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Late fees hurt. Seriously.
For college students, the average late fee represents 78 tacos from Jack in the Box. For young professionals, they represent dinner for two at a moderately-priced restaurant. For the families with teenage children… well, late fees represent the extra charges on your cell phone bill from excessive text messaging.
Thankfully for all of us, there are (New: debt management tools available to us). Here are) two simple methods to pay your bills on time, and two last-minute methods for those of us with a memory of a scarecrow.
1. Online Payment Saves The Day
Just about every major credit card issuer allows online payment. (New: Online payment is one of the best debt management tools available today.) Your credit card doesn’t provide one and you tend to pay late? Ditch them! Online account access is certainly not a requirement, but if having a credit card with online payment can stop you from paying your bills late, then the money saved from the late fees (and dings on credit history) will be well worth it.
Many online payment services also allow you to schedule your payments automatically. That means you can set your bills to be paid on a certain day at a certain amount, straight out of your checking account. Best bet for late payers? Set it to the minimum amount due on the days when you know funds are available in your checking account. After that you can make an additional payment to either pay your bill in full, or make a larger payment towards your balance.
It will only take you a couple minutes to register for online account access. The time you spend on this now will save you plenty more time in the future (and hundreds of 41-cent stamps). Even if you don’t pay your bills late, you should consider signing up for an online account for the conveniences and accessibility. If you’re careful with your passwords and proactive about the security of your computer, the benefits of online account access can outweigh its potential risk.
Here are some popular online account sign-up pages for our busy readers:
- Chase online accounts sign-up
- Citibank credit card online accounts registration
- Bank of America online account enrollment
- Wells Fargo online account sign-up
- American Express cards online account registration
- Discover cards online account registration
- Capital One credit cards online account registration
- Providian/Washington Mutual cards online account registration
2. Changing The Due Date To Fit Your Busy Lifestyle
If you’re uncomfortable with an online account and would rather tough it out the hard way, most major credit card issuers will allow you to change your bill due date. It adds up to a minor revelation: This means you don’t have to worry about writing out different checks for all of your cards on different days! Call up your credit card company via the toll-free number on the back of your credit card and check if they’ll let you change your due date to a more convenient time of the month.
Quite a few issuers also allow you to set your due date while you apply for your credit card, so keep that in mind the next time you open up another credit card account. Match the date along with your other bills for convenience, or set it after you receive your paycheck so you can be sure you’ll have enough funds to quickly pay the bills.
Change your bills due date. You can change your credit card’s bill due date to match it with other bills for easier organization, or set it after your paycheck to ensure you have enough to pay your credit cards in full.
Which cards let you change? Here are two from Chase that let you change your due dates online.
- Chase Freedom Card
- 3% back on gas, groceries and quick service restaurants.
- Sign Up
- Chase Perfect Card
- Up to 6% back on gas & 1% for everything else.
- Sign Up
3. Pay By Phone To Save Your Sanity
Today is the last day and you totally forgot to pay your bill? Many credit card issuers also allow you to pay by phone; however, before you make the payment, make sure there aren’t fees associated with that route. If they do charge a fee, it usually ranges from $5 to $15. You can find this info on the back of your monthly statement, or simply call your card issuer via the toll-free number on the back of your credit card.
Paying by phone is relatively straightforward. You’ll generally be ask for the numbers printed on the check (which consists of the routing number and checking account number) along with the check’s own number. Don’t forget to write a big fat VOID on the check — or simply rip the check up — after you’re done making a payment by phone, as you won’t be able to use the check again.
Mint’s note: Citibank charges a hefty $14.95 fee for using the pay by phone option, so use it as a last resort!
4. Express Mail As A Last Resort
If your card issuer doesn’t have a payment by phone option, or if you dropped your cell phone in the toilet and don’t own a land line, your last bet is to send the payment by express mail. The United States Postal Service currently has a flat-rate express mail, guaranteed overnight to most areas, for $14.40. It’s quite a hefty sum, but when you compare it to the $39 or more late fee imposed by the credit card it’s over 50% in savings.
If you’re using express mail to send your payment, make sure you’re sending the payment to the correct address! Many card issuers have a specific address to handle express mail payment, so consult the back of your bill for the correct address and procedures (e.g., what you should write on the check or include in the mailing). You can also find the express processing mailing address on the card issuer’s website, or by giving a call to your credit card’s customer service line.
Some Extra Notes On Snail Mail Payments
When you send in a payment via snail mail, the Fair Credit Billing Act requires credit card issuers to credit payment on the day they’re received (by 5:00 P.M. local time of processing center). Almost all credit card issuers require a certain guideline to making a payment, though, so if you don’t follow their specific guidelines, your payments may not be credited to your account for up to five days.
Most guidelines are as follows:
- Use the preprinted mailing envelope from the credit card company.
- Checks or money orders only, no cash! Name and account number on the front of the check or money order.
- Include the billing coupon with the amount being paid written in the payment box.
Summary (New: of these debt management tools) for the Busy Readers
- Use online account access to make automatic online payments to your credit card bills.
- Call your card issuer to request a change to the bill’s due date to fit your payment schedule.
- Pay by phone if you’re short on time and a bill is coming up. Check for fees or gauge the cost of service before making payment by phone.
- If payment by phone isn’t available, you can try mailing in by express mail. Most card issuers have a specific express mailing address, so make sure you have the correct address before you send a payment by express mail.