This is a guest post from Ask Mr. Credit Card. We love getting questions from our readers. You can ask us one too if you like; leave a comment below.
Hey Mr. CC,
I just got a new Capital One Card, and I’m not going to be able to make the minimum payment this month. I will be able to make payments again next month, it’s just that this month has been tight. What should I do? Do I really need to call them, or what?
Late payments are a scary thing for a credit card holder. Sometimes you just don’t know what to do, or you have no idea where to begin re-organizing your finances. If you’re considering making a late payment there are some things you need to know, and other things you need to keep in mind.
Don’t even think of making a late payment until you consider all of the following options and information.
Late payments report to your credit bureau in some form or fashion. However, it’s not the same for every company. Some companies don’t report to the credit bureau until you’re 30 days past due. That’s the norm in the industry. In fact, that’s the norm for most bills — credit cards, car notes, mortgages, etc.
Other companies may report after you are 15 days past due, and others may report if you’re late, period. You need to check your cardholder agreement to see what your issuer’s policy is. Don’t make this decision without knowing the facts.
Pretty much every huge credit card issuer is a bank. Those banks have customer service departments. Those customer service departments have other departments. In fact, the other departments have other departments too. You can go through many levels of “escalation” in customer service until you find a “consumer affairs” or “settlement” division.
The people there will help you make payment arrangements that the bank agrees to. You can’t just decide when to pay them and expect that they’ll be ok with that. They won’t be.
So, you call in and find a nice person who’s willing to work with you. The payment arrangements, sometimes, are based on calculations and other times on the discretion of someone who is in charge. Make sure you go as deep as you can before you make arrangements.
Talking To People on the Phone.
When you call a customer service department you need to make sure you do two things:
- Play nice.
- Don’t allow anyone to disrespect you.
If you’re not getting anywhere with someone you need to either hang up and call back to get someone new or you need to ask for their boss.
At places like Citibank, the supervisor’s live in the place call “SupGate” it’s a place where they just take escalated calls all day. Trust me; they do NOT want to deal with you because the service associate wasn’t capable of dealing with you. Plus, many of these supervisors are not too impressed with the associates who escalate calls, and that means you get someone who understands when you say, “The person I was just talking to just wasn’t listening to me.”
Be bold, and you’ll get more accomplished. Feel free to keep asking for more and more supervisors until you find a sensible person to talk to. It may make you look like a crazy person, but you’ll be the crazy person who’s getting the help they need.
They’re going to nail you with late fees when you make late payments. It’s inevitable. Before you negotiate, read your cardholder agreement so that you know what kind of fee they’re going to charge you.
If you have a problem with a payment, you may want to call in and make payment arrangements, but if you’ve passed that point you need to try and fix the problem.
Let’s say it’s a one-time thing. You missed this one payment but don’t plan to miss any more. You call in and ask if you can have the late charges removed.
The most common response to this is: “Well, we can’t do that.” Yeah, and I’m King Kong. Somebody has the power to do that. Who exactly fixes it for you depends on which company you’re dealing with. You have to keep asking until you get to the right person. Are you gaming the system? No. You’re asking for something you need just this one time. They do it for everyone else; they might as well do it for you, too.
You may even get a big speech about how this can only happen ONE TIME. You get it, but it won’t hurt to ask.
Move the Payment Date.
If you’re having issues with cash flow then you may want to ask to have your payment date moved. Some companies will let you do it whenever you want, and others will only let you do it once “every so often” (three months, six months, etc.)
Pushing the payment date back can help sometimes, and that’s a good thing. So, let’s say you are moving the payment date back from the 1st to the 15th. What happens? Do you just pay the same amount, but later? Nope.
They are calculating interest and finance charges all the time. So, if you move the payment date back 14 days, you’ll be paying 14 days more interest and finance charges that ONE time. Remember, it’s not permanent, but the payment after you make the change will be a little more than usual.
Now, if you have to keep moving the payment date around because you freelance, or there are just some weird money troubles, you’re going to have to be extra sweet when you ask. Some associates have the power to just make the change and they’ll just do it for you. So, that’s an easy way to be able to manage your finances with a relatively pleasant phone call.
However, getting into a rollercoaster situation might spook the bank and they may stop you from changing the date, so be careful and read your cardholder agreement to see if you have a limit on how many times you can do that.
Try everything on here before you even consider making a late payment. If you make a late payment, then use the tools we’ve offered to make it sting a little less. Don’t ever settle for less, and try to get as much out of the company as you can. You are the customer, and you should be able to get some help every now and then — especially in this economy. And if you ever find yourself facing too much debt, remember that the first step to getting out of debt is to stop charging. As long as you cannot make reliable payments, you should avoid using credit.