Having a credit card can be convenient and helpful. Used responsibly, a credit card can be a good way to build and improve your credit score. However, if you’re carrying a credit card balance that you can’t pay on time, you’ll have to deal with late fees. Those late fees can be quite the nuisance (not to mention expensive), but it’s easy to avoid them.

The underlying principle of using a credit card is that you’re borrowing money responsibly, with the intent of paying it back on time. If you don’t return the money you owe on time, then you’ll find yourself in jeopardy of having to pay late fees on top of your regular minimum payment. By law, late fees can be a maximum of $27 the first time and $38 the second time in a six month time period.

Continuously falling behind on payments can result in higher monthly payments. The more often your payments are late, the more you will be paying because of interest and fees. With some discipline and planning, you can completely avoid these extra fees.

There are two main ways to do this: paying your bill on time and reducing the amount that you spend per billing cycle. Paying your bill on time is not complicated, but it is still a challenge for many people. For some, late payments are due to a lack of organization. For others, it’s because of a lack of the financial means.

The best way to ensure you can make your credit card payment is to use your credit card only for purchases that you can already afford with the money you have available. For example, if you want a new pair of running shoes that cost $75 but you don’t have that much money in your checking or savings account, you run the risk of paying late. Waiting until you have enough to pay the credit card bill off would be better. If you do it this way, when the bill comes you’ll already have the money available for making your credit card payment.

The Payment Amount Matters

Your credit card agreement requires that you pay at least the minimum payment by the due date. If you pay anything less than the minimum, your payment will be considered late and you’ll be charged a late fee. With charge cards, this usually means paying your entire balance in full on the due date. So, as you’re writing your check or setting up your online payment, confirm that you’re paying the correct amount.

How Your Payment Method Affects Your Payment Timing

The method you choose for submitting your payment can affect whether or not you will have to deal with a late fee. Choose the path of least resistance for yourself to ensure that you can get your payment in on time. There are several ways to submit payment, all of them are valid, but there are pros and cons to each.

If you choose to send your payment via mail, be sure that it is sent well before the due date. Waiting until the last minute is not a good idea because it takes time for your payment to reach your credit card issuer, then to be opened, and applied to your account. When you’re paying by mail, it may be best to pay your bills as soon as it arrives.

Electronic payments are another common way to make credit card payments and one that gives you the most time to make your credit card payment and avoid a late fee. You can manually make your payment or set up an automatic, recurring payment so you you’re your payment will be processed on time.

You can also make an automated payment over the phone by calling the number on the back of your credit card. Typically, you can simply follow the prompts given by the automated system to make your payment without even speaking to a customer service representative. If, however, you need to make an expedited payment at the last minute to avoid a late fee, you’ll have to speak with a customer service agent. Many credit card issuers charge a fee for this service.

No matter which method you choose for making your credit card payment, it’s important that sufficient funds in your account to cover your payment. Otherwise, your payment could be returned and you’ll be charged a retuned check or returned payment fee of up to $35, depending on your credit card terms.

Take Advantage of Reminders

Many credit card issuers will help you make your payment on time and avoid a late fee by sending alerts to you. Log on to your online account or sign into the smartphone app to see which alerts are offered. You may be able to receive text or email reminders that your payment is coming due.

If your credit card issuer doesn’t offer reminder alerts or the process is too complicated to figure out, you can use a third-party calendar or reminder app, like Google Keep, Any.do, or your phone’s calender app. Your credit card payments are due on the same date each month, making it easier to set a recurring reminder for your payment.

Consider Automatic Payments

Setting up automatic payments are another way to ensure your payments are made on time each month. You may be able to set up automatic payments through your bank or with your credit card issuer. Set the automatic payment a few days before your due date and make sure the automated payment is above the minimum so your payment is considered on time. If you want to pay more than the minimum, you can manually make the payment online, over the phone, or by sending a check through the mail.

Can You Get a Late Fee Waived?

Your credit card issuer may be willing to waive your late fee if you ask. Your negotiations will be more successful if you typically keep your account in good standing. However, if you’re habitually late on your credit card payments, your card issuer will be much less likely to waive the fee.

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