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Late Payment

When Does a Late Payment Appear on My Credit Report?

Missing the payment due date for a credit card or loan by a day is a concern, but it won't show up on credit report or impact your credit scores. And while a one-day-late payment—or even one that's a few days late—carries lighter consequences than skipping an entire billing cycle, it can have negative repercussions you should consider.

Here's what you can do to fix a late payment problem before it turns serious.

A One-Day-Late Payment Likely Won't Show on Your Credit Report

A late payment will be noted on your credit report after you have skipped an entire billing cycle, usually about 30 days. Therefore, if your creditor's due date was March 5 and it's now March 6, the matter is just between you and them—they will not report this late payment to the credit bureaus.

That doesn't mean you won't be penalized in other ways. You'll almost surely be hit with a stiff fee. You can be charged a fee up to $29 for the first late payment, then $40 each time you pay late within six consecutive billing cycles, according to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

Another sharp penalty could be an interest rate hike. A credit card issuer has the right to raise your rate if you pay after the date your payment is due. This will be especially painful if you took advantage of a zero-interest balance transfer offer to avoid interest on another credit card. Zero-interest credit card offers usually come with promotional annual percentage rates (APRs) for a certain number of months, but that special rate will only remain if you follow the rules and pay on time.

So while a one-day-late payment will be absent from your credit reports, it has the power to hurt your bottom line.

When Are Late Payments Reported?

Now imagine you pay a bill after an entire billing cycle has lapsed, waiting until April 6 to make a payment that was due March 5. That means you're behind enough for the issuer to furnish that information to the credit reporting agencies. It's considered a 30-day late payment, and it will be noted on your credit report for up to seven years. Anyone who checks your report will see it and is free to form an opinion about it.

More important, a 30-day late payment will affect your credit scores. The two largest credit scoring companies—FICO® and VantageScore—rank payment history as the most important score factor, and thus a late payment will shave points from your score. The extent of the damage depends on the state of your entire credit history. If you have a long and strong pattern of using credit products responsibly—paying on time and keeping revolving debts low—a single late payment isn't likely to drop your scores drastically. On the other hand, if you have very little on your credit report, your scores will likely decline markedly.

If you continue to let billing cycles elapse, your credit scores will be harmed more severely. The later a payment is, the more alarming it is to creditors and the more dramatically your credit scores will sink. Severely late payments could be an indication that you're in financial trouble, and a signal to lenders that you pose a credit risk.

What to Do if You've Missed a Payment

Thankfully there are immediate steps you can take to reduce the problems associated with a missed due date.

  • Pay your bill now. Call your creditor or go online to pay your bill right away. Sending a payment by check will only cause an additional delay, and if it's not quickly received and processed, you could reach the dreaded 30-day-late mark.
  • Ask the creditor for a break. Once the payment has been posted, call the creditor and ask to speak to someone who can help you with your account. If you have a compelling reason for paying late, explain what happened. Even if you don't have a good excuse, politely request that the late fee be waived. Many credit issuers will grant your wish on the spot, especially if you have been managing the account well. If the issuer has increased your interest rate, ask how you can get it back down. For example, they may lower it if you pay on time for the next six months.
  • Sign up for automatic bill pay. A common reason people pay their bills late is because life gets in the way and they simply forget. You can avoid this issue by enrolling in your bank's autopay system, which will submit a payment for you on the day of the month you request. If your payment is due on the 15th, you can have the amount owed deducted from your checking account on the 11th, guaranteeing on-time payments as long as you have the money in your checking account to cover it. Of course you should still monitor your accounts, but it's a great way to streamline your financial affairs.

Take Control

Put yourself in a position of power and don't let late payments become a habit. If you do, it can result in costly fees and a debt that takes longer and is more expensive to repay than you anticipate. Worse, it can lead to serious damage to your credit. Check your free FICO® Score on Experian to see where those numbers are today, then take action to ensure they go nowhere but up.