Even Paying On Due Date Won't Save You From Late Fees

Even though he thought he paid on his credit card’s due date, Russel still got dinged with a late fee. Turns out that he needed to make his payment before 5pm Eastern, otherwise it would get counted as being the next day. Rarg!

Russel writes:

I have a credit card account with Citi. The interest rate is OK, the limit is high, and I was able to use a zero balance transfer offer to get rid of a way higher interest rate account, so I’m not particularly unhappy with them. (I got the card with the express intent of helping me move, and it did that quite nicely.)

The due date last month was the 8th of the month. No problem, I thought – I’ll just go ahead and pay it online. It wouldn’t let me. I called them up and tried to make a payment over the phone – it turns out that there is a cutoff of 5 PM EDT (2 PM PDT) after which any payments made will be credited the next day and appear late.

Of course I wasn’t too happy with this. The lady who took my payment (a nice lady, no fault of her own) asked me “so why were you late this month?”) to which I, barely containing my annoyance but succeeding decently, said “I’m not late! I’m paying on the due date!” At least she had the decency to back off when I said that…

I was able to call today and get the late fees reversed, and there has been no impact to my credit score or account standing with them, and they’ve been professional throughout. This policy, however, is stupid, and a warning to everyone else – if you think you’re paying on time – you might not be. Check your statement. And pay a business day early.

I didn’t make that mistake this month.

- Russell

Make sure you bone up on all your bill due dates, including time of day, to avoid racking up any unnecessary late fees. In this case it looks like what helped Russell argue that he should get the charge reversed was that the electronic system wouldn’t take his payment. But it’s a good idea, like Russell is doing now, to make your payments at least a few days ahead of time just to be on the safe side. You never know when you’re gonna get tripped up!