What to Do If You Miss a Credit Card Payment

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The Credit CARD Act of 2009 and YOUR Credit Cards

No one intends to miss payments on their credit card. It’s something that usually happens because you made a mistake. Maybe you’ve accidentally written the wrong account number on a check. Or mailed it to an incorrect address. If you’re having really bad luck, that “mistake” could be that you’ve crunched the numbers and just can’t afford to pay the credit card bill this month.

But take heart, because there are options available to you, whether your payment deadline has passed or you’ve realized you just can’t cover the cost right now. What can you do if you miss a credit card payment?

[Free Resource: Check your free credit report and score]

Eat some humble pie.

The first thing to do if you’ve missed a credit card payment is to get on the phone with your credit card company. Talking to your credit card company isn’t most people’s first choice of how to spend an afternoon, but you’d be surprised how much it can help. Explain to the customer service representative that you just made a mistake, or that things are rough right now, and see what they can do. Feel free to mention things like how long you’ve been a customer with them, how few payments you’ve missed before (hopefully none!), and just generally convey to them that you are a loyal customer who sincerely wants to pay what you owe. Apologize. Ask if they can offer any help or suggestions. Ask to talk to higher-ups (but don’t be too demanding – just say, “Would it be helpful if I talked to your supervisor, or is there someone else that you can transfer me to?”).

Do whatever you can to stay in the credit card company’s good graces. If you convince them that this is a one-time mistake and that you deserve forgiveness, you’ll be able to avoid the worst results of a missed credit card payment: for example, you might keep them from reporting your late payment to a credit agency, and also you might be able to get some extra help or favors in removing any fees or other changes and restrictions that might have happened on your account. Many credit card companies raise your APR after a missed payment so that you end up continually owing them more money!

Threaten.

This advice is the exact opposite of the above tactic, but if your creditor won’t help you out of the kindness of their hearts, it’s time to bring out the big guns: tell them that you’ll have to transfer your entire balance to another credit card. When they hear this, most creditors will cave, because they would rather keep you as a customer than deal with the potential loss of money that would mean to them.

Pay as soon as you’re able.

Once you’ve done what you can to minimize the damage to your credit rating and avoid fees, you want to make sure you get your payment in fast. If you missed a credit card payment due to an oversight, pay immediately – you might even be able to do it over the phone. If you didn’t pay because you’re broke, do it as soon as you can scrounge up some money.

Set up systems.

If you don’t have autopay set up, do it now. Make sure that all of the information is correct to avoid sending payment to the wrong person or only paying off part of the bill and accruing interest on the rest.

[Free Resource: Check your free credit report and score]

Is your problem that you have too little money and are overextended on your bills? There’s a system for that, too – it’s called budgeting. Most people have enough money for their living expenses. What really happens is that we don’t budget – or, even if we do, we don’t stick to it or budget well enough. If it helps, create a “Monthly Budget” account and move money into it each month to cover your cost of living. Whatever’s left, you can save or spend on anything you want.