What you should know about late credit card payments

Missing a credit card payment can be frustrating—especially if you’d planned to pay on time.

So what counts as a late credit card payment? And how will paying late affect your credit score, account and finances? Keep reading to find out more.

Key takeaways

  • Creditors determine the date and time of their payment deadlines—but you may receive a little extra time around weekends and holidays, particularly for mailed payments.
  • Generally, credit card payments that are more than 30 days overdue could be reported to credit bureaus, where they can appear on your credit report for years and affect your credit scores.
  • Beyond its impact on credit, late credit card payments can also result in late fees, interest charges and rate increases.

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When is a credit card payment considered late?

According to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), a credit card payment is generally considered late if it’s received after 5 p.m. on the day it’s due, based on the time zone indicated on a billing statement. 

The agency also addresses payment due dates that fall on days the credit card company isn’t receiving or accepting mail, like a holiday or a Sunday. In those cases, a payment usually won’t be considered late as long as it’s received by 5 p.m. on the next business day. But late payment policies can vary, so check with your credit card issuer to learn more.

If your payment is late, you could be charged a late payment fee. Depending on how late a payment is, it could also be reported to the credit bureaus, Equifax®, Experian® and TransUnion®. And that could affect your credit scores. 

If you plan to mail your payment, try to do so well before your due date. This way, you’ll be more likely to avoid an accidental late payment—and the fees that accompany it. But keep in mind that it may be quicker to pay your bill online or over the phone.

It’s also important to know that if you pay less than the minimum amount due, it will likely still be considered a late payment even if you pay your bill on time.

How much does a late payment affect your credit score?

Your credit report contains information about your credit, including your payment history and the status of your credit accounts. Your credit score is calculated using information from your credit reports.

Every situation is different, but negative factors—like late credit card payments—could show up on your credit report for years and may only be removed if reported erroneously. And while the exact impact of late payments is hard to predict, payment history is the most important factor used to determine your credit scores. 

But remember that different credit scores from VantageScore® and FICO® are calculated differently. This means late payments might affect each credit score differently.

It’s a good idea to check your credit report regularly. You can request free credit reports from each of the three major credit bureaus at AnnualCreditReport.com. And with CreditWise from Capital One, you can access your TransUnion credit report and VantageScore 3.0 credit score anytime without negatively impacting your score. Plus, it’s free to everyone, even if you’re not a Capital One cardholder.

How will a one-day late credit card payment affect your credit score?

If you missed your credit card payment by one day, your credit scores should remain unaffected. Lenders generally only report late payments to the three major credit bureaus once statement balances have gone unpaid for 30 days or more. 

What else happens if you miss a credit card payment?

Other than potentially affecting your credit, late credit card payments can affect your personal finances in a few more ways.

Balance increases

Missing a minimum payment or paying late can increase your balance in the following ways:

  • Late fees: You might be charged a late fee for missing a credit card payment. According to the CFPB, your credit card issuer can charge a fee anytime you’re late, including your very first late payment. And if you’re late a second time within the next six billing cycles, the company can generally charge an even higher late fee. 
  • Interest charges: You may continue to be charged interest on your unpaid balance until your card issuer receives your payment in full. So if you leave a higher amount of your balance unpaid, you’ll owe more interest than if you’d paid off more—or all—of your credit card balance by the due date.
  • Interest rate increases: Your interest rate could also go up. If you’re at least 60 days late on your payment, for example, your card issuer might increase the interest rate on your balances. And if your interest rate increases, you’ll be charged more interest on your unpaid balance—which will increase your credit card debt even more. But not all issuers use a penalty annual percentage rate (APR) with late payments, and some exceptions apply, so check with your credit card company for more information.

Credit card charge-off

If you don’t pay your credit card bill on time, you might not be able to use your card for new purchases until your account is made current. And if your credit card account goes 180 days—or six months—past due, your card issuer will close and charge off the account. In this case, the account is permanently closed and written off as a loss for the company. But you’ll still owe the debt.

What to do if you miss a credit card payment

If you’re having trouble making payments, there are steps you can take to help address the issue before it gets worse.

Pay what you can as soon as you can

Since a late payment shouldn’t affect your credit score until it’s gone unpaid for at least 30 days, making your minimum payment before it goes 30 days past due can help prevent further problems. 

Ask your creditor about credit card late payment forgiveness

If you’re having trouble making on-time payments, contact your credit card issuer as soon as possible. They might be able to work with you. In some cases, it may even waive late fees or penalty rates. 

Some issuers might even have the option to change your payment due date in the future.

Take advantage of your credit card late payment grace period

Most credit card issuers offer a grace period for purchases, according to the CFPB. This means new purchase transactions typically won’t start accumulating interest until after your payment due date, which buys you some time between charging things to your card and owing interest on those new charges. 

But keep in mind that if you don’t pay off those purchases in full by the billing statement due date, you’ll start accruing interest. And if you don’t make at least the minimum payment due by the due date, you might also owe a late fee. 

Issuers aren’t required to offer grace periods, so check with yours to find out more. But they are required to deliver billing statements at least 21 days before the due date. This might help you get your finances in order in time to pay at least the minimum amount due by the due date.

Opt for automatic payments in the future

Setting up automatic payments can be helpful. You can connect your credit card to a bank account and specify how and when you’d like to transfer your funds to pay off or pay down your balance. 

If you’re a Capital One cardholder, you can set up AutoPay here.

Late credit card payments in a nutshell

Late payments can lead to extra fees. And depending on the timing, they can also affect your credit. But knowing the effects and understanding what you can do to avoid late payments can help.

Capital One has tools that can help you stay on top of your credit. You can download the Capital One Mobile app to stay on top of your accounts and make payments on the go. And CreditWise has free credit monitoring to help you know exactly where you stand.

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