I’ve become a bit of a credit card collector. I have been using a different credit card for just about every common expense. I have one for fuel, one for groceries, one for restaurants, one for business expenses, and even one for Amazon.com.
And more recently, I’ve been using credit cards to rack up airline miles and hotel points. This has pushed me into the double digits in open cards. Does it sound counter-intuitive for a personal finance blogger to have double digit credit cards? It shouldn’t. I have never carried a month-to-month balance on any card, and only use credit cards in a way to improve my financial situation through cash back rewards, bonus incentives, and a near flawless credit score.
However, with this many credit cards, one downside is that it can become easy to lose track of which cards you have paid and which you have not. And if you do lose track, there are repercussions. First, you will be assessed a late fee for not paying on time (for 2019, that credit card late fee cap is is $28 for a first late payment and $39 for each subsequent violation within the following six months). You may be able to talk the credit card company into wiping out your late fee, but that is a hassle.
Next, you will pay interest on your balance, often at a shockingly high rate of 15%+ APR.
And finally, a blemished payment history can negatively impact your credit score and result in higher interest rates when you apply for credit (or in some cases, no credit extended to you). Your payment history makes up 28% of your VantageScore and 35% of your FICO score!
Using Credit Card Autopay to Avoid Late Fees?
The quickest and easiest solution to avoid credit card late fees is to set up autopay with the card provider. With autopay, you set up your account to automatically debit from your your checking account every month.
I have found 3 big downsides to autopay, however.
- You aren’t able to keep a good handle on where you’ve spent your money and how much you’ve spent if you are not manually reviewing your charges. This detaches you from your spending and finances. Not a good thing, in my opinion.
- Autopay removes an opportunity to review and catch any possible fraudulent charges.
- Autopay doesn’t know if you currently have sufficient funds in whatever checking account you are paying with. If you don’t, this could result in a bank overdraft fee.
For these reasons, I have opted for manual pay, despite having so many freakin’ cards to account for. So how do I avoid credit card late fees?
Use a Simple Spreadsheet to Track Credit Card Payments
The first thing I’ve done is created a simple spreadsheet (example to the right, you insert your own credit card names) to track my credit card payments.
As soon as I’ve paid a particular card balance for the month, I enter the value into the spreadsheet. This serves the dual benefit of telling me that card is paid this month and totaling how much I’ve spent each month and year.
If there is no payment due that month (often the case when you have so many cards), I enter “$0” into the respective cell to show that card in that month has been accounted for.
Change Credit Card Due Dates
The spreadsheet system is great, but it has one major flaw – unless you keep the spreadsheet open and visible, you forget about it.
But there is a fix: changing your credit card payment due dates.
Credit card providers allow you to change the due date of your credit card. If you change the payment due dates to be the same date for all cards, then you will receive your statements at right around the same time each month. This will allow you to pay all of your credit card bills in one browser session and complete that task for the month.
Without staggered statement and due dates, you should easily be able to avoid overlooking a payment. And, you can save the time and stress by just going in and paying them all in one fell swoop.
How to Change your Credit Card Payment Due Date
To change your credit card payment due date, you can call the customer service number listed on the back of your credit card. Or, the following banks allow you to make the credit card payment due date changes online.
- American Express: click the “Payments” tab, then “Change Monthly Payment Due Date”.
- Barclaycard: click “Services”, then “Change Payment Due Date”.
- Capital One: click “Services”, then “Change Payment Due Date”.
- Chase: click into appropriate account (must do this for each card), then “Services”, then “Change bill due date”.
- Citi: click “Services”, then “Change Payment Due Date”.
- Discover: log into appropriate account, then hover over “Activity & Payments”, and click “Change Payment Due Date”.
If your provider isn’t listed here, you will have to call in.
What tips do you have for avoiding credit card late fees?