What Happens If I’m Unable to Pay My Credit Card Bills?

Here’s what to expect if you miss payments

Juggling a budget in order to pay bills can be stressful. There may be concerns about missing payment deadlines and being able to pay everything when it’s due. 

If you’re in a position where you can’t make your minimum monthly credit card payment, it can help to contact your lender first. But what else might happen? Learn more and see what options might be available.

What Could Happen if I Miss a Payment?

Missed or forgotten credit card payments can happen to anyone. But it can be helpful to know the potential impacts. Missed payments could lead to more than just late fees. They can also affect your credit score—especially if you’re late by more than 30 days.

If you miss a payment, your credit card company may send you notices about it. These could be in the form of calls, emails, letters or texts.

Even if you don’t hear from your credit card company, you may still be charged a late fee. And the late fee may increase after the first time you miss a payment. In fact, the amount might increase each time a payment is late again within six billing cycles. To find out exactly how much your card’s fees are, you can check the terms and conditions of your credit card.

What if I Can’t Make My Payment for Several Months?

If you think you’ll have long-term trouble making payments, your credit card company might be willing to work with you. Contact them to see what payment relief programs they offer and if you’re eligible. 

Asking how programs work, how long they last and how interest is charged can help you make an informed decision about how to handle payments. Ignoring the problem could make things worse.

When a credit card account goes 180 days (a full six months) past due, the credit card company must charge-off the account. This means the account is permanently closed and written off as a loss. However, you’ll still be responsible for any debt you owe. This debt may be collected by your lender’s collection department or a third-party debt collector.

Charge-offs could stay on your credit report for up to seven years. And that could have an effect on your credit score—and how lenders view your applications for other loans or credit cards in the future.

Can I Adjust My Payments?

If it feels like all your bills are due the same day each month or your payday doesn’t come at the best time to cover all your expenses, you might be able to change when your credit card payment is due. The adjustment might not begin immediately, but it could offer extra flexibility in the long run. For example, if you request a new payment date for a Capital One® account, it usually takes two billing periods for it to take effect. 

If you need to edit or cancel an AutoPay for your Capital One card, you can make the edits online with just a few clicks.  

Do I Need to Contact My Credit Card Company?

If you do miss a credit card payment, you won’t be the first person to do so, and you won’t be the last. Credit card companies work every day with customers who can’t pay their bills. So your lender may be able to help you avoid the effects of late payments on your credit score. 

There are also free credit-monitoring tools like CreditWise® from Capital One. It’s free for everyone, whether you’re a Capital One customer or not. And using it doesn’t hurt your credit score. Plus, it has a feature that shows you the potential impact of missed payments on your credit score. It can also alert you if there are meaningful changes on your TransUnion® and Experian® credit reports.

Remember, missing payments can have a lasting impact on your credit score. But don’t be afraid to reach out to your lender directly. There may be resources available to help. 

Learn more about Capital One’s response to COVID-19 and resources available to customers. For information about COVID-19, head over to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Government and private relief efforts vary by location and may have changed since this article was published. Consult a financial adviser or the relevant government agencies and private lenders for the most current information.

We hope you found this helpful. Our content is not intended to provide legal, investment or financial advice or to indicate that a particular Capital One product or service is available or right for you. For specific advice about your unique circumstances, consider talking with a qualified professional.

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