Urban Legend Number 8: I have a large credit card balance I am having trouble paying off. I can decide what minimum payment I can afford and send in that amount instead. The credit card company must accept my own minimum payment.
You are obligated under the terms of the credit card agreement to make the designated minimum payment each month. You cannot decide to change your minimum payment and send in a different payment amount instead.
Your credit card issuer will likely accept your payment, even if it is not the minimum payment. Your payment will always be accepted because payments are processed at large payment processing centers without scrutiny or review during payment data input.
If you don’t pay the minimum payment, your credit card issuer may automatically charge you a late fee, raise your interest rate, and report the late payment to the credit bureaus. Your large credit card balance will increase and get larger every month.
Under the CARD Act of 2009, a credit card issuer is generally prohibited[i] from raising your interest rates unless you are more than sixty days late making your minimum payment.
If your interest rate is raised because you are more than sixty days late on your minimum payment, you are required to receive written notice from your credit card issuer.
If you pay at least your minimum payment on time for a six-month period, you can request that your credit card issuer review your account. They may agree to lower your interest rate.
Polly’s Pearls of Wisdom: If you cannot make your minimum payment, call your credit card issuer and ask what options are available to you. If you have a good payment history and you can convince your credit card issuer that this is a one-time occurrence, your credit card issuer may extend your due date for the payment, waive the late fee, and not report your non-payment or late payment to the credit bureaus.
However, there is no requirement that your credit card issuer offer you such courtesies if you miss your minimum payment. In addition, even if your credit card issuer did allow you to not make a minimum payment, they are not likely to allow you do that more than once.
If you are in a position where you cannot make your minimum payments, you should consider seeking credit counseling to assist you in managing your finances.
A good reference for credit counseling is the National Foundation for Credit Counseling (NFCC). The NFCC is a non-profit agency with credit counseling experts who are specifically trained to help you reduce your debt. For more information on credit counseling visit (www.nfcc.org) or call (800)388-2227 (see Urban Legend 24).
What emotions are you feeling as a result of not being able to make a minimum payment on your credit card?
- Realizing that your credit score will drop a large number of points from missing a payment can cause additional worry or anxiety. Describe that emotion here.
- Do you think you can benefit from credit counseling?
[i] Urban Legend – 8: Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. 2012. “CARD Act Factsheet,” published February 22, 2010, (www.consumerfinance.gov/credit-cards/credit-card-act/feb2011-factsheet/).
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The Arizona Daily Independent has received permission to reprint portions of a timely new book “The Plastic Effect” focused on the urban myths of credit cards and their usage written by Polly A. Bauer, CPCS and Stephen Lesavich, PhD, JD. Future issues of the ADI will feature “Polly’s Pearls” included in each Urban Legend Myth. “The Plastic Effect” is Copyright by Coconut Avenue, Inc. All rights reserved. No unauthorized reproduction or duplication is permitted without written permission of Coconut Avenue, Inc.