If you're not in the habit of using credit cards, you might face a learning curve at first. Beyond embracing the idea of buying now and paying later, you have to get the hang of dealing with credit card bills, due dates, and minimum payments.
This is one area of your finances where you don't want to mess around. If you start paying your credit card bills late, for example, you can face higher interest charges, late fees, and damage to your credit score. Since fees for a late payment start at $39 and penalty interest rates can be killer, the expense of even one late payment can wreak havoc on your finances.
Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to foolproof your credit card bill so you never miss a payment. For most people, organization is key. Here are five ways you can stay on top of your bills and avoid the hassle and drama of paying late:
#1: Set Your Credit Card Bills on Auto-pay
Depending on your bank and card issuer, you may be able to automate the entire thing. With auto-pay, you set your account up to pay your credit card bill automatically before it's due.
This can take a little work on the front-end, but you can rest assured your bill will be paid if you forget. The key to making auto-pay work is keeping enough money in your account at all times. If you spend more on your card than you have on-hand, your autopay may backfire or cause you to overdraw your account.
#2: Pay Your Credit Card Off Every Week
If you don't like the idea of having your money transferred by a third party, consider paying your bill more frequently yourself. By paying your credit card bill in full every week, for example, you can avoid late payments and keep tabs on your spending, too.
To make this work, you'll need to specify a day of the week when you can sit down and pay bills. While paying a credit card bill once per week shouldn't require much of your time, you'll need to do it consistently for this strategy to work.
#3: Sign Up for Email or Text Alerts
When it comes to helping you avoid late payments, some credit card issuers go the extra mile. Discover, for example, lets its customers sign up for email and text alerts that notify them when a purchase is made or when a monthly bill is due.
Most of the time, you can customize your alerts to optimize them even further. If you want to be notified when your statement closes, you can set that up. If you would rather be notified twice – when your statement closes and when your minimum payment is due – that also works.
#4: Mark Your Calendar or Set a Reminder on Your Phone
If you don't want to rely on someone else to manage your due dates, you can take control of the situation yourself. Once you start using your credit card and get a hang of your statement closing and due dates, you can mark your "payment date" manually on your calendar or set an alarm on your phone.
If you go this route, however, be forewarned. Beyond alerting yourself that your bill is due, you'll need to take that extra step to pay it.
#5: Only Use Credit Cards for Big Purchases, then Pay Your Card Off Immediately
If you're worried about overspending or missing a payment, you can quit using your card for regular purchases. If you use credit only for large purchases and pay the balance immediately, you'll never have to worry about overspending, paying interest on your purchases, or forgetting your due date.
There are obviously pros and cons to consider here. If you don't use your card for regular bills, you can miss out on rewards and all of the consumer protections that come with using credit. Plus, you'll have to find another way to pay all of your bills and monthly expenses – usually cash, debit, or check.
On the other hand, not using credit regularly can simplify your life if you're overly worried about missing a payment. At the end of the day, only you can decide whether this strategy makes sense or not.
Worried you'll pay late? With any of these methods, you can avoid late payments and set yourself up for success. Just remember to choose a method that will actually work for your lifestyle and spending habits.
The power to avoid a late payment on your credit card is in your hands – you just have to seize it.