Do Late Credit Card Payments Hurt Your Credit Scores?

A late payment can have a negative effect on your credit score because payment history accounts for 35% of your FICO score.

A late payment, says Rod Griffin, Experian's senior director of public education and advocacy, is the single most influential factor in determining a credit score. "In the event that you are late with a payment, it will have a devastating effect on your credit scores. Your grades will immediately fall."

In general, a late payment will have a greater impact on credit scores that are already low, but those without a history of late payments will see their scores recover more quickly. However, a late payment can remain on your credit report for up to seven years, which can have a negative effect for a while.

The sooner overdue payments are made current, the better for your credit score. "Depending on your history, your scores can recover relatively quickly," Griffin says. It could take up to three months for your grades to improve if you make up for lost time.

One missed credit card payment can have an impact, but missing multiple payments in a short period of time can have a much more detrimental effect.

In Griffin's words, "if you have other late payments or don't catch up on that late payment repeatedly, it will have a compounding effect," further lowering your credit scores.

Since late payments are typically not reported to credit bureaus until you've missed a full billing cycle, there's a brief window of opportunity to make up a missed credit card payment before any damage is done to your credit. Therefore, the fact that you paid a few days late remains private information between you and the issuer.

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