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Do you pay off your credit card immediately or wait until the balance is due?

Consumers who are a little uneasy about credit card debt might want to pay off their balance immediately following a trip to the mall or grocery store. You don’t even have to leave the store these days – just make a payment using a mobile banking app on your smart-phone.

There are several advantages to paying off your credit card balance this way. For one, you needn’t worry about forgetting to pay your credit card bill at the end of the month, and you can easily add the transaction to your budget and then forget about it.

Related: How a credit inquiry affects your credit score

But a nice feature of most credit cards is that they offer a grace period of 21-to-30 days before interest starts to accrue. By waiting for the grace period you can review all of your purchases at the end of the month and then simply make one lump sum payment to clear off your balance.

When I started using a rewards credit card for all of my spending I used to pay off my balance immediately after making a purchase. Back then my credit card spending was limited to groceries and gas. But as I grew more confident with this approach, I started paying off the balance weekly, then bi-weekly, before finally just waiting until the statement due date before applying a payment.

It worked well for me because I get paid once a month and so it was convenient to review my credit card statements all at the same time and then pay off the balances in full.

As I funnelled more of my everyday spending onto a credit card to earn rewards, I thought it would be overkill to pay off my card balance every time I bought something – what a pain to manage when you have dozens of transactions every month.

What could possibly go wrong if you leave your credit card balance right up until the last minute when your statement comes due? As long as you pay the balance in full every month then the 19 percent credit card interest shouldn’t concern you.

Related: Cash discount, or credit card rewards: Which do you prefer?

So imagine my surprise when I checked my latest MasterCard statement and saw a $25 interest charge from my last credit card bill.

You know how your bank suggests you pay your bills three days before the due date to make sure the payment clears? Well apparently I waited too long to make a payment through my bank online and the bill ended up getting paid two days late. Crap! That meant interest was charged on the full balance.

While this lesson probably won’t change the way I pay my credit card bills in the future, I will be more conscious of the statement due date and set monthly reminders in my calendar.

It’s smart to review your credit card statement at least a week before the due date and then make sure to submit payment several business days in advance. Don’t wait until the due date to pay bills online or there’s a chance it won’t show up as paid until a day or two later.

Related: How I cashed in on credit card rewards this year

On a positive note, I called MasterCard and confessed my stupidity, while reminding them how diligently I’ve paid off my balance in full every other month. They waived the interest charge, so I’m glad I asked.

Do you pay off your credit card balance right away or wait until your statement due date?

5 Comments

  1. Harold on January 6, 2015 at 5:41 am

    In order to avoid problems with late payment of credit cards (if you pay off the full amount every month) and not get involved in the hassle of partial payments on the fly, why don’t you just set up an automatic credit card payment on your bank’s mobile site. You still have the grace period to review your statement for any errors and the payment is taken out the due date so you have full advantage of the grace period.



  2. BRIAN METCALFE on January 6, 2015 at 2:29 pm

    I always post date payment from my checking account 2-3 days before due date A couple of times they did not receive payment due to a glich but a simple call they reversed a interest charge when asked since had a history of paying in full & payment was only a day or two out



  3. Ben on January 6, 2015 at 10:13 pm

    I’m paranoid… Usually about 3-4 days before its due.



  4. Pursuit99 on January 11, 2015 at 11:37 am

    Setting up an automatic pay date is the easiest and safest way to go. You may get a one time reprieve on interest charges if you’re late, but don’t count on it happening again. My auto-payment has been in place for years with never a problem.



  5. Mark on February 17, 2015 at 12:29 pm

    I’ve always paid my credit card statements based on the due date indicated. In about ten years of making my payments online, I’ve had perhaps one incident where the payment wasn’t received on time (i.e. payment made on a Friday night which wasn’t received till Monday, etc.). Curiously, I’ve had at least two (recent) incidents involving my Rogers account where my online payment wasn’t received by the due date, and on my subsequent Rogers invoice, lo and behold, there was a late interest charge. I had to call Rogers to rectify the situation (how I’ve been a long-time Rogers customer and have never been late on any of my payments). My question is: why can’t these companies/institutions simply set the due date a couple of days earlier if they want their payments ‘on time’? In other words, provide a grace period of a day or two by moving up the due date shown??



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