Is my credit card payment really “late”?

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By Christopher Elliott

Cynthia Morgan’s credit card claims she’s made too many “late” payments and is reporting her to a collection agency. But she says she’d paid her credit card bill. Who’s right?


Question

I recently got a credit card through Credit First National Association (CFNA). I sent my first payment July 10 through my online bill pay and scheduled a payment to go to them each month on the 10th.

In August, after returning from a three-week trip, I saw a “late” notice from CFNA. I assumed that since the bank showed the payment was sent, that the two had crossed in time.

But today I found out that I’m overdue and have been reported to a credit agency. Come to find out they “may reject any payment not made through their official website.” They have the two checks, according to my bank, but they refuse to accept them since I didn’t go through their website.

I finally got them to admit that they did get and cash one of the checks for the August payment, but that didn’t matter. Still didn’t take care of this and was being sent to collections.

I explained that I had the e-notices from the bank to show that I had sent the payment, and that I would be happy to send those notices to them. They told me that they did not have an address to handle that type of documentation.

A $10 fee for a voice payment?

The agent then tried to get me to make a voice payment. They informed me that there would be a $10 fee for that. I explained that it was their fault they wouldn’t take the money, not mine. Then I was treated to a re-iteration of the fine print from the credit agreement stating that, “they may reject any payment not made through their website.” I finally told them I would mail them a check and they could pay for the labor and work in processing it since I had made more than an adequate effort to pay them.

I did try to register on their website just now, but it says my information is invalid. Also, according to the customer service agent, they have been calling me every day. Go ahead, get my cell phone records. There isn’t a single call from them!

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I called my bank, and expressed surprise that it was legal to do that, but they said they couldn’t help. The bank agent did send an email to the other agents indicating there was an issue with that company.

I would like a refund of the two late payment fees, and a letter to the credit agency indicating that I am not delinquent. Can you help? — Cynthia Morgan, Colorado Springs, Colo.

Answer

You should have squared away your electronic payments with the company this summer, when you applied for the card. If the bank wasn’t receiving your money correctly, it needed to notify you about that, and it apparently didn’t.

CFNA describes itself as “one of the country’s premier consumer finance lenders.” It specializes in financing tires and auto repair costs, adding that it is “strong, stable, responsive and caring.” With a description like that, you’d expect it to repair your credit card misunderstanding quickly and compassionately.

It’s hard to say exactly what went wrong with your payment. More likely, it was several things that failed, including CFNA’s notification system — the promised series of courtesy calls about your overdue bill and the way you were initially notified about your payment issues.

CFNA’s terms and conditions for its card are clear

You have to make a minimum payment every month. I had little more trouble finding information about the type of electronic payments that were acceptable, especially the part about CFNA only accepting money through its website.

In fact, the company claims it offers three ways to pay: Online, via its site; by money order; and by electronic debit payment from your checking account. “Payments made any way other than these three options may be delayed,” it says, but not necessarily rejected outright.

You might have avoided this by heeding the initial warning CFNA sent you late this summer, rather than assuming the payments crossed in the mail.

I think a brief, polite email (avoid certain phrases) to CFNA sent through its website might have cleared up some of these misunderstandings, as opposed to the calls. (Here is our guide on winning a credit card dispute). You could have started with its online contact form and then escalated to someone at CFNA, or its parent company, Bridgestone. Email addresses follow the format firstinitiallastname@bfrc (in other words, I’d be [email protected], but please don’t try that, since I don’t work there).

My advocacy team and I contacted CFNA on your behalf. The company found and acknowledged all your past payments and withdrew its report to a collection agency.

Is CFNA too picky about its payments?

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Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is the founder of Elliott Advocacy, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that empowers consumers to solve their problems and helps those who can't. He's the author of numerous books on consumer advocacy and writes three nationally syndicated columns. He also publishes the Elliott Report, a news site for consumers, and Elliott Confidential, a critically acclaimed newsletter about customer service. If you have a consumer problem you can't solve, contact him directly through his advocacy website. You can also follow him on X, Facebook, and LinkedIn, or sign up for his daily newsletter. He is based in Panamá City.

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