How Late Can I Be On a Payment Before My Credit Scores Get Damaged?

I received the following question from a reader asking about how late payments make their way to credit reports.

John, I just converted from paper statements to email statements for my credit cards. I didn’t realize it but one of my statements was going to my junk mail and I didn’t find it until almost a week after the payment was due. I have ALWAYS paid my bills on time and this has me extremely worried that I’m going to end up with a late payment on my credit report. And because the account is joint with my husband he’ll have a late payment as well. That’s not going to go over well. Is there anything that can be done to prevent the late payment from ruining our credit?

First off, you can relax because your credit (and your husband’s credit) is going to be fine. If you discovered the statement in your junk mail a week after the due date I’m assuming you immediately made your payment, which probably cleared a day or so after you made the online payment. That means you were a week + 2  or 3 days late at worst, right?

That means you were about 10 days late on the account. Thankfully for you the credit bureaus direct their furnishers (like your credit card issuer) to NOT report late payments until the customer is a full 30 days past the due date. The credit reporting agency’s trade association, the Consumer Data Industry Association or “CDIA”, publishes a guide every year called the Credit Reporting Resource Guide, or “CRRG.” That guide lays out the rules and conditions for how items are supposed to be reported to the credit bureaus.

There’s a section called “Industry Standards for Reporting Account Delinquency.” That section reads, “The clock for a 30-day delinquency starts 30 days after the due date, as opposed to the billing date.” That’s means you’d have to be 30 days past your due date before your credit card issuer reports you as being late to the credit bureaus.  It sounds like you made your payment with almost 3 weeks to spare so you should be in good shape.  Still, just to verify I’d wait a month or two and then get copies of your credit reports to confirm.

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Let’s put it this way…if you end up with late payments on your credit reports then you were REALLY delinquent. For credit card accounts the issuer has to give you at least a 21 day grace period from the statement closing date (you can thank the CARD Act for that one). So, if you end up with a 30 day late payment on a credit card account it really means you had 51 days to make the payment and still didn’t. (21 day grace period plus another 30 day grace period).

JRU on 60 Mins SetCredit Reporting Expert, John Ulzheimer, is the President of Consumer Education at SmartCredit.com, the credit blogger for Mint.com, founder of www.creditexpertwitness.com and a Contributor for the National Foundation for Credit Counseling.  He is an expert on credit reporting, credit scoring and identity theft. Formerly of FICO, Equifax and Credit.com, John is the only recognized credit expert who actually comes from the credit industry.  You can follow John on Twitter here.