Q: I was one day late on a credit card payment. What will happen and what can I do about it?
A: The CARD Act stipulates that banks have to give you at least a 21-day grace period for payments, between the end of a billing cycle and the date the minimum payment for that cycle is due. Some issuers allow longer grace periods. However if you do your bills through the mail, there can be a lag between the time your issuer mails your bill and the time you receive it. That could mean you won’t have a full 21 days to make your credit card payment. What happens if you were out of town, in the hospital, or endured some unusual events that month?
Long story short, late payments can happen to the best of us. But what’s particularly frustrating is a one-day late credit card payment… because it’s often treated the exact same as if you were a whole week or two late! This is because anything between 1 and 30 days late is viewed as the same in the eyes of creditors.
You are still charged the late fee. If you are 60 days late, the creditor will have the legal right to raise your APR if they so choose. It’s also more likely that the bank will also report the late payment on your credit file at the 60-day mark.
There might be a few things you can do to decrease the chances of these negative repercussions:
Call customer service and ask for leniency
If you have a pattern of making late payments, your bank probably won’t budge. But if it truly is a rare or one-time occurrence, call them up and politely ask if they can waive the fee. While talking to them, re-iterate how loyal of a customer you have been and the fact that you were only one day late on the payment. If they know what’s best for them, they will waive the fee. But I must warn you that many of the companies who cater to the subprime crowd are notorious for not budging. Ditto for store credit cards.
Ask if the late payment will be reported
Typically, credit card companies only report late payments at the 60- or 90-day-late mark. However that is not guaranteed – technically a creditor can report any late payment at their discretion, even if it’s only one day late. Keep in mind that any payment that is 1 to 30 days late is still classified as a “30 days late payment” so it is well within their right to report it if they want. Although it’s very unlikely, while you are on the phone with customer service I would recommend asking if your credit card payment will be reported to the bureaus even though it’s only one day late.
Chances are, a one-day-late payment won’t cause credit damage, although it may cost you a fee. If you want to prevent your forgetfulness from turning into a headache in the future, I’d recommend putting your credit card on autopay.
Updated June 12, 2014