Avoid late payments by setting up auto bill pay

Late payments happen, so take steps to avoid it becoming a regular thing


To Her Credit
To Her Credit, Sally Herigstad
Sally Herigstad is a certified public accountant and the author of "Help! I Can't Pay My Bills: Surviving a Financial Crisis" (St. Martin's Press, 2006). She writes "To Her Credit," a weekly reader Q&A column about issues involving women, credit and debt, for, and also wrote for MSN Money, and, and has guested on Martha Stewart Radio and other programs. See her website for more personal finance tips and free budgeting worksheets.
Ask Sally a question, or read her previous answers in the To Her Credit archive

Dear To Her Credit,
With the hustle and bustle of Thanksgiving, I made my Visa payment two days late. I always pay my bills at work when I get paid. Well, we were off this Friday for the holidays and it completely slipped my mind.

I paid the bill today (November 30) as it was due on Friday. Will this affect my credit badly? I plan to call them and ask them to waive the $25 late fee because this is my first time paying late since getting the card in August 2013.   -- Karen


Dear Karen,
Don't worry, missing a credit card payment by a couple of days is not likely to affect your credit score. The bank probably won't even report it to the credit bureaus.

Most banks only report an account as delinquent when it is at least 30 days late. Some only bother after 60 days. Although I can't guarantee your bank won't report an overdue payment within the first 30 days, it's highly unlikely. In fact, can you imagine the data overload if banks reported to the credit bureaus every time someone was two days late.

You're smart to call and ask for a waiver of the $25 late fee. I always request a waiver -- not that it happens that often -- and I've never been turned down. When you're a good customer, the bank representative would rather keep you happy and using the card than charge you the $25.

I completely understand missing a payment by a few days during the hustle and bustle of holidays -- or during life in general. To avoid the stress of wondering if I'm late on any credit card bills, I've set up automatic payments on all my credit card accounts.

These automatic payments are very small, just enough to cover the minimum payment most months. I prefer small automatic payments, because they don't affect my bank balance much. I pay the rest of the balance before the due date. If I go on vacation or for some other reason I'm a few days late on the second payment, I may have to pay a small interest charge. That's galling enough because I hate paying interest. But at least I never have to worry about late charges, let alone negative marks on my credit report.

Another way to avoid late payments is to pay your bill earlier in the month. If you can afford to pay your bill as soon as it comes, so much the better. The best way to use a credit card is to only spend money that you already have in your checking account - not as a way to spend next month's salary today. That way, once a purchase is on the card, in your mind the money is gone. When you pay the bill, you're just transferring money from your checking account to your credit card account. By paying your credit card bill sooner, you not only avoid having to worry about late payments, but you actually part with the money while you still remember the restaurant meal or new shoes that you enjoyed buying.

You're doing a great job paying your credit card bill on time so far. Don't feel bad about the barely late payment. Keep up the good work, and take care of your credit.

See related: Putting card payments on automatic can backfire

Meet's reader Q&A experts

Does a personal finance problem have you worried? Monday through Saturday,'s Q&A experts answer questions from readers. Ask a question, or click on any expert to see their previous answers.

Published: December 5, 2014

Join the discussion
We encourage an active and insightful conversation among our users. Please help us keep our community civil and respectful. For your safety, do not disclose confidential or personal information such as bank account numbers or social security numbers. Anything you post may be disclosed, published, transmitted or reused.

If you are commenting using a Facebook account, your profile information may be displayed with your comment depending on your privacy settings. By leaving the 'Post to Facebook' box selected, your comment will be published to your Facebook profile in addition to the space below.

The editorial content on is not sponsored by any bank or credit card issuer. The journalists in the editorial department are separate from the company's business operations. The comments posted below are not provided, reviewed or approved by any company mentioned in our editorial content. Additionally, any companies mentioned in the content do not assume responsibility to ensure that all posts and/or questions are answered.

Follow Us

Updated: 10-28-2016

Weekly newsletter
Get the latest news, advice, articles and tips delivered to your inbox. It's FREE.