Even if you’re very diligent about always paying your bills on time, mistakes can happen. When it comes to credit card late fees, those mistakes can be costly. Credit card issuers can charge customers up to $29 for their first late payment and up to $40 for subsequent late payments (though the fee can’t exceed the minimum amount due). Oftentimes those credit card late fees hit the first day you’re late.
In other words, it’s good for your wallet to avoid late fees on your credit card. Here’s how even the most absentminded credit card customer can help avoid late fees.
1. Avoid Paying Late in the First Place
Of course, the best way to avoid credit card late fees is to not miss a payment in the first place. If you’re still paying your credit card bill whenever it springs to mind, this is not the best system for paying on time. Here’s how to avoid paying late:
- Automatic bill pay: Many credit card issuers offer automatic bill payments. They automatically debit your bank account on a predetermined day every month. You can set up automatic bill payments to charge you the minimum payment due, the full amount or a fixed amount.
- Schedule a reminder: If automatic bill payments cede too much control over your cash flow, you can set a monthly (or biweekly, weekly, etc.) calendar reminder in your phone or email to pay your credit card bill. Make sure you time the reminder to hit when you have enough money in your bank account to pay your bill.
- Change your payment date: If your credit card bill is typically due when your bank account is low, you might be able to request to change the due date. Set up the due date to hit when you have plenty of cash to pay your bill, like a couple days after payday.
- Mail your payment in early: Do you still pay your credit card by mail? If so, put the check in the mail with plenty of time to arrive by the due date. Some credit card issuers may determine your payment is late based on when they receive it, not when you put it in the mail. Make sure you understand your credit card issuer’s policy.
2. Choose a Card with No Late Fees
There are some credit cards that waive late credit card fees for the first late payment or don’t charge late fees at all, so you don’t have to fret about paying extra if you’re late by a couple days. It’s still important to remember to make your payments on time because your credit card issuer may charge you a penalty APR if you’re late (check your cardmember agreement). Payments that are 30 days past due can land on your credit report and damage your credit.
3. Call and Negotiate
Your credit card issuer may be willing to reverse a late fee if you call and ask. Make sure to make your payment before you call the credit card issuer, or at least be prepared to pay over the phone. Tell them that you’ve resolved the issue and you’re taking steps to ensure it won’t happen again. If you’ve never missed a payment before – or it’s been a long time – make sure to mention that too. Chances are good that they are willing to work with you.