Credit Cards

5 Ways to Deal With Late Payment Fees on Your Credit Card

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Ryan Ong

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Why do banks charge you more money when you pay late? I mean, if you’re already paying late, what are the odds that additional fees will speed you up? That’s taking “flogging a dead horse” to a whole new level. It’s like trying to put out a fire by hosing it down with petrol. This is how credit card debt turns into a black hole, growing stronger and sucking more by the day. If you’re one of those with late fees, best learn these tips:

 

1. You Can Negotiate Late Fees

A lot of people don’t bother to negotiate late fees. That’s a mistake.

Assuming you have a good credit record, most banks are happy to ignore occasional lateness. Just call the help-line, and say the following:

Hi, I need to get my late fee waived.

Regardless of what the operator says, follow up with:

“This is the first time in X years I’ve been late. I’ve been a good customer for a long time, and I’m sure you can overlook my mistake this once.”

Never end with a question when negotiating this. Always end by saying what you need the operator to do for you.

 

Depressed guy on steps
Granted, we took your house, car, and second last shirt. But hey, we’re waiving the late fees!

 

You also stand a good chance if it’s your first time using the card. Explain that you’re new to this credit card thing, and you don’t understand billing cycles. Banks usually let you off the first time.

 

2. Know the Billing Cycle

Your credit card billing cycle will vary, depending on when the card’s activated.

Knowing that you need to pay “at the end of the month” or “at the start of next month” isn’t sufficient. In order to avoid late payment, you have to know exactly when the last payment day is. And if that day falls on a non-banking day, e.g. public holiday or weekend, then the money needs to be in on the banking day before that.

 

Mars Rover
Land on Mars: Yes. Build AXS machine with same day payment: Impossible.

 

For example, let’s say the billing cycle falls on a Sunday, and I pay via AXS:

Sunday and Saturday aren’t banking days, so my payment needs to be processed by Friday. But the AXS machine takes up to 48 hours to process payment.  To be safe, I’d be making that bill payment on Tuesday (Wednesday latest).

 

3. Argue Against Raised Interest Rates

Think late fees are the worst that can happen? Yes? Then clearly, you don’t understand the nature of financial institutions. Go and read some books about banks, then come back.

When you miss the repayment date, there aren’t just late fees to contend with. Buried under the fine print might be a clause that reads:

And if you don’t pay on time, we will raise your interest rate until you squeal like a stabbed animal.” Or something to that effect.

Be late even once, and your credit card interest rate might go from 24% to 28% APR, or even higher. So whenever you get late fees, be sure to check on the interest rate as well.

 

Man doing bills in the dark
I was in the dark about your interest hike. No, I mean literally; I can’t pay the power bill.

 

If the interest rate was raised, call the bank immediately. Tell them to reset the interest rate, or you’re getting a new card. If they refuse, immediately cash in your rewards and cancel.

If you didn’t know this clause existed, then follow us on Facebook. We’ll make sure you’re up to date on credit card tips and tricks.

 

4. Change the Due Date

So your pay comes on the 24th, but your due date is on the 22nd. By shifting the due date to the 26th, you might reduce the chances of a late payment.

Why not ask?

Not a lot of people know this, but you can request to shift your due date. There’s no guarantee your bank will co-operate, but try the following:

Before attempting this, make sure your credit card is fully paid. Then call the help-desk.

 

Amazed at Bill
That sinking feeling when you realize: You changed the due date last year.

 

Call Centre Operator: Hi there, random operator #67 here. How can I irritate you? 

Me: I’m calling to change my due date. 

Operator: Blah, blah, I can’t do that.

Me: That’s fine, please put the manager on.

Manager: Blah, blah, We can’t change the due date.

Me: I’ve been a customer for X years, and my card is paid in full. This will help me make repayments on time, and I don’t see how it’s costing you anything. Please change it to (whatever date you want).

Manager: Hold on, I’ll see what I can do.

Assuming there’s no outstanding debt, the bank will probably comply. If they turn you down, remember there’s other cards out there.

 

5. Ask For Grace

 

Wineglass
Can I get three days grace for this entertainment card? I’ll be passed out till then.

 

I spoke to a former bank officer, who only wanted to be known as Simon:

Actually, most cards have a grace period of three days. Sometimes it’s in the terms and conditions, but people don’t bother reading those things. So when they miss the due date by a day, they give up on making the repayment. 

But actually, if they can just get $50* in the next few days, it’s still not too late.”

*The typical minimum repayment is $50, but this may vary.

If you don’t have a grace period in your terms and conditions, you can ask for one. Simon suggests that you:

Call up to a week before the due date, and say you are going to miss the payment. They will ask why, and just be honest. As long as you haven’t done this repeatedly, they will probably give you three days grace.”

 

Find Forgiving Cards

If your bank is going to get all Saddam-Hussein about your restrictions, look somewhere else. If your bank refuses to waive one late fee in 10 years, then it doesn’t deserve your loyalty.

Cash in your points and shop around. Hit the free credit card comparison sites, like MoneySmart; you’ll probably something better.

Image Credits:
dillweedxJason.Rogersx, AIMNeutron, NASA Goddard, RLHyde, andlun1

How do you deal with late fees? Comment and let us know!

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Ryan Ong

I was a freelance writer for over a decade, and covered topics from music to super-contagious foot diseases. I took this job because I believe financial news should be accessible and fun to read. Also, because the assignments don't involve shouting teenagers and debilitating plagues.