How to Get a Credit Card Late Payment Fee Waived

A credit card analyst shares the secret to making late fees disappear.

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Using a credit card.
Getty ImagesSometimes, all you have to do to get a late fee waived is call the card issuer and ask.
By Matt Schulz

It was all my fault, and I felt awful about it. Worse yet, I was stuck with it, unless I got a break.

I'm talking about a $25 late payment penalty fee on a department store credit card that I opened within the last few months. As so many people have, I signed up for the card at the checkout counter, largely for the discount, and didn't really concern myself with the interest rate. But I would pay it all off in a big hurry, so I didn't have much to worry about -- or so I thought.

I used the card several times in a fairly short period to save a little bit extra on some clothes I needed to buy, and I quickly paid all but a small portion of my balance off quickly. But as weeks passed following those shopping trips, I basically forgot about the card. Out of sight, out of mind -- at least until that second bill arrived.

Angry at myself over my mistake, I didn't beat myself up. I took action.

Here's what I did:

1. I paid the bill ... The next day, I paid the bill through my bank's website. I knew it would take a few days to process and for the money to actually get to the credit card issuer, but that was OK. Since I acted quickly, I knew I wasn't in any danger of ending up 30 days past due, getting a black mark on my credit report and slashing my strong credit score. (If you are nearing that 30 days past-due threshold, don't rely on online banking. Call your bank and arrange something that ensures the bank gets paid more quickly.)

2. ... but not all of the bill. I pay my credit cards off each month, typically. I've been deep, deep in credit card debt and have no intent of ever returning to that point. However, in this case, paying the entire statement balance would have been a tactical error. Instead, I paid the balance minus $25 -- the amount of the late payment fee, which I hoped would eventually be waived by the credit card issuer.

3. I set up electronic billing and auto pay through my bank. I made this move for the card issuer's peace of mind -- or algorithm. My bank allows me to receive electronic bills through the bank's website and then pay them in full automatically each month. It seemed like a win-win for me and the bank. My thought was that if, when speaking with the issuer about waiving my late payment fee, I could tell the company that I've made these arrangements to ensure I'll never be late again, that might help my case. Of course, the issuer would have no way of knowing if I really had done it or if I was just saying I had, but even so, it felt like a worthwhile good-faith gesture to make.

4. I called and made my pitch. "Hi, my name's Matt Schulz. I was late with a payment recently. However, I just paid my bill online -- and even set up electronic billing and auto pay so it won't happen again -- and I'd like to see if you could waive my late payment fee."
I was nervous about asking, since I don't have a terribly long track record with this card, but I asked anyway. The customer service representative said she needed to speak with her manager and proceeded to put me on hold. As I waited, I considered what I would do if my request was rejected, possibly going as far as threatening to close my card. But that became a moot point. A few nervous minutes later, she told me that the bank would grant my request, but only this once. Mission accomplished.

Of course, it probably helped that I have very strong credit overall, even if my history with this particular card is short. The better your track record with the credit card issuer, the more likely it is to cut you some slack when you mess up.

Still, the fact is that you don't have to have a perfect credit score to get a fee waived. Some credit cards -- like the Discover it card -- include a policy that allows a cardholder's first late-payment fee to be waived. But typically you do have to ask, and sometimes if you do, you might just find that you've saved yourself $25 for your efforts.

Matt Schulz is the senior industry analyst at CreditCards.com, a site dedicated to helping people make smart decisions about obtaining and using credit. You can follow him on Twitter at @matthewschulz.


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9 Comments

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fakeconomics01

Simply---STOP using CREDIT CARDS

August 26 2014 at 9:11 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
Nut T 1

I've found that if you have good credit everyone of my CC will credit me 1 late fee each year, but you have to ask, and I mean "ask" and have good credit.

Saying you will get another card ? Customer service really doesn't care...but that do care if your nice

I once got a bank to waive 500.00 in over draft fees for my son, by being nice and asking for a "favor" it works....

August 26 2014 at 8:51 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
jpfmtka

How about avoiding all hassle. Pay on time. Set your checking account up for an automatic payment every month. Even my 93 year old mother arranged for all her monthly bills to be automatically deducted from her checking account. It is not rocket science.

August 26 2014 at 4:59 PM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply
Carolyn

Here's another way too. . . . .

Have lots of money in their bank and the manager will absolve you of most any fees that you get.

August 26 2014 at 4:38 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
Mr. ROC

I have the best solution yet! We got rid of all our credit cards about 5 years ago. Not missed them yet! My debit card can do all they can..and no late fee's! If we do not have the cash...we wait till we do. Buy new,... wear out...make due...do with out... till you save the money for it. We have one small car payment, house payment, nothing else. The car and house are investments. The car is a business vehicle, our home is where we will live till the Lord takes us home...we have not used it for our personal cash cow....ATM machine.

August 26 2014 at 11:24 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Mr. ROC's comment
clyogi

I guess you decided to overpay for all your purchases. With today's no annual fee rewards cards, you would come out at least one percent better if you used one of these cards and still paid all you cards on time. The old concept of getting rid of credit cards just doesn't hold water anymore. By the way, I also assume that you buy everything -- no mortgage, no car loans -- for cash so you do not care about the hit to your Fico score(ie, higher interest rate for lower score) for having no credit history.

August 26 2014 at 2:38 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
drmike15

There are plenty of other cards out there. I simply said: waive the fee or I'm walking. They waived it. It was $50 in my case, not $25.

August 26 2014 at 11:14 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
merstockgto

If you have a good record of making your payments on time the credit card will normally waive the fee. Recently I had sent a payment in on a credit card and the check was mutilated by something and the company sent me what was left of it and ask me to resubmit. By the time they got around to telling me and me mailing out the check immediately after I found out I got another statment charging me a late fee. I called the credit card company and explained what had happened and the letter I had gotten from the processing center and the fee was waived. This was a case of it not being my fault and should not have been charged a fee anyway.

August 26 2014 at 10:08 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to merstockgto's comment
grgblnk1

People still use the mail????

August 26 2014 at 5:07 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply