalty fees, you can ask your credit card company for a one-time waiver and look into setting up automatic payments to ensure your future bills are paid on time.

Looking into ways to pay down your debt? Budgeting is one solution, as it helps you keep tabs on where your money is going. If combining multiple bills into one fixed monthly payment, at a potentially reduced interest rate, is part of your strategy, then a credit card consolidation loan may be an option to consider. (Debt management is a common use for a personal loan.)

If you are thinking about taking out a loan to consolidate your debt, a SoFi personal loan may be a good option for your unique financial situation. SoFi personal loans offer competitive, fixed rates and a variety of terms. Checking your rate won’t affect your credit score, and it takes just one minute.

See if a personal loan from SoFi is right for you.

FAQ

Can you go to jail for not paying credit card bills?


No, you can’t be arrested for not paying your credit card bills.

What happens if you never pay your credit card bill?


There are some serious potential ramifications for not paying your bills. The delinquency may be noted on your credit report, which can damage your credit score. You could even face a civil lawsuit if the debt goes unpaid.

Can my creditor garnish my wages for not paying my credit card?


Yes, if your credit card debt has been sold to a debt collector, and the collector has a court judgment, then they can garnish your bank account or wages.


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SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Bank, N.A., NMLS #696891 (Member FDIC). For additional product-specific legal and licensing information, see SoFi.com/legal. Equal Housing Lender.


SoFi Loan Products
SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Bank, N.A., NMLS #696891 (Member FDIC). For additional product-specific legal and licensing information, see SoFi.com/legal. Equal Housing Lender.


Disclaimer: Many factors affect your credit scores and the interest rates you may receive. SoFi is not a Credit Repair Organization as defined under federal or state law, including the Credit Repair Organizations Act. SoFi does not provide “credit repair” services or advice or assistance regarding “rebuilding” or “improving” your credit record, credit history, or credit rating. For details, see the FTC’s website .

Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.

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