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What happens when you miss a credit card payment?

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It can be easy to miss a credit card payment if you're juggling a half dozen different bills all with different due dates, and you haven't yet set up autopay. Unfortunately, a missed credit card payment can come with expensive consequences.

The impact of a late payment depends on how late that payment is and the terms of your credit card. You may incur a late payment fee, penalty interest rate and risk damage to your credit score.

Below, CNBC Select reviews what happens when you miss a credit card payment, the fees you may incur, the effect on your credit score and how to prevent late payments.

Consequences of a missed or late credit card payment

The consequences of a missed or late credit card payment vary based on how many days your payment is past due. If you missed a credit card payment by one day, it's not the end of the world. Credit card issuers don't report payments that are less than 30 days late to the credit bureaus. If your payment is 30 or more days late, then the penalties can add up.

Common results of paying late include:

  • Late payment fee: In most cases, you'll be hit with a late payment fee. This fee is often up to $39.
  • Penalty APR: A late payment can cause your interest rate to spike significantly higher than your regular purchase APR. However, penalty APRs may be reverted back to the regular APR by meeting certain requirements, such as making two consecutive payments on time.
  • Cancellation of intro 0% APR periods: If you're benefiting from an introductory interest-free period, you risk losing out on the offer if you make a late payment.

How a missed or late credit card payment effects your credit score

A missed or late payment can have serious negative effects on your credit score. The longer your payment is past due, the more your credit score will drop. Below, we've provided an example of the effect a 30- and 90-day missed credit card payment has on two consumers, according to FICO data.

Sophia Maria
Current FICO® Score 9607793
Result of a 30-day missed payment570-590710-730
Total credit score drop for a 30-day missed payment17-37 points63-83 points
Result of a 90-day missed payment560-580660-680
Total credit score drop for a 90-day missed payment27-47 points113-133 points

As you can see, the higher your credit score, the greater negative effect a 30- or 90-day missed credit card payment has on your account. That's because someone with a lower credit score already has their past behavior reflected in their score. The addition of one more indicator of risk won't be as significant as someone with a clean credit history.

What to do if you miss a payment

If you missed a payment, it's important to take action fast. Here's what you should do to minimize the negative effects of a late payment:

Pay at least the minimum as soon as possible

The sooner you make a payment, the better. If your payment is less than 30 days past due, you can avoid it hitting your credit report. And if it's more than 30 days past due, you can still minimize the damage by paying at least the minimum as soon as you can.

Call your card issuer and try to negotiate your payment

If this is your first late payment, chances are good that your card issuer may waive the late fee. There are even some cards that automatically waive your first late payment, such as the Discover it® Cash Back, or have no late payment fees at all, like the Citi Simplicity® Card.

If your card doesn't have these perks, simply pick up the phone or live chat with customer service and ask if the fee can be waived.

Don't miss another payment

Missing one payment might not be terrible, but if you make a habit of paying late, it can have serious implications. Make sure you always make on-time payments and follow our tips for preventing late payments below.

How to prevent late payments

Here are some steps you can take to prevent late payments:

Set up autopay

Card issuers provide an easy way for you to prevent late payments: autopay. You can set up autopay in less than a minute and benefit from peace of mind that your credit card payment is scheduled. Autopay can be set up for the minimum payment due, your total statement balance or another amount. We recommend setting it for your total statement balance so you avoid interest charges, but if that's not possible choose at least the minimum due.

Set payment reminders

If you don't want to set up autopay, you can set calendar reminders or text and email alerts. Many card issuers let you opt into reminders for when your statement is available, when your payment is due in a set number of days, when your payment posts and more. Note that these options may vary by issuer.

Change your payment due date

If you have multiple bills to pay, odds are your due dates are spread out over the month. This may increase your chances of missing a payment, so it can be a good idea to adjust your payment due dates as needed. It may be beneficial to have them on the same day or right after you get paid.

Editorial Note: Opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the CNBC Select editorial staff’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any third party.