Cracks in the Foundation.

Author:Polk, Diana
Position:DOLLARS & SENSE - Credit card payment

SOME 40,000,000 AMERICANS--16% of U.S. adults--think they will miss at least one credit card due date this year, according to a WalletHub survey, indicating that cracks in the foundation of consumers' finances are beginning to show under the strain of mounting debt. The average American household already owes a near-record $8,200 to credit card companies, a balance made even more expensive by recent Federal Reserve rate hikes.

With the recent government shutdown drawing attention to the delicate state of many Americans' finances, WalletHub's survey examined people's experiences with late payments and their attitudes regarding the likelihood of future encounters.

* Credit card issuers can be forgiving--if you ask nicely. Nine in 10 people who have tried to get a credit card late fee waived were successful.

* Payment priorities change with age. People 18-44 are most worried about missing credit card payments. The 45-59 demographic is most concerned about mortgages, while those over 59 put tax payments as their biggest worry.

* Men and women react differently to fees. When asked about their attitudes toward getting a late fee, women are more likely than men to feel "irresponsible," "ashamed," or "punished." Men are more likely than women to feel "angry" or "indifferent."

* Luxury can lead to lapses. People with high income are twice as likely to miss a payment due to forgetfulness as people with low income.

* Retirees are five times less likely than people with full-time jobs to think they will miss a credit card payment in 2019.

"If people must miss a payment, it is a good practice to notify the lender," says James Butkiewicz, professor and chair of the Department of Economics at the University of Delaware. "Lenders want to be repaid, and might be willing to make accommodations, or delay any action if borrowers explain their situation and make a good-faith effort to make their account current again."

Lenders certainly can be flexible, at least when it comes to late fees. "I have always found credit-card lenders willing to waive fees, especially if you regularly use the card," notes Butkiewicz. "The primary revenue source for credit card lenders is interest on balances. Fees and merchant charges are a much...

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