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Avoid Late Fees by Changing Your Credit Card Due Dates

 
By Eva Norlyk Smith, Ph.D.
February 22, 2011

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Most Americans juggle multiple credit cards — one or two rewards credit cards, a store credit card and perhaps a 0 percent APR or low interest credit card.

As a result, keeping track of credit card due dates every month can be a challenge. And if the amount of credit card late fees that Americans pay each year is any indication, we don’t do a very good job of it.

Credit card penalty fees reached $20.5 billion in 2009, according to R. K. Hammer, a consultant to the credit card industry. And a large percentage of those penalty fees are late fees. Since the minimum payment due is usually just 2 percent of the balance, it is safe to assume that most people who incur credit card late fees do so because of a silly slip-up, not because they are unable to pay the bill.

But there’s an easy solution to the problem: Change your credit card due dates.

First, pick a date that makes sense for you.

Identify a suitable week that you would like to receive your bills, and synchronize all of your credit card due dates to within just a few days of each other. Then, set aside one day a month to pay all of your credit card bills. That way, you won’t have to keep track of multiple due dates each month.

If you want to make the process even faster, set up your credit card accounts so that you pay all of your bills online; then you will be done with paying your credit card bills after just a few mouse clicks.

Be sure, however,  to pick a date that allows enough time for paychecks to be deposited and to clear before you pay your bills. It’s important to leave extra breathing room to protect yourself against a delay in receiving your paycheck or other unexpected events.

Before finalizing your new credit card due date, consider when your other monthly bills are due.
No one likes paying bills, but it can be even more of a hassle if all the bills are due at the same time. If major bills like rent or mortgage payments, utilities and car payments are due around the first of the month, and you have to pay credit card bills at the same time, you could find yourself juggling cash just to make ends meet.

Avoid this scenario by timing your credit card payments at a different time than when your other bills are due. (Of course, if you receive a monthly paycheck rather than a bimonthly or irregular paycheck, you may want to choose the opposite tactic and line up all of your payments at the same time.)

Check your credit card issuer’s rules before you change your payment due date.
Changing a credit card payment due date is fairly easy; but the rules vary from issuer to issuer. Some card issuers, such as Citi, Chase and Discover allow cardholders to change their due date online. However, other issuers ask cardholders to call customer service to get their due date changed.

Some card issuers also limit the number of times that you can change your payment date. (For example, Discover only allows you to change your payment due date every 90 days.) So check with your card issuer if you recently changed the date and are now ready to change it again.

Most card issuers also require you to be current on all of your bills before they will allow you to change your payment date. So make sure that you’re in good standing before you make your next move.

Once you have changed the date, be patient and double-check your next billing statement.
It generally takes at least one billing cycle for the new due date to take effect. So don’t assume that the new date is effective until it appears on your credit card statement.

In some cases, changing the credit card due date will result in a payment holiday in which issuers will allow almost a month to pass before your next payment is due. But this is not a good reason to change your due date. If unusual circumstances cause you to run short of cash one month, you are better off asking for a one-time payment holiday.

Finally, consider setting up automatic monthly payments for your credit card bills.
This can be an effective way to make credit card payments easier and to avoid late fees. However, it only works if you know that there will always be enough funds in your account to cover the automatic payments. Otherwise, you could wind up incurring another pesky bank fee: an over-the-limit fee.


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