Senior Contributor
Posts: 4,635
Registered: ‎03-11-2007
Never Be Late, Ever
[ Edited ]

Under the right circumstance, a single 30 day late can cost you upwards of 100 FICO points. That is huge. It can be the difference between a 6.5 percent mortgage and a 9 percent mortgage. Posters have reported being a few days late and seeing their CC APR climb 15 percentage points or more. As such, you should do anything reasonable and within your power to prevent this from ever happening.


Never be late, ever. That should be one of your mantras.

Never be late, ever. Say it with me.

Never be late, ever.


Don't water down the words by telling yourself "You shouldn't be late" or "Try to avoid being late".

No. Try not. Do, or do not. There is no try.

Here are some methods which may help.


Automatic Payments


Some OCs offer automatic payments, via check or CC, to be made on the due date. You might have to request, sign, and return a form along with a voided check. Others might give you the option to sign up via their website. This is perhaps the most valuable step you can take. I strongly encourage everyone to do this and wish all my OCs would do it.


With CCs, you can generally select the minimum due, balance owed, or some other amount to be paid. I recommend you use minimum due. This is intended as a safeguard so you aren't late. By only paying the minimum due automatically, it forces you to remain involved and aware of what's on your CC bill, how much is owed, and when it's due. You stay engaged. You still actively pay the monthly bill--down to between 1 and 9 percent util, right? Most OCs won't draft a minimum payment if you've already paid at least the minimum in the billing cycle. Ask your CCC about the details.


I like to think of automatic minimum payments as "brain cramp insurance". If I completely forget about a payment due date, I know the minimum will be made. No late fees, no CC ratejacking, and most importantly no CRA late reporting.


With utility bills, you are usually charged the full amount due when you sign up for automatic payments. As such, I use a CC to pay utility bills.


Utility Budget Plan


Ask your utility provider about any sort of budget plan wherein you are billed a flat dollar amount each month rather than paying a fluctuating monthly bill.

You usually need to have several months of service in order to get on a budget plan. The provider will make small adjustments to the flat price several times a year.


It has worked well for me with Puget Sound Energy. I have electric heat in my apartment, and the wintertime bills are a killer.


Some months there's a credit on the account--for me that's during summer when I'm barely using electric. [No need for AC in the Pacific Northwet.] But many months, there's a debit or balance owed. IOW, by using the budget plan, I am in a way being extended zero interest credit to pay my annual utility bill at a nearly flat monthly rate.


Only real caveat is never be late, ever. Most will bounce you out of a budget plan if you are. The benefits of a predictable almost flat monthly bill are well worth it.


Email Reminders


I set reminders in MS Outlook for 5 days before my payment is due. Payment dates are almost always on a specific day of the month, so a recurring monthly reminder on that day is easy enough to setup in many Email programs.


Pay Online


Online payments at your OCs website generally are best for ensuring your payment arrives ontime without worrying about payments lost in the mail. First time you use it, pay at least several days before payment is due to ensure payment is credited ontime. Some OCs will let you schedule a payment for a future date. Ask your OC if you're not sure. Some sites don't allow future payments, so making a payment pays it there and then.




Billpay is also great, but there are payment mailing considerations. The nice thing about billpay is you can schedule payments to occur periodically.


I really like which is a free online billpay service. Unfortunately not every OC participates, but a number of utilities, telcos, CCCs and others do participate. They do electronic transfers so the money comes outta my bank account on Day X and it lands at the OC on Day X. Kinda like delivering cash in person. You get Email notices in advance and you can schedule payments, either partial payments or full payments. Any amount in fact, but I think there is a $5 minimum. MyCheckFree does not cost you anything to use.


You can set up multiple bank accounts and sign up all the OCs you want. This allows you, if you want, to pay Bill X using Bank Account A, but pay Bill Y using Bank Account B.


You have to schedule the payment at least 2 days in advance. Within about 1.5 days of the payment, you cannot cancel a payment and you cannot alter the payment date or payment amount.

Message Edited by Noah_Bodie on 03-06-2010 10:03 AM