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 (in 2023, that credit card late fee cap is is $30 for a first late payment and $43 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 below, 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.
I also set a calendar reminder on the last day of the month to make sure all credit cards have been paid for the billing cycle.
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 “Things You Can Do”, “Update Settings and Preferences”, then the “Payment due date” button.
- Citi: click “Settings”, then “Manage 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?
I use auto pay for my main credit card. I also recently changed the due date to be the day after I receive my first paycheck for the month. Both tips work!
Honestly your system seems overly complicated to me! I avoid late fees by using an account monitor (mint.com) to see all my balances at once with a single log-in.
I also make it a habit to pay my credit cards every time I get paid. I’m never chasing due dates because I make sure pay off my balance every 2 weeks. It also makes me more aware of my spending habits because I check-in on my overall balances more often.
Holy moly! I didn’t know that payment date for credit card can be changed. This is why, I have to read your blog. Thank you for the information.
many checking accounts offer free bill pay.
schedule bill pay for future date prior to due date when statement is received. bill pay can be canceled or changed if discussions with credit card company result in changed amount due. one look at bill pay future payments will let you know funds required in checking account. All cards will be paid.
I used to use above method but switched to auto-pay, credit card withdraws due amount from my checking account. balance in checking account is kept high enough to cover “max normal” credit card spending.
I use free auto pay from my bank on-line and schedule the payment before it is due. Aligning the due dates a bit closer is a nice tip, thanks.
Though it seems more work, I do like the idea of a spreadsheet you can fill in to confirm you have taken care of various bills. Besides CC bills, I pay for so many items on-line, the spreadsheet is a nice reminder/tracker of where/when the money goes in clear totals.
I am nervous of having too many payments done with auto-pay method, giving out so much information to so many entities. Any justification for this?
only justification is convenience balanced with risk of errors on the part of banks or vendors.
I had no idea that could alter the payment date for credit cards. Mint definitely prevented me from paying any late fees with good reminders, but I would always get terrified at the thought that their links with the card companies goes down sometimes. Good to know you can alter the dates!
I do weekly on-line sweep of my credit cards. There is no reason to wait for a statement to pay of the balance on a credit card. Once the transaction clears and I see on-line that the transaction is valid I pay it with online bill pay. It also means that I will know in a week if there is any fraudulent activity and I get to see which locations put a “hold” on a larger amount (such as the closest gas station putting a $99 hold). Being aware of the statement dates, I will let smaller purchases remain on the card until after the statement date, almost always with less than 10% of the available credit in use. Using the online, I generally pay the balance before the statement ever reaches me in the mail.
I generally try to use the credit card as I would use cash, if the money is not already in the account to pay the balance, I don’t make the purchase.
Years ago, I had my handful of credit cards set to two statement dates, 1/2 month apart. I would switch from one set to the other so that I was always using the set that had just been paid off. That way I stopped using cards over a week before the statement date so that everything would be cleared on any given statement.
We changed our cc dates to all fall in the same week (sometimes certain days are full). It has made payments SO much easier!
Put all credit cards on auto pay and enjoy life.
I’m with Red and Sandra – when my bills come in, I log in to my bank and schedule a payment for 1 day or 2 before the bill due date. (I also do what Mi does and schedule payments to my credit cards for 2-3 weeks after I make the charges.)
One drawback of having all your cc bills due on the same date is that you simply might not have enough money to cover all those bills at one time (which is another topic altogether).
As the comments so, there are many options here. Choose whatever works best for you!
Why schedule the payment for right before the due date? Why not pay it immediately? Years ago I asked someone the same question, and the reply was that they could get the extra interest. So I asked them how much interest did they actually earn the previous year doing this and they had no answer. So I proposed that we do a little math and they found that they were gaining less than $10 a year. Then I asked if there had even been a problem with an electronic payment, and yes there had been. Also, with the messed up payment so close to the due date, was there an additional problem because it was not fixed before the due date, and again there was the additional problem. They decided that making the payments sooner so that problems could be handled was more valuable than $10 a year and all changed their payments to immediate.
I linked all of my cards to Mint and enrolled in Autopay. I generally pay manually weekly anyways. But it is hard to fail this way.
Will changing a credit card due date also change the date the credit card company reports your balance to the credit bureaus?