Do you ever get that slightly paranoid feeling, every once in a while, that your credit cards actually are out to get you?
I've been a regular user of a certain credit card for many years. I'm not the kind of girl who charges everything from my morning coffee to new appliances just to claim more credit card rewards. I do get a percentage of cash back for every purchase, and I've been generally satisfied.
Lately, though, I'll sit down to pay the bills and be surprised that my credit card payment is due almost the moment I open the envelope. I started thinking I was just getting a little careless with the mail. Maybe the statement had been sitting around longer than I thought.
Then I decided to look back at my old statements. Zoinks! The good news is that I'm not losing my mind. The really, really bad news is that my due date has been steadily creeping ahead by about one day every billing cycle. For the statement that covered most of last June, my payment was due July 17. The bill I just got was due Feb. 8.
The closing date on my statements hasn't changed, just the time between the end of my billing cycle and the date the payment's due. Over the last half year, I've had nine days cut off the time I've been given to check the statement, get the money in order, and make sure the payment gets to the credit card company on time. (That's 5 p.m. local time, to be exact.)
Nine days! I'm pretty annoyed. At this rate, my payment will be due before the credit card company even gets the statement into the mail!
It's hard for me to somehow not believe this is an intentional ploy to encourage a certain tardiness among cardholders. After all, the credit card company wouldn't mind if I incurred the occasional late fee and interest payment, simply because I hadn't noticed that my due date had been ever-so-slowly creeping forward.
This credit card may soon find itself ejected from my wallet and stashed away in the filing cabinet. I take a little solace in knowing that I'm definitely not the only one being driven a little batty by my credit card. If you've ever perused the postings at the Fool's Credit Cards and Consumer Debt board, you'll find no shortage of stories from frustrated Fools baffled by the seeming randomness of their credit cards. Consider these recent examples:
- One Fool noticed that his credit card due date had been moved up one week (without notification) to make it more "convenient" for him, simply because the computer had noted he always paid his bill early.
- Another Fool's card activity repeatedly and inexplicably keeps triggering a "fraud protection" notice that requires the card holder to call customer service and verify the charges.
- One Fool said his credit card only sends a bill every other month.
- Another Fool got an offer for a credit card offering a cash-back reward, but then got a completely different card issued to him. When he called to inquire, the credit card issuer confirmed that it had decided not to send the cash-back reward card after all.
It never pays to be too careful when it comes to credit, and that means taking the time to read all the fine print. Check your statement against last month's to see whether anything has changed. If you're in any danger of being late, mark a calendar with the dates you expect your payment to be due. Look at your account online if you suspect a bill may be late in arriving at your door. Read the myriad notes they put on the bottom of your statement every month.
If there's anything you don't understand, call the credit card company to get an explanation. Make certain you understand the terms when you're shopping around for a new credit card. To become more credit savvy, take a look at the information compiled in the Credit Center. For some guidance from a group of truly credit-savvy Fools, check in with the Credit Cards and Consumer Debt discussion board.