One month down and 11 more credit card late fees to go. Does that sound familiar to you? When shoppers use credit cards for weekend fun, frequent needs or the seldom big purchase, they need more help managing balances and payments. When life throws us a curve ball, and we use credit cards for everyday needs (e.g., groceries, gas, monthly bills), being hands-on can become a problem.
Credit cards create convenience for consumers–all 1.1 billion in America. With 83% of people in this country having at least three credit cards in their collection, the numerous fees creditors pass on to their clients can also create a headache.
Why is a blog post on managing credit card late fees necessary? As fees compound, the phone calls begin and quickly become more frequent. Mental health can be compromised and damaged through anything, even debt collection calls. At Beyond Finance, financial literacy and practice posts like this are valuable resources we provide to those who trust us most and need some peace of mind.
Here are four surefire ways to better manage your credit card late fees.
1. Learn the Process
With most Americans owning a few credit cards, you assume most consumers understand how borrowing credit works. Sadly, that’s not what happens in most households. Getting a card is almost as easy as getting carried away with one. For example, did you know your balance could increase even when you don’t use the card?
Let’s say that happens. What would cause your balance to grow? Some things include late fees, interest charges, and your interest rate. Your creditor can charge a fee if you miss one credit card payment. If you miss another payment, your late fee can increase as a penalty.
As your balance remains unpaid, interest can compound month-over-month, and so can the APR. Understanding that process could hold you accountable to do what you can to pay on time or not spend so much in the first place.
2. Automate the Payments
An easy way to maintain control in the face of a downward debt spiral is controlling when the payments are sent. The problem with that tactic is life doesn’t have a pause button.
While dealing with the usual stressors, debt collection calls and late bills have entered your life. It’s easy to miss another payment that will cost you more than a good night’s sleep.
Consider an auto-pay setup for those bills to avoid unnecessary credit card late fees. Most banks, credit unions and creditors offer that service and reasonable payment plans if paying back needs to be revised. If your financial service provider doesn’t have an app to help with the process, get a ledger and write stuff down. The minutes it takes to manage your finances will be much better than the months to recover if you can’t.
3. Check the Score
If you need a little extra incentive to keep track of your payments and ensure you’re rarely late, keep an eye on your score. It’s a little more important than sports.
This is your FICO score, three of the most important numbers you’ll ever own. Consumer credit files from Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion are tracked and authorized by a standard system based on credit bureau data.
FICO Scores range from 300 to 850–the higher the number, the less of a risk you are for creditors and banks to lend you money. The difference between one range and another could mean thousands of dollars for you in the future. There are five FICO categories:
- 300-579: Poor
- 580-669: Fair
- 670-739: Good
- 740-799: Very Good
- 800-850: Excellent
Use these numbers to let you know how important it is to avoid credit card late fees.
4. Know the Budget
Whether you keep track of one or not, all households have a budget. You’ll learn that magic number quickly if you spend more than you make each month. We all have needs and wants. There is always something you want to buy that feels like a need, but that’s where the budget comes in handy.
Pay less in one area if you want to spend more in another, but pay something. It’s that easy, but when dealing with credit card fees, your budget should preempt that urge and let you know if you can without unnecessary stress or another batch of fees. What matters every month? That’s what needs to be paid. What has no purpose related to your financial wellness? That’s what you can pay later.
If you missed a credit card payment, there is still time to make it right and not have it hanging around your neck like a freight tanker anchor. Things happen. Bills get paid late. Yet, if you stay ahead of those payments, a mistake won’t have a lasting effect. Do you want an early jump on credit card late fees? Hop to your budget and learn better financial wellness.
We have seen hundreds of people just like you do it. You can do it too. Give us a call.