Home > 2014 > Managing Debt

Help! I Just Got My Holiday Credit Card Bill

Advertiser Disclosure Comments 0 Comments

Billing cycles, like the weeks leading up to Tax Day and a student loan grace period, come to an end, and then it’s time to pay up.

Holiday shoppers are experiencing this depressing reality firsthand as they receive the bills tallying up December’s spending. Even the most budget-conscious consumers can go overboard when it comes to gift buying, but regardless of how prepared you are come January, the credit card bill cannot be ignored.

Do I Have To Pay?

When your account statement arrives, it can be tempting to let it fall to the bottom of the mail stack or hit “delete” in your email, but avoiding an unsavory credit card bill is the worst thing you can do. First, it may take you a few days to come up with a plan for adjusting your budgets in order to pay the bill. Second, you may forget about it, putting yourself at risk for missing the payment and incurring late fees and a penalty APR.

Payment history is also the most important factor in determining your credit scores, so missing the due date can cost you when it comes to applying for other forms of credit. Those with high credit scores tend to get the most favorable interest rates and are more attractive to lenders than those with low credit scores. You can see how your past bill-paying practices and other financial behaviors have affected your credit scores by checking your free Credit Report Card.

A missed bill payment could explain a low credit score or poor grade in the payment history section of the report card, so if you want to avoid a negative hit like that, pay as much as you can afford by the time your bill comes due.

When the Bill Is Bigger Than You Expected

Perhaps you gift-wrapped a chunk of your spending, but maybe you treated yourself to a few gifts, too. In that case, a jaw-dropping credit card balance may be reversible, to a certain extent. If you bought anything unnecessary that still meets the retailer’s return policy, go get your money back. If that doesn’t work, your credit card may have a purchase protection policy that let’s your return the item, so check your cardholder agreement to see if your purchase qualifies. Be resourceful with what you have: Consider selling any gently-used items you don’t need in online marketplaces to shore up your bank accounts.

One of the best things you can do is sit down and look at your coming expenses. In order to pay the credit card bill, do you have anything you can cut from your budget? (Don’t have one? There’s no better time to start one than at the beginning of the year.)

Whether it’s cutting back on shopping, eating out less or remembering to use coupons, saving a little money in many places could generate a helpful cushion when your credit card payment hits your checking account.

When the Bill Is WAY More Than You Can Afford

If stopgap measures like rearranging the budget and finding some extra cash won’t cover this month’s payment, you may want to consider more strategic financial moves.

If you’re looking at paying down the balance over the course of several months, transferring it to a card with a much lower interest rate could save you a lot in the long run. Be mindful of transfer fees and the promotional terms of the new card — opening a new account in this situation is worth it only if you save money. You can also consider other consolidation tactics, like paying the balance with a low-interest personal loan.

Paying down debt, whether it’s a mountain or a speed bump, needs to be approached with a plan, and that course of action should include some changes in your habits. You don’t want to continue to do the things that got you into debt in the first place, so put the credit cards away for a while, and when you decide to use them again, remember to spend only what you can afford to repay.

More on Credit Cards:

Image: Monkey Business

Comments on articles and responses to those comments are not provided or commissioned by a bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by a bank advertiser. It is not a bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

Please note that our comments are moderated, so it may take a little time before you see them on the page. Thanks for your patience.

Certain credit cards and other financial products mentioned in this and other articles on Credit.com News & Advice may also be offered through Credit.com product pages, and Credit.com will be compensated if our users apply for and ultimately sign up for any of these cards or products. However, this relationship does not result in any preferential editorial treatment.

Hello, Reader!

Thanks for checking out Credit.com. We hope you find the site and the journalism we produce useful. We wanted to take some time to tell you a bit about ourselves.

Our People

The Credit.com editorial team is staffed by a team of editors and reporters, each with many years of financial reporting experience. We’ve worked for places like the New York Times, American Banker, Frontline, TheStreet.com, Business Insider, ABC News, NBC News, CNBC and many others. We also employ a few freelancers and more than 50 contributors (these are typically subject matter experts from the worlds of finance, academia, politics, business and elsewhere).

Our Reporting

We take great pains to ensure that the articles, video and graphics you see on Credit.com are thoroughly reported and fact-checked. Each story is read by two separate editors, and we adhere to the highest editorial standards. We’re not perfect, however, and if you see something that you think is wrong, please email us at editorial team [at] credit [dot] com,

The Credit.com editorial team is committed to providing our readers and viewers with sound, well-reported and understandable information designed to inform and empower. We won’t tell you what to do. We will, however, do our best to explain the consequences of various actions, thereby arming you with the information you need to make decisions that are in your best interests. We also write about things relating to money and finance we think are interesting and want to share.

In addition to appearing on Credit.com, our articles are syndicated to dozens of other news sites. We have more than 100 partners, including MSN, ABC News, CBS News, Yahoo, Marketwatch, Scripps, Money Magazine and many others. This network operates similarly to the Associated Press or Reuters, except we focus almost exclusively on issues relating to personal finance. These are not advertorial or paid placements, rather we provide these articles to our partners in most cases for free. These relationships create more awareness of Credit.com in general and they result in more traffic to us as well.

Our Business Model

Credit.com’s journalism is largely supported by an e-commerce business model. Rather than rely on revenue from display ad impressions, Credit.com maintains a financial marketplace separate from its editorial pages. When someone navigates to those pages, and applies for a credit card, for example, Credit.com will get paid what is essentially a finder’s fee if that person ends up getting the card. That doesn’t mean, however, that our editorial decisions are informed by the products available in our marketplace. The editorial team chooses what to write about and how to write about it independently of the decisions and priorities of the business side of the company. In fact, we maintain a strict and important firewall between the editorial and business departments. Our mission as journalists is to serve the reader, not the advertiser. In that sense, we are no different from any other news organization that is supported by ad revenue.

Visitors to Credit.com are also able to register for a free Credit.com account, which gives them access to a tool called The Credit Report Card. This tool provides users with two free credit scores and a breakdown of the information in their Experian credit report, updated twice monthly. Again, this tool is entirely free, and we mention that frequently in our articles, because we think that it’s a good thing for users to have access to data like this. Separate from its educational value, there is also a business angle to the Credit Report Card. Registered users can be matched with products and services for which they are most likely to qualify. In other words, if you register and you find that your credit is less than stellar, Credit.com won’t recommend a high-end platinum credit card that requires an excellent credit score You’d likely get rejected, and that’s no good for you or Credit.com. You’d be no closer to getting a product you need, there’d be a wasted inquiry on your credit report, and Credit.com wouldn’t get paid. These are essentially what are commonly referred to as "targeted ads" in the world of the Internet. Despite all of this, however, even if you never apply for any product, the Credit Report Card will remain free, and none of this will impact how the editorial team reports on credit and credit scores.

Our Owners

Credit.com is owned by Progrexion Holdings Inc. which is the owner and administrator of a number of business related to credit and credit repair, including CreditRepair.com, and eFolks. In addition, Progrexion also provides services to Lexington Law Firm as a third party provider. Despite being owned by Progrexion, it is not the role of the Credit.com editorial team to advocate the use of the company’s other services. In articles, reporters may mention credit repair as an option, for example, but we’ll also be sure to note the various alternatives to that service. Furthermore, you may see ads for credit repair services on Credit.com, but the editorial team isn’t responsible for the creation or implementation of those ads, anymore than reporters for the New York Times or Washington Post are responsible for the ads on their sites.

Your Stories

Lastly, much of what we do is informed by our own experiences as well as the experiences of our readers. We want to tell your stories if you’re interested in sharing them. Please email us at story ideas [at] credit [dot] com with ideas or visit us on Facebook or Twitter.

Thanks for stopping by.

- The Credit.com Editorial Team