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There was a problem with your last payment. Maybe the website glitched; maybe you forgot to hit the "pay now" button. Now your payment is late—and getting later every day. Out-of-date contact information, outdated contact preferences and resistance to unsolicited messages can make it all but impossible for messages from your lender to get through to you.
It's part of modern life to screen out robocalls and spam, but it's also critical for your lenders to be able to contact you with account alerts and security questions. Here's how to make sure your lender or card company can reach you when it matters.
Why Lenders Need to Contact You
Lenders and card companies need to contact you when key issues arise, such as:
- Late or missing payments
- Problems processing a payment
- Credit limit reached or exceeded
- Suspicious activity on your account
- Temporary freeze on your account
- New account opening
Often, these notifications are for your own benefit. Receiving an instant text about a suspicious charge gives you the opportunity to halt a fraudulent transaction before it goes through—or confirm it, if it's really you making a purchase. Finding out your payment is a day late gives you the opportunity to pay up immediately, before serious credit consequences occur. Just one 30-day late payment can bring down your credit score significantly and can remain on your credit report for seven years.
Why Your Lender May Not Be Able to Reach You
People are more difficult to reach than they were a few years back. Ironically, it could be our constant connectivity by mobile devices—text, phone calls, email, emergency alerts—that makes us resistant to getting the message. Consider how our relationship to messaging has changed:
- You don't answer the phone. According to a survey by Transaction Network Services, 75% of Americans never answer calls from unknown numbers.
- You don't check your voicemail. And even when you do, you may hear a recorded message that begins midway through: You hear the instruction to return the call, but not who the caller is or why they're calling.
- You miss the email. The average person receives more than 100 emails a day, 85% of which are spam. An email alert from your credit card company can easily get lost in the shuffle, especially if they also send other kinds of messages, such as marketing offers.
- You suspect communication from your lender is spam or a fraud attempt. Your spam filter may grab an email before you see it. But even legitimate messages from your lender or card company can seem unconvincing: Who hasn't received scam texts or emails instructing you to click a link to find out what happened to your account?
On top of all this, your account information and preferences may be out of date. If some time has passed since you got your loan or opened your card account, chances are good that your information has changed.
How to Update Your Contact Information with Lenders
Take a few simple steps to make sure your lenders and credit card companies have the correct information—and that you're set up to receive critical messages when needed.
- Update your contact information. Sign into your account and review your account information. Check to see that your contact information is current and your contact preferences make sense.
- Add their number to your contacts. You aren't guaranteed they'll call you from the number you add, but you increase your chances of correctly identifying their call or text.
- Consider choosing texts whenever possible. Let's face it: Most of us are at high risk for ignoring a phone call or missing an email. If your lender texts, at least you can see their message and follow up at your earliest convenience.
- Sign up for account alerts. Automated alerts let you know instantly when your account needs your attention. Better still, they help you establish a regular stream of contact you're more likely to recognize and not overlook.
Beware of Alert Fatigue
While more contact may be better than none, too much contact can be exhausting. Sign up for notifications you find useful, but don't overdo it. If you're not the type of person who wants to receive a text every time you complete a transaction, stay away. Consider deactivating marketing messages if the volume of messages makes you likely to tune out.
Respond to Messages Safely
Say you receive a text message from your lender letting you know your payment is late. Instead of clicking the link in the text message to check your account, go directly to your online account or mobile app and sign in—in case the text message and link are malicious. Got a question? Go to your lender's website or app, find their toll-free number and call it.
The Bottom Line
A well-timed message may help you avoid a late payment on your credit report or respond to fraudulent activity before it goes through. But, sometimes without realizing it, your contact information or communication preferences may be making you hard to reach. Take a moment to consider the best ways for lenders and card companies to contact you, then update your account information accordingly.
And while you're thinking about staying up to date on your finances, you may want to consider checking your credit report and score to make sure you haven't been affected by accidental late payments or identity theft. You can also sign up for free credit monitoring to be notified when there are changes to your credit.