Thursday, October 01, 2015

How to Never Get a Late Fee

It will happen one day. You'll sit down to pay bills and realize that you've missed one. You'll review your fool-proof plan to never get a late fee and realize that something slipped through the cracks. A change in routine, a delayed or smaller than usual paycheck, or even just a bill that never arrived when it was supposed to. Sometime in your life, believe it or not, you will be charged a late fee.

Just because it's statistically likely to happen sometime in your life doesn't mean you should accept it as fact or continue to allow it to happen. Take precaution by setting up a bill-paying schedule, signing up for automatic payments and bill reminders, and adjusting your routine as needed. However, when it does happen, if you've been a consistent bill payer in the past, call the company to see if they will waive the late fee. Most companies will waive a late fee and even remove the interest on a one-time basis if you have always paid your credit card on time in the past.

How do I know? I was charged a late fee. Yes, I did say that I was charged a late fee. Even though it was my husband's credit card, even though he's the one that gets sent the e-bills and then forwards them to me, even though neither one of us remembers seeing an e-bill this month, I was charged a late fee. I'm the person responsible for bill paying in our house. It helps to assign one person to be in charge of financial matters. Generally, you want that person to be the most responsible and detail-oriented. In our case, it was the person with the most time on her hands. However, since moving and starting homeschooling, our routines have gotten a bit out of whack and something fell through the cracks.

What is our routine? Every Friday, I go through all our bank accounts and credit cards online. I review transactions, enter them in our Excel spreadsheet to keep up with our budget, and check for any upcoming due dates I might have missed.

What happened? Usually, I would do this in the morning or nap time on Fridays. Lately, however, I've been working on my Fiction Friday posts much later than I'm supposed to (because I try to publish on my blog by 9am, but you may have noticed that Fiction Friday posts much later, because I've been getting behind on my fiction writing). Also, our oldest child finally has given up his naps, and doesn't do a great job at staying in his room for a short (30 minute) rest time. I've also signed up for more hours with online tutoring, which means that it's harder for me to find the uninterrupted time to complete the budgeting and bill paying. Finally, it is my husband's credit card, and it's an e-bill only credit card. Unfortunately, that means that if they did send a bill payment reminder, it must have either gone in his junk e-mail folder or gotten deleted in his weekly e-mail purge.

Fortunately, my routine had only gone by the wayside for 3 weeks (I know, I have no idea how this happened) so I caught the credit card when it was only 2 days late. My husband called them that day (because it is his credit card) to explain that we hadn't gotten an e-bill and wondered if they could waive the fees. The person he spoke to that day actually said that if they got the payment within two days of the due date they would backdate the payment so nothing would show on our card. Even online, it said "make a payment today to avoid any penalties" so we went ahead and made the payment.

Well, the Internet and the lady on the phone were wrong, and they did charge us a whopping $25 late fee and some interest ($11) - it certainly could have been much worse. However, my husband called again a few days later to explain what the lady had promised, and they did remove the late fee and interest, with a reminder that apparently it's not really their policy to backdate payments. Fortunately, my husband had written down the woman's name that he talked with earlier, and we've never been late on that card before, so they were still able to waive the late fee and interest.

In summary, no matter what you do, there is likely to be a time in your life that you have a late fee. At that time, you can either just accept it as your own error, pay it, and move on (adjusting your routine as needed so it won't happen again) or you can give them a call, explain the situation, and see if they will help you out just this one time.

Believe it or not, there are some times that you can get a do-over. Even from a credit card company.
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