A late credit card payment is a significant infraction that could have lasting effects on your credit score. If falling behind on payments becomes a regular occurrence, you can kiss your credit card goodbye: The terms and conditions of the credit card could change in ways that could make the card untenable  to continue using.

Negative Effects of a Late Credit Card Payment

Within one day of missing your credit card payment, the credit card company will post a late payment fee — which could be as expensive as $35 — to your account. Additionally, some credit card companies could automatically hike up your interest rate to the penalty or default rate of about 30% APR if you are more than 60 days late in making a monthly payment.

Thanks to the consumer-friendly Credit CARD Act of 2009, the increased rate will not apply to the existing balance. Nevertheless, the higher rate could end up costing you hundreds of dollars more in the future.

Depending on the card issuer, a missed credit card payment could be reported to the credit bureaus and end up as a negative mark on your credit report. Check your card disclosures and terms and conditions to see when card issuers will consider reporting your delinquency to the credit bureaus. As a result of the credit check, your credit score will take a hit.

Some credit card companies are becoming more lenient by not reporting the first late credit card payment. If you make a habit out of late payments, however, they will make it a point to include it on your credit report.

What You Should Do

A late credit card payment is not the end of the world. It may feel like the banks are out to get you as soon as you miss the due date, but taking immediate action to fix the situation can reduce the harm done to your finances. Here are some steps to avoid problems:

1. Make the late credit card payment as soon as possible.

Do not hesitate to pay the credit card bill that you missed. The sooner you make the payment, the less of an impact it will have on your standing. If you react quickly enough, you can avoid the APR increase and the bad mark on your credit report.

2. Call to remove the late payment fee.

Cardholders who have a long, clean history with a credit card company have a good chance at talking their way out of a late fee. A late payment that was just a few days past due could show that it was just a one-time mistake. If late payments are a recurring trend, it could be very difficult to remove the late fee.

3. Pay your bills on time.

If you happen to be more than 60 days late on your credit card payment and the card issuer has raised your interest rate, six continuous months of on-time payments would warrant an interest rate restoration to the previous interest rate — another beneficial provision of the Credit CARD Act.

Continue to stay up-to-date on your credit card bills so that the late credit card payment seems more and more like an isolated incident.

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