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Can card issuer send bills just 11 days before due date?

By

Let's Talk Credit
Let's Talk Credit columnist Jane E. McNamara
Jane E. McNamara is president and chief executive officer of GreenPath Debt Solutions, a nationwide, not-for-profit, providing financial literacy through consumer education and counseling for more than 50 years. For financial literacy tips and assistance visit GreenPath on Facebook or YouTube.
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Question for the CreditCards.com expert

Dear Let's Talk Credit,
I'm curious about the law concerning a credit card's billing cycle. I received a bill eight days before it was due. By law it should be sent out 20 days in advance. The credit card company says that while it creates the bill that many days in advance it gives itself 10 business days for people to receive it. The postmark date on the envelope says just three days prior to having received it. I'm wondering if that 10 business days rule is law, or just something that they made up. -- Katrina

Answer for the CreditCards.com expert

Dear Katrina,
The law you are referring to is the Credit Card Accountability Responsibility and Disclosure Act of 2009. Within it is a rule about mailing statements, tied into when credit card issuers may consider a payment to be late. The creditor may not consider a payment late "unless the creditor has adopted reasonable procedures designed to ensure that each periodic statement is mailed or delivered to the consumer not later than 21 days before the payment due date."

Assuming you have your dates straight, something's wrong, and you have good reason to question what they're saying. If you received it just eight days before it's due, and the postmark says it was sent three days before that, that would mean the card company gave you just 11 days to pay -- and that's not right: 11 days is not the 21 required by law.

You don't mention that the problem caused your payment to be late; I hope that means you were able to quickly get a payment in the mail. I want to believe this was a singular mistake and that a less hectic payment schedule is the norm. If not, I hope you kept that envelope with the postmark; you may need it if this turns into a dispute.

The act also specifies that the payment due date for a credit card account must be the same day each month. If the due date falls on a weekend or holiday, and the creditor does not receive or accept payments by mail on those days, the creditor may not treat the payment as late until the next business day.

One of the great things about these rules is that having your payment due date remain constant each month should make it easier for you to pay on time. If you don't currently make payments online, you might consider setting up an online account, so you can easily make your payment at any time before the due date. Whether you pay through the U.S. mail, or online, it is also a good idea to set a reminder on your phone or calendar. Making your payments on time is very important in maintaining a good credit history.

Because we all make mistakes, even when we guard against them, you may find one other fact helpful. The CARD Act prevents a creditor from increasing your interest rate, solely because you made a single late payment, unless that payment is more than 60 days late. So, should you forget to send in a payment one month and you are a few days or weeks late, you will likely be charged a late fee (and occasional late fees cannot exceed $25 in most cases), but you won't have to worry about your interest rate increasing because of one small mistake.

Let's keep talking!

See related: Feds cap credit card late fees at $25, Chronic late payments: How bad can the fines, fees get?

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Published: November 7, 2013


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