Will a day-late card payment hurt your credit score?

You didn’t set up autopay, and, for whatever reason, your credit card due date – which was yesterday — slipped your mind. Do you need to panic about credit damage?

The short answer is probably not – although there might be some consequences if you wait too long to catch up. now vs. later

Fewer than 30 days late? You’re in the clear, credit-wise

“The news is all good for the consumer,” says John Ulzheimer, credit expert with Credit Sesame.

That’s because lenders don’t – and can’t – report payments that are fewer than 30 days late, Ulzheimer explains. The credit reporting agencies’ trade association (the Consumer Data Industry Association) publishes an annual standards guide called the “Credit Reporting Resource Guide.” It determines the account status codes – which lenders choose from to label late payments:

  • 30-59 days past the due date
  • 60-89 days past the due date
  • 90-119 days past the due date
  • 120-149 days past the due date
  • 150-179 days past the due date
  • 180 or more days past the due date

Notice what’s missing?

“There is no systematic way to report someone late who is only one to 29 days past due,” Ulzheimer says. “The reporting options start at 30 days late and go up from there.”

Even if a lender wanted to report a late payment before the 30-day mark, it couldn’t – at least not accurately.

“If a creditor reported someone late who is only one to 29 days past due then they’d be reporting something knowingly incorrect to the credit bureaus because they’d be reporting them as being a full 30 days late or something greater than that,” Ulzheimer says.

The bottom line: Don’t panic about your credit score if you’re less than a payment cycle late.
“If a late payment isn’t reported on your credit report, it’s not going to affect credit scores,” says Rod Griffin, director of public education at Experian.

A day-late payment can still cost you

Issuers have penalties of their own if you miss a payment by even a day. Your bank may charge you a late fee (although it may agree to waive it if you ask). Late payments can also void a 0 percent interest deal you have on a store card.

Wait another cycle? That’s where the real problems start

“If you miss a full billing cycle, it’s almost certainly going to be reported,” Griffin says.

And the later the payment is, the more it will weigh down your credit score.

Extremely late payments can have serious financial repercussions as well. Cards generally have penalty APRs – big, ugly APRs reserved for those who fall far behind. The CARD Act allows issuers to unleash these APRs on your current balance if you become 60 days late. Thought you were having a tough time paying off your balance at the original rate? Try doing so with an APR near 30 percent.

When it comes to credit reports, a more-than-30-days-late payment sticks around for seven years from the date it was first reported to the bureaus. You can end up with several late payment notations for the same account, Griffin says. For example, if you go more than 30 days late, then catch up, and then become delinquent a few months later, both those notations will each stay parked on your report for seven years from the dates they were originally reported.

Even so, your score can recover in time. Late payments carry less score weight as they fade into the past. Moreover, fresh, recent good payment data can buoy your score.

“Catching up on that payment and keeping that account current can help your score recover more quickly,” Griffin says.

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