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How Bad Is It to Miss a Credit Card Payment?

By
Samantha Rose
Samantha Rose covers financial literacy for the educational arm of OppLoans. Her work focuses on providing hands-on resources for high school and college-age students in addition to their parents and educators.
Updated on July 15, 2021
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A missed payment can do lasting damage.

Your bill arrives. You make a mental note to pay it, but then something happens. You forget and now you’re past due. 

Is that bad? 

Well, it depends on how late your payment is. It also depends on your credit history. But a late credit card payment can definitely be pretty bad — like, 100-points-or-more bad if it reaches 90 days. 

The best way to avoid damage is to avoid missed payments in the first place. But when they happen, there are a few things you should know. We break it all down in our latest episode of OppU Answers.

What happens if I miss a credit card payment?

A missed credit card payment can result in fees, increased interest rates, and a negative impact on your credit score. But the consequences vary depending on how many days your payment is past due.

When you miss a credit card payment, you usually have about 30 days to pay up before your creditor reports your late payment to the credit bureaus. This is called a grace period, and missed payments typically won’t end up on your credit report

But if you don’t pay within the grace period, the slipup will probably end up on your credit report and ding your credit score. You’ll also probably be charged a late fee. One missed payment can lower your credit score and remain on a credit report for up to seven years.

How does missing a payment affect my credit score?

Once a credit card payment is 30 days past due, the credit card company will usually notify the three major credit bureaus. At this point, the missed payment will appear on a credit report and cause potentially serious damage to a credit score. The damage usually gets even worse once a bill hits 60 or 90 days past due. 

FICO, the company that provides the most widely used credit score, compared the effect of a late payment on two hypothetical consumers. In their test, Consumer A started off with a “fair” score of 607, while Consumer B started off with a “very good” score of 793. Here’s how their different credit profiles are impacted by a 30- and 90-day missed credit card payment.

Consumer AConsumer B
Current FICO Score680780
Score After Missed Payment600-620670-690
Points Lost60-8090-110

How long does a missed payment stay on a credit report?

In most cases, a missed credit card payment, also called a delinquency, will fall off a credit report after seven years. Anyone who pulls your credit report before that date will see the delinquency information.

For example, a 30-day late payment reported in January 2020 and returned to good standing in February 2020 will drop off a report in January 2027. The same logic applies to consecutive missed payments. 

What can I do if I miss a payment? 

If you miss a credit card payment, take action immediately. Here’s what to do to minimize the negative effects of a missed payment on your credit score.

Pay the minimum amount

The sooner, the better. If your payment is within the 30-day grace period, you can usually avoid a negative ding on your credit report. Reporting agencies inform the credit bureaus of payments not made by the next billing cycle. But if it’s more than 30 days past due, you can minimize the negative impact by paying at least the minimum amount due as soon as possible.

Call your creditor

Call your credit card issuer right away. If this is your first late payment, try to negotiate. There’s a chance that the issuer will be understanding and waive any late fees for a first offense. In fact, some issuers don’t charge a fee at all. 

What if my payment is only one day late?

If a payment is only one day late, it likely won’t be reflected on your credit report. Late payments are reported to the credit bureaus after a full billing cycle, which is typically 30 days. Pay at least the minimum amount due and don’t make a habit of late payments.

What if I only miss one payment?

If you only miss one payment, the damage depends on how quickly you pay your late bill. Pay at least the minimum amount due to bring your account into good standing within the 30-day grace period. If you don’t, the missed payment will be reported to the credit bureaus. Going forward, don’t make a habit out of missing credit card payments. Ensure you don’t miss another by implementing tips to prevent missed payments.

How do I prevent a missed payment?

The best way to prevent a missed credit card payment is by being proactive. Here are a few actions to take.

Pay on time

Ensure you have enough money in your account to cover your upcoming credit card bills. Create a monthly budget, including your debts, to anticipate each months’ expenses. It’s important to set limits on personal spending. If you’re short on cash, cut any costs that aren’t essential.

Pay at least the minimum

If you’re in a difficult financial position, try to make at least the minimum payment due on your credit card. This will keep your account in good standing while you determine a fix. Call your issuer to discuss relief options — they might offer a financial hardship program.

Enroll in autopay

Most credit card issuers offer an automated way to pay your bills: autopay. Enroll in automatic payments for recurring credit card bills. You can set it up to pay the minimum amount due, the total statement balance, or a custom amount. No more accidentally forgetting a payment. Peace of mind is a few minutes away — it’s that easy to enroll.

Set reminders and notifications

Rely on calendar reminders to never forget a bill payment. Set up a reminder in your phone app or through your email account calendar. Email and text alerts are other great options. Receive a notification when your statement is available to view and pay it immediately. 

Change the due date

If you have multiple bills, the due dates likely fall on different days. It’s easier to lose track of multiple payment dates, so contact your credit card issuer to consolidate bills to a single day — ideally around your paycheck.

Bottom line

Missing a credit card payment — yes, even one — can do lasting damage to your credit score. Prevent a missed payment at all costs.

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