Man managing his credit card bills on his laptop

It's natural to feel stressed if you’re low on funds and struggling to pay bills. There’s the concern about missing payment deadlines or worrying about being able to pay off the debt. While credit card companies may offer methods to try to make payment as stress-free as possible, like automatic payments, some people wonder what would happen if they didn't pay their bills at all.

First of all, it’s always a good idea to contact your credit card companies right away if you think you might miss a minimum monthly payment, because they may be willing to work with you.

What Happens When You Miss a Payment?

Even the most responsible, financially stable people may occasionally miss payments. You might have been away from home on vacation when the bill was due, or perhaps faced a personal emergency or forgot to pay.

Depending on your credit card company, you may receive notices about your missed payment. These could be in the form of calls, emails, letters, and texts.

Some credit card companies charge a fee for missing a payment or paying late. As the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) notes, "The first time you are late, the credit card company can charge a fee of up to $27. If you are late a second time within the next six billing cycles…the credit card company can generally charge up to $38.”

If making a payment—even if it's a few days late—brings your account current, then the credit card company won't need to contact you about being past due.

What If You Can’t Make Your Credit Card Payments for More Than 180 Days?

When a credit card account goes 180 days (a full six months) past due, the credit card company must close and charge-off the account. This means the account is permanently closed and written off as a loss to the company, although the debt is still owed.

While it isn’t possible to say exactly how a charge-off will affect your credit report or how your credit will be viewed by other creditors, a charge-off will generally stay on your credit report for up to 7 years. The exact impact of how that affects your credit score depends on other factors beyond just a credit card charge-off.

Credit Card Companies Appreciate Communication

If you do miss a credit card payment, you won’t be the first person, and you won't be the last. Everyday, credit card companies work with customers who can't pay their bills.

If you think you may miss or have missed a payment, reach out to your credit card company. Their customer service teams may be able to offer help and create payment plan options to help keep you on financial track.

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