How late can a payment be before it dings your credit?

Question for the expert

Dear Credit Care,
I was late on my payment with my retail credit card — three days past the due date. This was the first time in my history of two years having this card. Do you know if this is considered a 30-days-late payment and reported to the credit bureaus? Or do the card companies have a 10-day grace period before reporting somebody? In other words, will it show up on my credit report as a late payment? Thank you. — Valerie

Answer for the expert

Dear Valerie,
Each creditor handles late payment notification to the credit bureaus in their own way. Some issuers don’t even wait 30 days to report you, choosing instead to report the payment late if not received by the due date.

Others may wait much longer, not reporting late payments until no payment has been received by the next month’s due date. For example, say you miss a payment that was due on Sept. 1. Your payment may not be considered late until after Oct. 1, the date your next payment would be due. But policies vary.

One way to find out for sure what your retail card’s policy is on reporting late payments to the credit bureaus is to call and find out. You might start the conversation with an explanation of why your payment was three days late and then ask what the policy is for reporting late payments to the bureaus. If you are having trouble making your payment due to a reduction in your income from a job layoff, reduced hours, illness or other circumstance, let your creditor know. You may qualify for short-term assistance to lower your payment.

If the late payment was simply due to oversight and not financial reasons, you might point out that you have had no late payments in the two years you’ve had the card and request that any late fee be removed from your account if the creditor added one. Many creditors are willing to forgive the late fee for customers with good payment histories who call and politely request that it be taken off the account.

Unless you are planning to shop for a loan in the next month or two, I wouldn’t worry about your credit score from one 30-day late payment. Your score will take a ding if the payment is reported (and it is quite likely that it won’t be reported). However, as long as it is the sole negative on your credit reports and positive information is being added each month, it will likely take less than a year to rebound to what it was before the late payment. Should you need access to credit now and the late payment does appear on your credit report, explain to any potential lenders the circumstances of your late payment and request that it not be held against you.

To prevent future late payments, I would recommend that you devise a bill-paying system so you don’t miss any due dates. You could set up reminders in a calendar program on your computer or smartphone or use a wall calendar to note due dates for payments. Another solution might be to set up automated payment for those bills that you feel comfortable paying in this way.

Handle your credit with care!

See related:Retail card survey 2010

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