How to Pay Credit Card Bills Online (When to Pay and How Much)

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By Eric Rosenberg, MBA

One of the most important steps in building and preserving good to excellent credit is paying your credit card and other bills related to borrowing by the due date every month. If you regularly use a credit card, which can be a wise financial decision for some households, making your credit card payment online can save you time, and even money in some cases, when dealing with your credit.

Continue reading to learn how to pay credit card bills online, tricks to make it as easy as possible, and reasons why paying online is the best way to pay in 2021 and beyond.

How to pay credit card bills online

No matter which credit card company you use, you probably have the option to pay your credit card bills online. Each card issuer typically gives you the option to pay using a one-time payment or by setting up autopay. Each has its own pros and cons to consider.

One-time payments

The simplest way for most people to pay a credit card online is with a one-time payment. To make a one-time payment, you typically need to log into your credit card company’s website or mobile app, connect a bank account, and enter your payment amount. When you pay with a connected bank account, your funds are moved electronically instead of with a check, but the result is the same.

When you pay online, you don’t have to pay for a stamp or a check or build in time for the check to make it to the credit card company. Some credit card issuers give credit the same day for online payments, or let you make one-time, scheduled payments in advance. Others may require a day or two for processing.

Automatic payments

As the name implies, when you set up automatic payments online, your credit card bill pays itself. There are some big advantages to this set-it-and-forget-it recurring payment method over one-time payments. Most important for your credit, you’ll never forget to pay or miss a due date, which can harm your credit score.

When getting automatic payments turned on, consider these settings to ensure it works the way you want:

  • Payment timing: You can typically choose to pay on a certain day of the month or a specific number of days before your payment is due. Because you’re allowed to pay early, consider setting your payment date to be on or shortly after your payday, if possible, to align your income and expenses in a way that may help you avoid a cash crunch when the payment is due. If you have plenty of savings, waiting for the due date works well.
  • Payment amount: You may have the option to make the minimum payment, pay your bill in full, or pay a certain amount using automatic payments. It’s best to pay your bill in full every month by the due date to avoid credit card interest charges. But you also don’t want to accidentally overdraft your checking account, which could lead to fees from both your bank account and credit card.

Note: If you like to pay your bill in full every month using a one-time payment, consider adding an automatic payment for the minimum on the due date. The automatic minimum payment will only go through if you forget to pay manually and may prevent an accidental missed payment one billing cycle.

What is the fastest way to pay your credit card bill?

If you are coming up on a payment due date, don’t drop a check in the mail. The fastest way to pay your bill is often online using the web or your credit card’s mobile app.

When you pay directly through your credit card company online, it knows the funds are on the way from your connected checking account and will arrive in a day or two, barring a situation where the account had insufficient funds or some other error.

Also, understand that paying through your credit card company online is not the same as using your bank’s bill pay feature. It can take a couple of days for electronic payments to post to your credit card account with bill pay. When time is of the essence, it’s best to pay through your credit card website or app.

When should you pay credit cards online?

As we briefly touched on above, it’s important to make credit card payments by the monthly due date. Missed payments can lead to a late fee or other fee, penalty interest rates, and damage to your credit score that takes seven years to resolve fully.

You can generally make a one-time payment at any time, even on top of an automatic payment you have scheduled. What’s most important is always to pay so your payment is posted by the due date.

If you’re unsure of how long it takes for your credit card to recognize an online payment, it’s a good idea to pay a few days before the due date to ensure it’s processed on time. If you know payments post to your account on a shorter schedule, after testing, you may be able to pay on the due date and still get credit for paying on-time.

Note: Some credit cards offer a grace period where late payments are still treated as if they were made on time. Check your credit card agreement to find out how long you have to pay within a grace period.

To avoid getting confused or making a mistake, here are the dates you should be aware of every month that could show up on your credit card statement:

Closing date: This is the final date where new charges show up on your current monthly statement. After the closing date, new charges will show up in the following month’s statement.

Billing date: The date that the credit card company prepares and sends your bill is the billing date.

Payment due date: Most important to you, the payment due date is when you have to make your payment, at the latest, to avoid fees and a late payment on your credit report.

If you don’t like your due date, call the customer service number on the back of your card. The credit card company may be willing to move your due date to a day of the month that works better for your schedule. Some credit cards allow you to make this change yourself online.

Learn more: Important Credit Card Terms

How much of your credit card bill should you pay?

If you can, you should always pay your credit card bills in full by the due date. If you struggle to keep up with your credit card bills, take a hard look at your budget and opportunities to increase your income. These strategies may help you better manage your money or alleviate some of the stress when your bills are due.

When you can’t afford to pay your entire balance, it’s essential to pay at least the minimum required payment. This may vary based on your card balance and credit card’s terms, so it’s a good idea to check monthly if you plan only to pay the minimum.

Every time you pay your credit card bill, the funds first go toward any interest outstanding and then your principal. If you decide to pay the minimum or less than the entire statement balance, it’s important to understand that you could wind up paying a small fortune in interest. You could also rack up credit card debt.

When you pay your balance faster, you pay less interest over time.

If you're trying to build credit, paying down your balance could also help your credit utilization, which is a major factor in your credit score.

Will your credit score go up if you pay your credit card bill online?

As far as your credit score is concerned, it doesn’t matter if you pay by check, by phone, or online. As long as you pay by the due date, the credit card company will be happy to take your money and give you credit for an on-time payment.

Because paying online is easier for many people and can be fully automated, online payments may lead to better credit payment habits that can improve your credit score.

The two biggest factors in your credit score are your credit balances and payment history. If you keep credit card balances low and always pay on time, you should see your credit score improve over time.

What happens if you don’t pay your credit card bill?

While it may be easier to skip a payment when money’s tight, you should never just not pay your credit card bill. Late and missed payments take the better part of a decade to clean up, so you should always do your best to pay at least the minimum by the due date.

A single late payment likely won’t be catastrophic, but a series of late or missed payments can lead to financial troubles in the future, like getting turned down for loans or having to pay higher interest rates when approved.
Your credit cards are an important part of your personal finances. Paying your credit cards online is often the easiest way to pay. But even if you don’t like using the internet, you should always pay on time.

About the author

Eric Rosenberg is a former bank manager and corporate finance worker with a Bachelor’s degree and MBA in finance. See Eric on Linkedin and Twitter.

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Written on January 26, 2021
Self is a venture-backed startup that helps people build credit and savings. Comments? Questions? Send us a note at hello@self.inc.

Disclaimer: Self is not providing financial advice. The content presented does not reflect the view of the Issuing Banks and is presented for general education and informational purposes only. Please consult with a qualified professional for financial advice.

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