What's the real deadline?
My Story: Credit Card Payment Cut-Off
contributed by Anonymous
The Subtle Psychology of Credit Cards
How to Break Bad Financial Habits
What Does My Debt Cost Me?
I prefer to pay my credit card bills by phone. It's easy and convenient.
Recently, I learned something new. Timing is everything. You can pay on time and still be considered late!
My credit card payment comes due mid-month. Usually, I pay several days early, but last month was really busy. I didn't pay until the due date. I paid it that evening before midnight local time.
Imagine my shock when I opened this month's bill. It said my APR had been increased because of a late payment, and it charged me a hefty late fee.
I called the card's 800 number and asked the customer service representative to check. I told him I knew that I paid on the due date before midnight. I live in the southwest, so I asked if the time zone difference had affected anything.
It did. The representative explained that I have to pay before 5 p.m. Eastern time, not midnight (and 5 p.m. Eastern time is before I get off from work).
My call was completed after 5 p.m. Eastern. Therefore, the computer recorded the payment as being made the day after the due date. Their records showed the exact time and day that I had paid. Yet, my payment was still deemed late.
I politely replied that I didn't know their deadline was before midnight. I also mentioned I've never been late in paying my bill; I've had this credit card for more than 20 years!
I lucked out. He removed the late fee and restored my APR to the lower amount I'd been paying.
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Well, I've decided to completely pay off the card. I will no longer carry a balance!
The first lesson learned here is to find out the exact time, not just the day, a payment is due. Check the time zone. What is on time in Arizona may be three hours late at company headquarters.
The second lesson learned here is to call and politely discuss the problem. Sometimes you can be let off the hook. It doesn't hurt to try, and it could save you big bucks.
Of course, I'd be remiss if, at this point, I did not quote radio financial guru Dave Ramsey. He says that credit cards are like snakes. If you play with snakes, you're going to get bit. Maybe that's the true moral to my story!
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