The most important aspect of your credit score is your payment history.
As a result, a late payment can have a profound impact on your credit history.
That late payment is recorded on your credit report, and the information in your credit report in turn influences your credit score. And, since your payment history accounts for 35% of your credit score, a late payment can make a big difference.
But how late does a credit card payment have to be in order to be considered late? Will your credit score really be dinged if you are one day late?
The answer depends on your own behaviors, as well as the policy followed by the creditor in question.
When is a Payment Late?
First of all, it helps to know when a payment is considered late.
Most credit card issuers consider a payment late if it isn’t received on the due date. That means that post-marking the payment by the due date is usually insufficient.
If you are even a day late, a creditor will likely charge you a late fee. (If you are a good customer, with a generally good payment history, you might have your late fee waived, if you ask.)
However, a late fee doesn’t necessarily mean that your payment is going to be reported late to the credit bureaus.
When Do Creditors Report Late Payments to Credit Bureaus?
The key to the credit reporting industry is the fact that credit card issuers and other creditors report your behaviors to the bureaus. Only information that is reported appears on your credit report, and is then used in figuring your credit score.
So, when your late payment is reported depends entirely on the policy followed by the creditor.
Some creditors don’t actually report a payment late until it reaches 30 days past the due date, while others wait 60 days. Some, however, report the late payment immediately.
Realize that in some cases, a payment that is 10 days late might still be reported — and that any payment that is 1-30 days late might be considered “30 days late,” depending on the policy followed by the creditor.
It’s also important to understand that it’s not just creditors that can report late payments to the credit bureaus.
Your landlord or a utility company can also report when you are late. Most of these don’t actually report until you are more than 60 days late, and some wait until you are 90 days late. Still others don’t actually report your delinquency; instead, it becomes known to the credit bureaus when your account is turned over for collection.
If you are interested, find out how your credit card issuer reports late payments, so that you know what to expect when it comes to your credit report.
Related: Check Your Credit Score for Free
Your Behavior Matters, Too
Your own behaviors can make a difference in how your late payments are treated.
If you generally pay on time, but you have a single slip up, your creditor might not report the incident (although you may still have to pay a late fee).
Even if you occasionally pay late, you still might avoid immediate reporting. You might get a break, as long as you pay within 30 days of your due date.
On the other hand, if you have a history of late payments, your creditor might start reporting your late payments quicker. You might see it reported within a few days, depending on the time of month the creditor makes its reports, and whether the issuer is upset with your regular late payments.
The more late payments that appear your credit report, the lower your score. Indeed, you can see your score drop between 50 and 100 points with just a single payment that is 30 days late. If late payments become a habit, you could find yourself seeing a much lower score.
Your best option is to make arrangements to pay on time each month. You can use online payments to schedule your credit card payments so that they come out on the days they are due, or even a little before. If you mail in your payment, make sure that you do so seven to 10 days in advance so that the payment has sufficient time to arrive.
Even a single day can make a difference in your credit score, especially if your creditor is a stickler. Be aware of that, and plan accordingly.