So much for Swiss timekeeping. A new survey of the bill-paying habits of Europeans reveals that half of outstanding debts in Switzerland are paid late -- actually, an average of two weeks past the due date.

According to a survey by credit management company Intrum Justitia, when it comes to lollygagging, the Swiss are surpassed only by the Portuguese (19 days tardy, on average) and the Italians (28 days after the fact). Austrians, Germans, and the Spanish are the timeliest when it comes to getting the check in the mail.

One reason for this relaxed attitude towards settling up may be that the consequences for late payments aren't so harsh as they are stateside. Creditors in Switzerland can begin to charge interest only after they send out a first reminder that the 30-day deadline has passed. And the interest-rate cap on late payments is 5%, better than many bank loans.

Just try arguing for that kind of treatment with your cell phone provider or credit card issuer. The average credit card late fee has topped $30 (there's no polite reminder that you missed your due date either). And according to, since 1990 the average grace period has shrunk from 30 to 21 days.

Better check the batteries in your Timex.

And while you're at it, head on over to our Credit Center -- we'll help make sure you stay firmly on the road to good credit.