Forgot to Pay Your Credit Card? Here's How to Minimize the Damage – The Motley Fool

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by Christy Bieber | Published on March 17, 2022
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Don't just assume you're stuck with the consequences of a missed credit card payment.
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If you have a credit card, making sure to pay your bill every month must be a priority. You'll want to be absolutely certain you at least make your required minimum payment on all of your cards. And ideally, you'll want to pay each card off in full so you can avoid carrying a balance.
However, sometimes things slip through the cracks and you end up forgetting to make a payment on one or more of your cards. If this happens, it can have serious financial consequences.
The good news is, there are often ways to mitigate the damage and avoid some of the most damaging effects of failing to pay your bill.
First and foremost, it's important to understand exactly why missing a credit card payment could be so problematic. Not paying your bill on time, even if it happens by mistake, could result in:
None of these outcomes are desirable, but you can often avoid most or all of them if you act quickly.
The best thing to do if you forget to pay your credit card is to contact the card issuer the minute you identify the oversight. You'll want to pay the bill right away when you make this phone call so you aren't any later. And you'll want to explain to the customer service representative that you made a mistake and ask what they can do to help you.
Now, if you habitually miss payments, the answer may be nothing. The card company may not be willing to work with you at all if you have a habit of paying late or not paying at all, and you may be stuck with the damage a missed payment can do.
But if you're always — or mostly always — on time, often you'll find the card issuer is willing to help you fix the forgotten payment as long as you make things right immediately. In fact, when I once missed a payment by accident, my card company refunded me the interest charges and late fees, and assured me they wouldn't put a black mark on my credit. All I had to do was apologize, explain the reason for my oversight, pay the amount, and ask.
It may take more than one phone call in some circumstances to get a customer service rep willing to work with you, but it's worth trying a few times since the consequences of a missed payment can be so dire.
You'll also want to take steps to avoid a similar error going forward, which often means setting up automated payments to ensure you never miss a payment again.
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Christy Bieber is a personal finance and legal writer with more than a decade of experience. Her work has been featured on major outlets including MSN Money, CNBC, and USA Today.
We’re firm believers in the Golden Rule, which is why editorial opinions are ours alone and have not been previously reviewed, approved, or endorsed by included advertisers. The Ascent does not cover all offers on the market. Editorial content from The Ascent is separate from The Motley Fool editorial content and is created by a different analyst team.
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