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Late credit card payments have both short-term and long-lasting consequences. You should avoid missing your payment due date, as it could result in financial penalties and damage to your credit for years to come. Here are four potential consequences of a late credit card payment.

  1. Late Fees

Most credit card companies will slap you with a late fee, often on the very day your bill becomes past due. Different cards have different fees; some vary based on the statement balance, while others will charge a flat fee for every late payment. You’ll need to check your credit card’s terms and conditions for the exact amount, but $37 is common.

That’s a steep penalty, but some credit cards will forgive your first late payment. If you’re worried about multiple late fees, you might want to consider a card like Citi Simplicity, which eschews them altogether.

  1. Penalty APR

Some credit cards will charge a penalty annual percentage rate (APR) when you fail to make your minimum payment by the due date. You could wind up with an outlandish interest rate – some cards will impose up to 29.99% APR on your current statement balance and/or future transactions when you pay late.

After some time, your credit card company may lower your penalty APR, but they’re not obligated to do so. Check your card’s terms and conditions to see if there is a penalty APR for late payments.

  1. Late Payments on Your Credit Report

Once your payment is 30 days late, it will show up as a late payment on your credit report, where it can stay for up to seven years. Late payments on your credit report are visible to creditors who pull your credit, and they also drag down your credit score.

That doesn’t mean you should throw up your hands and refuse to pay if your payment is over 30 days past due. In fact, the longer you wait, the greater the damage to your credit score…

  1. Lower Credit Score

A single late payment can cause your credit score to plummet, especially if you had strong credit beforehand. But if you act quickly and pay now, you may be able to prevent serious damage. The later your payment is, the worse it gets.

  • 30 days late: at 30 days past due, a late payment can land on your credit report and lower your credit score, but it shouldn’t cause long-term damage.
  • 60 days late: at 60 days past due, a late payment can cause your credit score to further drop. But over time, your score will recover.
  • 90 days late: after 90 days, your credit score could be significantly damaged for up to seven years, after which it will drop off your credit report.
  • 120 days: after 120 days, your debt could be charged off or sold to debt collectors, which will trigger even more damage to your credit score.

The Consequences of a Late Payment

If you want to know the penalties for late payments, check your card’s terms and conditions. If they impose late fees or penalty APRs, you should call them in the event of a late payment. You may be able to convince them to drop these penalties if your late payment is an isolated incident and you have a long history of responsible card use.

As for your credit, a late payment could damage your credit score for up to seven years. Over time, the effects of a single late payment will lessen, and you can avoid major damage if you settle up before your payment becomes 90 days late. The good news? After seven years, the late payment will disappear from your credit report.

If you’re concerned about your credit, you can check your three credit reports for free once a year. To track your credit more regularly, Credit.com’s free Credit Report Card is an easy-to-understand breakdown of your credit report information that uses letter grades—plus you get two free credit scores updated every 14 days.

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