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What Happens When You Miss a Credit Card Payment?

Missing a credit card payment can lead to a number of financial headaches.

Boonchai Wedmakawand / Getty Images

It can be hard keeping up with bills, and sometimes things slip through the cracks. Missing a credit card payment could happen to anyone, so it’s important to know the ramifications of a missed payment -- and how to navigate and prevent one.

What happens when you miss a payment?

Missing a payment can have a number of effects on your financial life. The consequences of missing a credit card payment depend on your payment history and how long you go without paying. If you have a history of missing payments, the consequences will be more dire than if it’s a one-time occurrence.

First and foremost, you’ll incur a late payment fee. Most issuers outline how large the fee will be in the card terms, but generally it’ll range from $20 to $40. This will be a one-time payment so long as you don’t miss further payments. If you do, the late payment fee will go up.

You’ll also lose your grace period. Most credit cards typically include a 21-day grace period from your statement closing to before your payment is due. You can take advantage of this time to avoid paying interest charges. However, if you miss a payment or if you don’t pay the full statement balance, you’ll lose your grace period and your new purchases will begin to accrue interest.

If you miss a payment, you could also suffer from a penalty annual percentage rate (APR). A penalty APR is a punitive APR your issuer will apply that’s usually capped at 29.99% -- far higher than the standard APR. 

When you miss a payment, after receiving notice from your issuer, your new purchases will begin to accrue interest at the penalty rate. If you miss two payments -- meaning your account is delinquent for 60 days -- your full statement balance will accrue interest at the penalty rate.

In addition to a potential penalty rate, missing a payment could result in a higher standard interest rate for your card and future new credit cards. Missing a payment could also result in losing any introductory APR your credit card may have.

When you miss a payment, your credit score will also suffer, as payment history is a major factor in your credit score.

Does missing a payment affect your credit score?

Missing a payment won’t immediately affect your credit score, as credit card issuers only report a missed payment to the three major credit bureaus -- Equifax, Experian and TransUnion -- after 30 days. That means you have 29 days to fix the mistake and avoid a missed payment showing up on your credit reports. Missed payments could stay on your credit report for up to seven years.

According to FICO, if you start with a credit score of 607, just missing one payment and having it marked on your credit report (after 30 days) will drop you to either 570 or 590, depending on your payment history.

What to do if you miss a credit card payment

There are a number of actions to take if you miss a credit card payment:

  • Pay the minimum as soon as you can. You have 30 days before your issuer reports the missed payment to the credit bureaus, meaning you can avoid any damage to your credit score if you pay as soon as possible. If you pay the minimum as soon as you’re able each month, you can avoid the headache of a missed payment all together.
  • Contact your issuer. While you may still incur a late payment fee or penalty APR, your credit card issuer may work with you to help. You could potentially negotiate a lower minimum payment if you’re struggling.
  • Don’t miss another payment. Missing another payment will result in lower credit scores and higher interest rates.

If you do end up doing some damage, there are ways you can improve your credit score.

How to avoid paying your credit card late

You can take these steps to avoid missing a credit card payment, and therefore avoiding the financial problems it can lead to.

  • Set up automatic payments. Most credit card issuers allow you to set up automatic payments, which will help you avoid missing any payments.
  • Contact your issuer to move your due date. You can work with your issuer to choose a due date that works best for you. Some credit cards let you set your due date online.
  • Set up account alerts. You can have alerts sent to you ahead of time to ensure you know when your payment is coming up.

Missing payments will lower your credit score, increase your interest rates and result in fees. Communicate with your issuer and have a plan in place to make sure you’ll never have to deal with the repercussions of missing a payment.

The editorial content on this page is based solely on objective, independent assessments by our writers and is not influenced by advertising or partnerships. It has not been provided or commissioned by any third party. However, we may receive compensation when you click on links to products or services offered by our partners.

Evan Zimmer has been writing about finance for years. After graduating with a journalism degree from SUNY Oswego, he wrote credit card content for Credit Card Insider (now Money Tips) before moving to ZDNET Finance to cover credit card, banking and blockchain news. He currently works with CNET Money to bring readers the most accurate and up-to-date financial information. Otherwise, you can find him reading, rock climbing, snowboarding and enjoying the outdoors.