What happens if you can’t make a credit card payment by the statement due date?

Worried you’ll miss the due date for your next credit card bill? Find out how it could affect you and what you can do about it.

There’s a whole range of reasons you could miss the deadline for a credit card payment. Maybe you’re struggling with multiple bills, seeking employment or simply not keeping track of your credit card statements whilst travelling. Whatever the case, there are serious repercussions for missing the payment due date.

The impact could be as small as a reminder from your credit card issuer or as significant as restrictions on card features and a black mark on your credit history. The sooner you deal with the problem, the better your chances are of reducing the impact a late payment has on your credit card.

Use this guide to understand exactly what could happen if you don’t pay your credit card off on time and how you can deal with it. We also outline some tips for paying your credit card bills on time so that you can avoid these issues in the future and manage your card to the best of your abilities.

The consequences of not paying your credit card on time

What happens when you miss a payment on your credit card varies depending on the circumstances and your credit card provider. But here are some of the key factors you need to keep in mind.

    • You could be charged a late payment fee.

      Some credit cards charge you a fee if you don’t pay the minimum amount required by the due date on your statement. This charge ranges from $9 to $35 and is applied after the due date on the statement.

    • The details will be added to your credit history.

      From March 2014, your credit report can contain all of your repayment history information, including whether or not you make payments on time. Depending on how late the payment is and when you settle it, missing your credit card due date could negatively impact your credit file – and your chances of getting approved for new loans.

    • You’ll be charged interest.

      When you miss a payment, interest will be charged for all transactions during the statement period. You’ll also be charged interest on any late payment fees, so these costs could quickly add up.

    • You won’t get any interest free days.

      The interest free period available on your credit card is only available when you pay your balance in full and on time for each statement period. So if you make a late payment on your credit card, you won’t get any interest free days. This means you’ll have to pay interest for the purchases you’ve made during that statement period. You’ll also have to pay your balance in full for at least two consecutive statement periods to be eligible for interest free days again.

    • It could affect your rewards.

      Most credit card issuers reserve the right to freeze or cancel your reward program privileges (including earning points for purchases) if you don’t make a payment by the due date on your statement. The American Express Membership Rewards program terms and conditions even state that your enrolment may be cancelled if your payment is more than 40 days overdue.

    • It may lead to a default notice.

      If you do not make a payment on your credit card in 60 days, it can be classified as being “in default”. This results in an official notification from your credit card issuer and a listing on your credit history. Default account listings are a major black mark on credit files, and should be avoided at all costs. As well as the future implications of a default credit card account, you can expect to be contacted regularly by your issuer to arrange to settle the outstanding debt.

    • You could have to deal with debt collectors.

      If you don’t make a payment on your credit card account for more than 60 days, your issuer may pass the debt on to a collection agency. Debt collectors have a different approach to credit card companies and it could be much more difficult to deal with the situation if they get involved.

Keep in mind that these consequences are usually imposed over a period of time and the longer you don’t make a payment on your credit card, the worse things could get. It’s also worth noting that every credit card company has a different approach to late payments. So make sure you read the Product Disclosure Statement for your credit card or contact your provider to find out specific details of how a late payment will impact your account.

What to do if you can’t afford to pay your credit card bill on time

If you’re struggling with money and know that you won’t be able to make a payment by the due date on your credit card statement, stay calm. These steps will help you deal with the situation and reduce the impact a late payment could have on your finances.

1. Contact your credit card company.

Call your credit card company using the phone number on the back of your card on in the information booklet and let them know about your circumstances so that they can work with you to resolve the situation.

2. Request a due date extension.

If you know when you will have money to pay at least the minimum off your card, you could request that your credit card company extend the due date for this particular statement. If your request is approved you could avoid fees and negative details on your credit report, but it will be at your credit card company’s discretion.

3. Suggest a hardship variation.

If you’re experiencing ongoing financial hardship or illness and don’t know when you’ll be able to make the minimum payment on your credit card, you may want to consider a hardship variation. This is a formal legal process where you ask your lender to vary the terms of the contract. It could involve a payment plan, a freeze on your account or some other option that takes immediate pressure off you while you deal with the situation.

If multiple debts are a factor, it’s also important to deal with them as quickly as possible so that you don’t end up with a lot of overdue accounts. You can start by creating a budget based on your income and the required minimum payments for each debt, as well as potential interest charges. You may also want to consider consolidating debts with a balance transfer credit card or personal loan to make fewer payments and save money on fees and charges.

Tips to help you pay your credit card bill on time

  • Set a reminder. Write the statement due date on your calendar or in your phone to make sure you know exactly when your credit card payment is due. You may even want to set a reminder a few days before the due date to factor in the time it takes for your payment to go through.
  • Make automatic payments. Most credit card companies provide an auto payment option for your account. This means the funds will automatically come out of your nominated debit or savings account before or on the due date for each statement so that you don’t have to worry about late payments. You’ll also have the option of paying the full amount owed, the minimum, or a fixed dollar amount (as long as it’s more than the minimum required), although other charges will still apply if you end up carrying a balance on your card.
  • Pay off your card before the due date. If you’re going overseas or know that you might forget about your credit card payment in the future, you could choose to pay off the balance sooner than required. The due date on your statement is really the latest you should make a payment, so transferring money to your credit card account before that is fine. In fact, it could help you avoid interest charges on the balance (which are calculated daily).
  • Pay as you go. You can make multiple payments to your credit card account during each statement period. Simply find out the account details needed for a bank transfer or BPAY transaction, and move the money from your bank account to your credit card whenever you want to make a payment. As long as the amount you transfer adds up to more than the minimum required on the statement, this option will help you avoid late payments. It could also help you save money on interest charges by reducing your balance throughout the statement period.
  • Budget for payments. Factoring your credit card payments into your ongoing budget will help ensure you’re financially prepared for each statement due date. You may even want to go over your previous statements and work out your average payment, or use our repayment calculator so that you get a clear idea of what you’re likely to owe each month.
  • Choose a card that suits your needs. One of the most important things to consider when you have a credit card is whether or not it works for you. For example, if you have a card with a high annual fee and high interest rate but rarely make purchases and carry a balance, it will be more expensive and more difficult to make payments when compared to a card with low fees and a low ongoing interest rate. Think about how you use your credit card and the features you want, and then compare your options to find one that offers the most value based on these needs.

If you’re strapped for cash or not keeping track of your credit card bills, you could miss the payment due date and end up dealing with a whole range of subsequent issues. But being aware of the potential impact and what you can do about it will help you manage your credit card payments in a way that works for you.

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Amy Bradney-George

Amy is a Senior Writer at finder.com.au with more than 10 years experience covering credit cards, personal finance and various lifestyle topics. When she’s not sharing her knowledge on money matters, Amy spends her time as an actress.

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