Changing your card's due date can aid budget

If you have several bills each month -- mortgage, car, insurance, utilities, credit cards -- it can be a hassle to keep up with all of them, and maybe even more of a hassle to make sure you don't run out of money between the time you're paid and the time the bills are due. One way to make it easier is to move your credit card payment's due date.

Though consumers should ideally budget and set aside part of their income to match incoming payments, what some may do is spend, spend, spend right when they get paid, then scrape by in the last few days before the next payday, says Jeff Schwartz, executive director of Consolidated Credit Counseling Services of Canada. due-date

Whether you spread your payments out over the month or lump them together doesn't matter, as long as you're budgeting for the situation you're in and not the situation you wish you had, or the situation you used to have. Moving your credit card due date to keep your budget in better shape may be easier than you think, and it isn't a big deal -- as long as you're doing it for the right reasons.

Determining if you need a change
Make a list of your bills, then take a look at all of your income
streams and when they make it into your bank account. If you aren't
getting direct deposit payments, factor in processing time for your
cheques.

Decide how you'd like to divvy up your payments so it's accommodating to your budget and income. For instance, if you're
paid on the 15th and 30th of each month and your credit card is due on
the 12th, you may find you're having to pay three days late each
month, so it might be best to just move that due date by three or four days.

If your credit card bill is due on the first of each month, along with your mortgage, utilities, day care fees and car payment, you might find that you're trying to pay too much out of one paycheque, so you need to move it later in the month.

"Most people are not aware you can change a due date," says Pat White, executive director of the Credit Counselling Canada. "In counselling, I often say that when you're looking at what's due, if it's not working with your payday, to contact the credit card company and ask to make changes. People just don't believe you can call and do that."

White prefers staggering payments so you aren't struggling to make ends meet with the leftover cash. Try not to overburden yourself with too many credit card due dates around the same time, she says.

Schwartz, however, prefers all his credit card due dates to be on the same day -- it's easier to remember and he pay his bills in a single sitting instead of having to remember to do it several times a month.

"It's better for me from an organizational point of view," Schwartz says. "If you can manage your money and you have money set aside so you're ready to pay all of your bills, you only have to do it once."

Other reasonable motives to change your due date can include:

  • Becoming a seasonal worker and rearranging spending;
  • Getting married or divorced and factoring in (or out) your partner's pay schedule;
  • Getting a new job that pays on a different schedule than you're used to.

How to ask for the change
Don't contact your credit card issuer asking for favours if you aren't in good standing. Make sure you're making your payments on time and you're maintaining a good credit utilization ratio.

If you're in the clear, you can find your issuer's customer service line from the back of your credit card or from your statement.

Call with a date in mind and a backup in case your creditor can't accommodate your first choice, and clearly articulate why you're asking for this change.

"Some creditors have fixed dates you can pick from, others let you pick whatever day you like," says Schwartz. "Get all of your ducks in a row before you pick up the phone to call."

White recently changed the due date of her MasterCard with the Bank of Montreal. After verifying her account information and explaining that she wanted to move her due date to the fifth of every month, her request was processed within minutes. The bank just verified that she hadn't already altered the date within the last 12 months, and that she was up-to-date with her payments.

TD, Scotiabank, RBC and CIBC have identical requirements.

After you've changed the due date, you need to factor in the processing time. White, for example, called in May asking for her new due date. The bank told her it had processed her request, but the change wouldn't be effective until July 5, so she needed to make sure she didn't miss her June payment cycle.

A TD Aeroplan Visa customer service agent said that clients had to wait one billing cycle for a due date change to take effect.

White also logged who she talked to and when. Schwartz says it's even worth getting the credit card issuer to provide you with written confirmation of the date change.

When it's not a good idea
If you're trying to push your due date back to buy more time to pay your bill, it won't help your cause. First of all, you'd have to foresee a problem a couple of months in advance, thanks to the delay in the time your request is processed to the time it takes effect.

White says shuffling around due dates because you're struggling to keep up with payments is a red flag for bigger issues. You're better off calling your creditor and being upfront.

"Say you're not going to make a payment instead of waiting until you're late," she says. "At least you told them ahead of time and they haven't had to chase you."

In some instances, creditors will provide you with a grace period, especially if this is a one-off situation.

If you've tried setting aside some of your income so that it covers payments that come a handful at a time, but you're still struggling to cover costs, you may need to examine why money is so tight in your budget, White says.

Changing due dates may be a Band-Aid solution for a bigger issue that requires professional help with your debt and spending.

See related: How to find a good credit counselling agency, Are paperless statements in the cards for you?
Published June 12, 2015

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