Will A Late Credit Card Payment Hurt My Credit Score?

Running Late In Traffic

There’s Always An Excuse For Being Late!

I was so rushed to pack for Europe that I forgot to schedule my normal credit card payment for the first of the month! As a result, I missed my $535 credit card bill completely and didn’t realize it until three days after due date!

The first thing to realize is it’s not the end of the world if you accidentally miss a credit card payment. Things like this happen all the time, and the hammer does not fall on your credit score so quickly.

The second thing is there’s a grace period to how late you can be before getting hurt. Being three days late is much different from being 30 days late. But being 90+ days late is a disaster!

The final thing is credit card companies want to make money off you. Paying late or not in full every month makes them an estimated $60 billion+ a year! If credit card companies knew you would never default, they’d happily let you pay late all the time!


1) Ask for forgiveness. Your first option should be to call your credit card company and ask for forgiveness. I have been late on my credit card payment four times in 180+ months of payment always because I forgot. Each time I was late, I called the credit card company within seven days to explain myself and ask whether they would wave the $25 missed payment fee and accept payment in arrears. Each time they said yes, partly because I have demonstrated years of regular payments, and partly because I always called shortly after realizing I was late. As a result, my credit score was not hurt, and if it was hurt, it still stayed above 780 so who cares. Just make sure to ask whether they’ve reported you to the credit bureaus.

2) Threaten to leave. If forgiveness doesn’t work, your second option is to threaten to cancel your account after payment. Given there are an endless amount of credit cards available to choose from, your credit card company doesn’t want to lose you as a customer. The only problem with changing credit cards is that it’s a pain to update credit card info with existing accounts that have your information e.g. Amazon, cable company, insurance, etc. Given your boldness usually works to get your fee waved, your credit score should also not get negatively impacted if you are talking to them within a week. I had one case that succeeded, and my credit score remained the same. I had one case where the rep just wished me good luck, and my credit score was not negatively impacted from what I could tell.

But what if your threat doesn’t work and you really love your existing credit card? No shame in going back and asking for forgiveness again! After all, you were the one at fault, not them. As one reader mentions below, she called back several times to ask for forgiveness and finally found one representative who waived her fees while all others would not!


The big problem occurs when you are more than 30 days late with your credit card payment. More than 30 days means that you are entering your second billing cycle and your account is now elevated to warning status. 60 days late is the next warning level until you are considered delinquent at 90 days. At this point, no amount of begging or threatening will be able to wave your late fees and save your credit score.

It is estimated by FICO that……..

If your credit score is 680

  • Your score will drop 60 to 80 points to 600-620 on average and as low as 530.
If your credit score is 720
  • Your score will drop 80 to 110 points to 650-610 and as low as 525.

If your credit score is 780

  • Your score will drop 90 to 110 points to 670-690 on average, and as low as 620.

As you can see, being late on your credit card payment can severely damage your credit score. Going from a 720 to 600 means car loans will likely be 2-3% higher than optimal. Your mortgage rate will also be at least 1.5% higher than the best rate which adds up to huge increased payments over the long run!


* 680 credit scores can take up to 9 months to recover.

* 720 credit scores can take up to 2.5 years to recover.

* 780 credit scores can take 3 whole years to fully recover!

The good news is that credit scores can recover after a 30 day+ late payment if you pay consistently again over time. The bad news is how long it takes for really good credit scores to recover if you are in delinquent status. Three years to get back to a 780 from a 600-level score is an eternity for some people.

For those who have busy lives or who are always traveling, consider employing an autopay on your credit card account. Calculate the average amount of money you spent on your credit card for the past 12 months, divide by 11 to give you a buffer and put that amount on auto pay. This way, you’ll never miss a payment. It’s not a big deal if you pay more than you owe either since the payment just acts as credit for the next month’s cycle. Having autopay on your mortgage is a given.



Check your free credit score now! I highly recommend signing up for Credit Sesame, a company that provides free unlimited daily credit scores, free monthly credit reports, free 1-Bureau credit monitoring and alerts, free analysis of all your credit and loans, and free $50K identity theft insurance and ID restoration help! Unlike other “free” credit score companies who hope you forget not to cancel before their free 30-day trial is up, there’s no need to give Credit Sesame your credit card information.

A credit score is important when trying to get the best loan terms possible for a mortgage, car loan, or personal loan. Because of a delinquent $8 electric bill payment my tenant didn’t pay, I unknowingly had a credit score in the 600s that almost torpedoed my mortgage refinance! Finally, it’s simply a great idea to have constant monitoring to get a complete financial picture. You just never know with so many credit report errors and identity thieves out there. Sign up for your free credit score with Credit Sesame today. 

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Updated for 2015 and beyond.



Sam started Financial Samurai in 2009 during the depths of the financial crisis as a way to make sense of chaos. After 13 years working on Wall Street, Sam decided to retire in 2012 to utilize everything he learned in business school to focus on online entrepreneurship. Sam focuses on helping readers build more income in real estate, investing, entrepreneurship, and alternative investments in order to achieve financial independence sooner, rather than later.

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  1. says

    I was late once because I mailed in a check (back in the day) and it didn’t arrive until Monday, but the payment was due on the Sunday before. I called, begged for forgiveness, and failed. I called back to a different customer service rep, pleaded my case, and failed to get forgiveness again. After calling back to 5-6 different customer service reps, I got one who forgave the penalties instantly. It was perhaps slightly unethical of me (was it?), but it worked.

  2. says

    Wow! That’s a long time to get your credit score back. Many credit card companies now have an automatic minimum payment they can take from your bank account just in case you forget to pay. It may not be the amount you want to pay, but it can save you three years of trouble.

  3. says

    I haven’t ever been late on a credit care but I did forget my electric bill once. They didn’t care.though and didn’t have any fees or late penalties and were just happy I called them before they called me.

  4. says

    I think I was late once because I never received the statement. I called and they reversed the fees and interest. This is the advantage of good credit and history with an institution. You have immediate credibility with them and they can look up your history. I remember years ago doing something similar with my mortgage. Again I called and resolved the problem.

  5. says

    I accidentally paid too early once – I knew I’d be gone for a few weeks so I paid the entire balance a few days before I left. Turned out I paid it before the billing cycle closed, so the billing cycle had a few days of charges on it – and I got dinged with a late fee for not paying it in the window. When I called and said I just paid too early, they waived the fee and thanked me for being such a good customer. Thanks Chase =)

  6. Pilcrow says

    I missed a payment once by a couple of days in my early twenties. I had no idea you could argue your way out of fees! In any case, I used that $15 late payment fee as a lesson and set up auto-pay and reminders on everything I could find to prevent it from happening again.

  7. David M says

    I have been late twice – once about 15 years ago and once earlier this year – both times I called and the interest and fees were waived.

    1) I got a store credit card in a city I was visiting for business – I had previously moved and I put the WRONG zip code on the application – but the correct address. The bill was sent back as undeliverable. The 2nd bill – with the late fee and interest arrived – I was shocked and mad at myself. However, I called explained and all was fine.

    2) I signed up for automatic monthly payment with Citibank – next bill comes and no payment was made and I was being charged interest and penalties. I called and explained that I had signed up for automatic payment. The person explained it did not go into effect until the next month. We went round and round and this person said the fee and interest could not be waived. I asked a few times to speak with a supervisor. The supervisor appologized stated the interest and fees would be taken off the account. AND stated that it was okay for me to skip the payment missed and just pay the double payment the next month. IF you do not get the customer service you think you should – bump it up!

  8. says

    Been late twice, called and had it waived both times. I usually pay it off twice or three times a month, so haven’t had that issue in years.

    But wow, that is HUGE damage from missing just one payment!

  9. says

    Ive only been late once and called the credit card company to BS my way out of a late payment and told them I submitted payment that same day. I was only late by 2 days so it didn’t affect my credit score, thank God!

    The annoyances you have to go through when being late – 10 calls from your credit card company in a 48 hours time frame.

  10. says

    I have done that, quite a bit more than a decade ago. However, when I did that fairly recently, the late payment was forgiven and promised to not be reported as late since I was a customer that has paid on time for at least a decade.
    They also kindly reminded me of an available balance transfer offer that was available to me. Thank you Citibank for recognizing a valued customer when you see them!

    • says

      As a follow-up, I set my bank to send a payment automatically for most of my bills. There are only 2 creditors that have external access to withdraw funds from 2 different accounts, but they are limited in how much money is in them on purpose. :-)

  11. says

    A quick note on your “Threaten to leave” point – I have threatened to leave banks and credit card companies before and almost none of them care. I guess they have so many customers that It doesn’t really matter to them if they lose 1 unhappy customer.

    • Dennis says

      Agreed 100% – I’ve not been late for more than a decade on any creditor but I’ve called for other reasons & threatened to leave. That was a useless trigger to pull – quantity over quality I suppose. However, in defense of “the threat” I’m also not their ideal customer as they make no due to payments in full; so I guess it’s the type of customer you are / are you consistently making them money on interest @ a minimum.

  12. says

    I’ve forgotten a couple times over the years and have definitely used the forgiveness method. The last time I forgot I was still getting bills in the mail, so I just called and said I never got it. Since I’d been on time pretty much every other time, I was able to have the late fees waived and my credit score was unaffected. It’s definitely a lot easier to pay on time now that everything’s all online.

  13. Ray Fong says

    My life is on auto-pilot. I use autopay so that the credit card company pulls the full balance from my bank account monthly.

  14. says

    My credit card company take a minimum from my checking account on every due date. So I don’t need to care about the due date and save me a lot of stress.

  15. Jennifer says

    About this autopay feature:
    Isn’t it possible to set it up so that the credit card company automatically takes the balance out of your account at the end of the billing cycle? That’s how it works with my German bank account, and it is very convenient. Assuming that I always have enough in my account to cover the credit card balance, I will never pay late, never overpay and never underpay. I can use my card as I desire and don’t have to worry about it all.

  16. says

    I never realized how long it took to get your credit score back to where it was. Before we were married, Greg had been late a few times, but never more than a couple of days.

    Whenever you are dealing with credit cards, threatening to leave is always a good way to secure a better deal;)

  17. Paul says

    In 20 yrs of using credit cards, I’ve been late on payments 10 or 15 times, never by more than 5 days. They’ve always forgiven the late fee while charging me a bit of interest on my balance. I’ve never seen anything late on my credit report. Someone told me that it costs them extra money to report a late payment so they won’t report it until it is 30 days last. I actually had a default once when I left the country for six months and I thought my phone bill was paid up when I cancelled it, but there was $56 left. The debt was turned over to a collector and showed up as a default on my credit report. Surprisingly, my credit score did not drop below 720 or so from what I can tell. Although the default dropped off my report in May since it had been 7 years and my score went up to 790.

    • says

      It’s when one is more than 30 days when things start getting dicey and you’ve got to call, ask, and check your score if you are about to get a large loan. Better safe than sorry, and it’s free anyway!

  18. says

    I have missed, and credit card companies have always waived fees. With that said, I’ve been paying online since last three years. I pay in full or pay more than my average estimate so that I don’t ever have to pay interest. It works.

  19. says

    Wow! I didn’t realise how much of an effect a late payment had on your credit score! That is crazy. I have automated almost all my payments by direct debit to prevent this from happening

  20. asif says

    I have been late for the first time for cc payment just for a week.and that too only 20% amount I paid late ,rest of 80%outstanding I paid before due date. Cc company agreed to waive of the interest but I have doubt whether it will give any dent onto my credit report or not??? CC company rep told me that it will affect the credit report but going through above feedbacks I dont think it will affect. Plz clear the doubt!!!
    Plz reply

  21. Sam May says

    Let’s say that you make a credit card payment on time but you’re late on your car payment. Did you know that your APR can be increased across each line of credit in your name because of that? Probably not, so imagine your auto or home loan going from 3% up to 29%. It’s called the “universal default clause” and it helps credit card companies against people who “pose a credit risk”, meaning that any creditor can increase your APR even if you didn’t pay them late but paid another creditor late.


  1. […] Since September, 2013 when I first broke the 800 credit score mark when I applied for my Discover It credit card for travel and double the rewards points, I’ve done nothing different. Every single mortgage, utility, and credit card bill has been paid in full without fail. Actually, that’s not true. I was a week late on one credit card payment because I was traveling. I gave them a ring and they dropped the late fee and said no problem. (See: How Does A Late Credit Card Payment Affect My Credit Score) […]

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