Wednesday, 1 November 2023
by Rose White
Your payment history has a big impact on your credit score. In fact, it’s the most heavily weighted scoring criteria. So if you miss a payment, it’s natural to worry about what’s going to happen to your credit score.
The first time I ever missed a credit card payment, I remember how stressed I was. Had I just thrown years of building my credit down the drain? Fortunately, it doesn’t work like that.
When you first miss a payment, here’s what’s going to happen to your credit score: absolutely nothing. For the first 29 days, there will be zero impact to your credit score.
This may be hard to believe. It’s because of how creditors, such as credit card companies and lenders, report account data. Every month, your creditors report the status of your accounts to the three credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion). Based on this and other information, the credit bureaus each calculate a credit score for you.
Here’s how creditors can report your active accounts:
Payments that are less than 30 days late fall into the “pays as agreed” status. It doesn’t matter if you make a payment that’s one day late, 15 days late, or 29 days late. Your payment is still technically considered on time, as far as the companies that calculate your credit score are concerned.
The fact that there’s zero impact to your credit score doesn’t mean there are zero consequences. The creditor can charge you a late fee as soon as your payment is late. Your unpaid balance will also incur interest charges. But you don’t need to worry about your credit score — if you pay before your account is 30 days past due.
If you don’t make your payment for 30 days, then the creditor can report it to the credit bureaus. It will report your account’s status as 30 days past due, and this could have a severe impact on your credit score.
The exact impact varies from consumer to consumer. As a general rule, the higher your credit score is, the more it will drop. For example, if you had a credit score of 780 with no late payments, it could drop by 110 points from missing one payment by 30 days.
It also depends on how late your payment is. A 60-day late payment does more damage than a 30-day late payment. According to data from FICO, missing a payment by 90 days could cause your credit score to drop by as much as 180 points.
Consumers with lower credit scores won’t see as much of an impact. For example, if you have a 610 credit score with previous delinquencies, a 30-day late payment may take off 20 to 30 points. Although it won’t be nearly as damaging, it still makes it harder to build your credit.
Your credit score is fragile. While it’s not too hard to build a good credit score, one late payment can wipe out months or years or progress. You could go from qualifying for all the best credit cards to being eligible for none of them.
The best thing you can do is always pay your bills on time. This way, you avoid late fees. It’s also a good idea to pay credit card bills in full every month, because then you won’t be charged interest. If you ever miss a payment, it’s not the end of the world. The creditor may even waive the late fee if you call and ask. Just make sure you get caught up in less than 30 days so you can avoid a big hit to your credit score.
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