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Sunday, May 26, 2024   

One Day Late, Yeah Right
by Scott Bilker
Scott Bilker is the author of the best-selling books, Talk Your Way Out of Credit Card Debt, Credit Card and Debt Management, and How to be more Credit Card and Debt Smart. He's also the founder of DebtSmart.com. More about and DebtSmart can be found in the online media kit.
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Scott Bilker

I knew it, I knew it, I knew it!

A few years ago most credit card banks changed their policy of what "late" means.Now, "one day late is late," even "one minute late is late." It used to be that late was if your payment was due on the 1st but received on, say, the 20th. Not anymore. If you're 24 hours late, it's late, and you will be charged the late fee. Late fees have also been rising and some are now as high as $39!

What did I know?

I had the feeling that since being one day late means that banks can charge a late fee, it's possible that, well, payments could "accidentally" be held for say, oh, 24 hours. Oops, you're late!

My theory was a step closer to confirmation when one of my credit card payments was exactly one day late. I always track everything--every check, every payment date, and all transactions. I use Quicken and other custom software I developed to pay my bills. So when I was late by one day, I took a look at the date that bank's check was mailed.

Guess how early I mailed the payment?

Seven days!

The 8th day was the late day. I called the bank and told them that they'd better waive that fee, or I would transfer my balance and close the account. They did waive the fee for me, but I wonder how many other people don't call to waive these one-day-late fees?

I wonder how many people simply pay the late fee because they figure "well, I guess I was late." Being exactly one day late has happened to many people I know. I asked them if they called the bank to voice their concern and get the fee waived. They said that they didn't because they thought they were actually late.

Tell you what, being one day late isn't worth 39 bucks! There is no way that it costs the bank $39 for someone to be one day late.

The way I see it--it's like being mugged in an alley!

As it turns out, my theory is even closer to confirmation. Look at those small slips of paper with fine print that come with your statement. Many of those papers are lawsuit notifications from banks that are accused of "not crediting payments promptly," and charging late fees.

The funny thing is that in these class action lawsuits, when the smoke clears, the lawyers get paid millions, and most of us only get back a few cents! Every case that I'm involved in, because I'm a cardholder, has been settled without the bank having to admit any wrongdoing.

What can we do?

Be sure to look at every charge on your credit card statement. Don't let the bank get away with charging you a late fee. I don't care if it's really your fault for being late!

First of all, it doesn't matter because $39 is a rip-off for being 24 hours late. And, second of all, the bank should treat you like gold for being a good customer, and should waive at least one late fee as a courtesy even if it IS your fault.



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