Americans are known for being big spenders…sometimes, too big. With an average household credit card balance of more than $7,800, many people now cannot keep up with the payments on their debt. While the COVID-19 stimulus payments led to the biggest credit-card debt payoffs in decades last year, the devastating economic impact of the pandemic and the unemployment it created have still left plenty of people struggling. In a nationally representative survey conducted by WalletHub, over 18 percent of respondents said they believe they will miss at least one credit card due date in 2021. That works out to about 47 million Americans.
Missing a credit card payment can start a chain reaction of negative events. First off, there are late fees of up to $29 for a first offence and $40 for another within six months. In addition, cardholders not already carrying a balance between months will lose their grace period, and interest will start accruing immediately on both new purchases and the unpaid balance. There might also be a high penalty APR on new purchases, depending on the issuer, and this rate can be applied to all balances after the cardholder is 60-days past-due on payment. Lastly, if the credit card issuer reports a late payment to the credit bureaus after it’s 30 days late, it will cause damage to the cardholder’s credit score. This can lead to higher costs and fewer borrowing opportunities in the future.
Missing a credit card payment is dangerous, but its negative effects can sometimes be quickly countered. WalletHub’s survey found that nearly 9 of 10 people who tried to get a late fee waived in the past were successful.
Below are some more of highlights of WalletHub’s survey, along with additional insight from a panel of experts.
- More waiver attempts than last year. 16% more Americans have tried to get a credit card late fee waived compared to last year.
- Companies are mostly helpful. 60% of Americans say their credit card company has been helpful during the pandemic.
- Credit card issuers are forgiving...if you ask nicely. Nearly 9 in 10 people who have tried to get a credit card late fee waived were successful.
- Mortgage worries are increasing. 36% more Americans are worried about missing a mortgage payment in 2021 than last year.
Ask the Experts
People miss due dates for bills sometimes, whether due to forgetfulness, lack of funds or some other reason. It may seem like a simple fact of life, but there’s often a lot more to the story, including far-reaching implications for all of our wallets. To gain further insight on missed payments and the late fees that can come with them, we posed the following questions to a panel of experts. Click on the experts’ profiles to read their bios and responses.
- WalletHub's survey found that 47 million Americans expect to miss a credit card due date in 2021 - does that surprise you, and do you have any advice for those people?
- 16% more people than last year now say they've tried to get a credit card late fee waived; why do you think the increase wasn't even higher?
- 60% of Americans say their credit card company has been helpful during the pandemic; do you agree?
- How bad of a sign is it that 36% more Americans are worried about missing a mortgage payment in 2021 than last year?
Ask the Experts
WalletHub conducted this nationally representative survey with over 1,000 respondents from 1/18/21 to 1/22/21. We weighted the statistical results to correct for demographic discrepancies. The margin of error for the total respondents is plus or minus 3.00 percent at a confidence level of 95%.
Full Details Overall
|Why would you most likely miss a credit card payment?|
|Don't have enough money||28%|
|No late fees||9%|
|Do you think you will miss at least 1 credit card due date in 2021?|
|What do you worry about missing the most?|
|Credit card payment||29%|
|Auto loan payment||11%|
|How would being charged a late fee on your credit card make you feel?|
|Have you ever tried to get a credit card late fee waived?|
|Were you successful?|
|Has your credit card company been helpful during the COVID-19 pandemic?|
Note: Percentages may not total 100% due to rounding.