What do I do if I missed a payment?

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What do I do if I missed a payment?

So, you're late paying your credit card bill. It happens to almost everyone. Maybe you simply forgot, or perhaps money is very tight this month. Whatever the reason, it is important to immediately take steps to minimize the damage and get caught up on your payments. Even one missed payment can cause a decrease in your credit score.

Here are three steps you should take if you miss a credit card payment:

1. Determine when you can pay and how much.

If the reason that you didn't pay was because of lack of funds, take a hard look at your bank account and see when you will be able to pay your bill. If you cannot pay the full amount quickly, determine how much you can pay. Look carefully at your budget and eliminate all extra expenses until you are able to pay your bills.

2. Call the credit card company.

Contact your credit card company and explain your situation. If you have had mitigating circumstances, such as a job loss or health emergencies, tell them what happened. Let them know when you are going to pay the bill and how much you are sending. Ask if they can work with you on payment terms or give you an extension. If your late payment is an anomaly, it's good to ask that it not be reported to the credit bureaus. Sometimes companies are willing to work with consumers, other times they will not make exceptions. It won't hurt to ask.

3. Pay as soon as possible.

Send your payment to the company as soon as possible. If you negotiated an extension of the due date, be sure that you meet the new deadline. With your payment history comprising 35 percent of your credit score, late payments can make your score take a nosedive. According to MyFico.com, "A few late payments are not an automatic 'score-killer.' An overall good credit picture can outweigh one or two instances of late credit card payments." If you pay the bill before it is 30 days overdue, it may not impact your credit score. However, if you are 30, 60 or 90 days late, it will significantly impact your score.