Do This Before You Miss a Credit Card Payment

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Missing a credit card payment is not the end of the world, but it could be the beginning of several bad outcomes for your wallet. If you’re in danger of not being able to pay your credit card bill, there is something you can do to mitigate the situation before your payment is due.

A recent survey by finance site WalletHub shows that 16% more Americans have tried to get a credit card late fee waived this year than last year.

Got Credit Card Bills Due? Read On

Money expert Clark Howard says the key to saving your finances is to take the initiative and reach out to your card issuer.

“Banks operate in a mode that people who contact them tend to be looked at differently than people who hide from them,” he says.

Indeed, the WalletHub survey backs this up with statistics that show that:

  • 43% of people have attempted to get a late card payment waived.
  • 9 out of 10 people who have tried to get a late credit card fee waived were successful.
  • 60% of Americans say that credit card companies have been helpful during the pandemic.

You can see more from the January 2021 survey here.

By calling your credit card company first, you may be able to defuse many of your card issuer’s concerns about you becoming a non-paying borrower.

“Who calls first when a payment hasn’t been made? It’s always the credit card companies. They scream the loudest because it’s unsecured debt,” Clark says.

To make you pay off that debt, financial institutions penalize you, and that can trigger several things — none of them good for your financial health.

For instance, “Cardholders not already carrying a balance between months will lose their grace period, and interest will start accruing immediately on both new purchases and the unpaid balance,” the survey says.

Here’s a list from WalletHub that shows other negative impacts that could result from failing to pay your credit card bill:

  • Late fees
  • High penalty APR on purchases
  • Dings on your credit

That last one could have a major bearing on your purchasing power and your ability to secure financing on things like a car, home or other big purchases.

Late on Your Bills? Here’s What To Say to Your Credit Card Company

I hope Clark, the survey and I have convinced you to call your credit card company if you think you’re going to miss a payment.

But you may be wondering exactly what to say when you get someone on the line. Clark suggests, once again, that you be proactive. He says you should explain your situation and ask for some help.

“So you call the credit card company and say, ‘I’ve been laid off. What can we do here?’” Clark says.

If you have a strong payment history, you could ask your card issuer to:

  • Push your due date back in order to allow you to make a payment at a more favorable time of the month.
  • Lower the interest rate on your balance.
  • Allow you to skip a payment, but note that Clark wants you to avoid this if it comes with conditions.

Final Thoughts

Clark says the best option is to pick up the phone.

“Call them and say: ‘I’m in a tough way right now. I’m hoping I’ll be back to work next month or whatever. Then I’ll be able to get these payments done,” Clark says.

In addition to saving your financial standing, taking the initiative to reach out first can foster a good relationship between you and the card issuer.

Want more expert advice that saves money? Read Clark’s 7 Rules for Using Credit Cards.

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