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The Credit CARD Act has taken away many moneymakers for credit card companies, including retro-active interest rate hikes, “universal default” policies, and double-cycle billing. That means credit card companies, who, after all, are for-profit lenders and in the business to make money, are seeking other ways to get money from customers, including higher interest rates and more stringent payment rules.
By the same token, customers have it easier in many ways. Your payment due date must remain the same each month, unless the credit card company gives you 45 days notice that it will change. Credit card companies are no longer permitted to charge additional fees for certain methods of payment, such as online or by phone.
What If I Haven’t Yet Paid Late?
While they can’t charge for phone or Internet payments, credit card companies can charge for special methods of payment, such as overnight payments. In some cases, the expedited payment fee is as much as the late fee. Choose the expedited payment, as you’ll preserve your good credit history. Also, should you make a late payment in the future, you can ask your creditor to waive the late fee — a privilege most credit card companies will extend only once.
If you are a good customer with a history of on-time payments, you can ask a customer service rep to waive the expedited payment fee, too.
Be honest and to the point when you make the request. Customer service representatives don’t want to hear sob stories or excuses. If you have a legitimate reason that’s not too personal or disgusting, share it. Otherwise, simply admit your guilt.
“I’m sorry, I was out of town and just returned, remembering I needed to make a payment.”
“I’m sorry, we were without Internet access due to the big storm. It just returned and I realized my payment is due tomorrow. Could you please waive the overnight payment fee?”
What If My Payment Is Already Late?
If you’ve already made a late payment — or are about to — and it’s less than 30 days late, there’s still a chance you can convince your credit card company to waive the fee. Admittedly, this is not as easy to do today as it was a few years. But, if you are a good customer who has never made a late payment, or at least not made a late payment in the past 12 months, it’s worth asking.
Call to make your payment over the phone, or pay your credit card bill online and then immediately call your credit card company’s customer service number. Explain that you have a history of on-time payments, and, again, if you have a legitimate reason for the late payment, mention it very briefly.
The customer service rep probably won’t offer to waive the fee — you’ll have to ask directly. If that person won’t — or says she can’t — waive the fee, as to speak with a supervisor or manager. Sometimes, customer service reps really don’t have authority to extend privileges like waiving fees.
Should you pay extra to expedite a payment if it’s already late? My instinct says no. The credit card company won’t be any more or less likely to waive the late payment fee if you expedited payment, and you’ll have one less fee to talk your way out of. That’s another reason it’s best to negotiate by phone; your creditor may waive your late fee if you agree to accept the overnight payment charge.
The Good News
While creditors are less likely to waive fees now than they were in the past, there’s some good news. You cannot be subject to an interest rate increase for a late payment made within 60 days of your due date. Additionally, payments less than 60 days late cannot be reported to the credit bureaus or affect interest rates on other credit cards.
However, credit card companies may enact other policies to “punish” you for late payments, such as decreasing your credit line.The best policy is still to use whatever means necessary to protect yourself against missed card payments.