Manage Your Debt
Doctor visits, home modifications, medications, therapies—the costs of them add up and stress your finances. In addition, you may have less money if one parent had to cut back on hours or give up a job to care for your child. Perhaps your good credit is keeping you going while you figure out how to manage all of your expenses.
At times it might seem that the only thing you can do is delay paying bills. Don’t. Pay something. If you are having trouble paying your bills, pick up the phone and call the company or person to whom you owe money—the credit card company, the utility company, the doctor’s office, your landlord—and propose a realistic payment plan. Then keep your promise. If at any time you fear that you can’t, call your creditor immediately and be prepared to offer a solution (see below).
Once you’ve made a payment, call the lender to make sure your payment was received and credited to your account. If it hasn’t, wait a couple of days and call again. If you think your check got lost in the mail, you will have to call your bank to stop payment on it and send your lender a new check. Most banks charge a “stop payment” fee.
If you made your payment online, you’ll get immediate confirmation of your payment. Make a note of the confirmation number in case you need to reference it.
What Do I Do if I Miss — or Am About to Miss — A Payment?
If you have missed a payment or are coming close to missing one, contact your creditor and work out a payment plan. Doing so can help avoid collection calls and minimize damage to your credit score that could result from paying late (or not at all).
Before you make your call, decide what you will propose—how much you can pay and by what date. Be realistic about exactly what you are able to do.
- Can you pay the amount in full, but after the due date?
- Can you pay a reduced amount? By when?
- Can you pay nothing for the foreseeable future?
If You Miss a Payment for a Medicaid Waiver Service
Because these services are managed locally, every Medicaid location will handle late Medicaid waiver payments differently. Call your local Medicaid office to find out how it handles late payments and to work out a payment arrangement.
As an example, if you continue to miss payments, a Medicaid office may disenroll your child from the program.
Again, call your local Medicaid office to find out how it handles late waiver payments.
Questions to Ask Your Creditor if You’ve Missed Your Payment
Before you make your call try to determine if:
- You’ve been charged a late fee
- Your interest rate got higher
- Your payment terms (fees, due date) have changed
Begin your phone conversation acknowledging that you missed a payment, then propose your payment plan. Be sure to ask these questions before you end the conversation:
- Can you waive the late fee?
- Can you make one payment that will cover two months—the month you are late on and the current month?
- Can you restore the interest rate to the previous level (if it has gone up)?
- What else will I be charged for on account of the late payment? Can you remove the charge?
Your creditor’s willingness to accommodate your requests will be greater if you have a history of routinely paying your bills on time, every month. However, even if you’ve made late payments or have missed payments, it still is worth trying to negotiate different terms (interest rates, amount due, due date, fees).
Get New Terms from Your Creditor in Writing
If the lender agrees to new terms, request the changes in writing. You’ll want to check your next statement to make sure your lender has honored the new agreement.
Avoid These Common Mistakes That Can Delay Your Payment:
- Mail the payment to the wrong address
- Make an online payment to the wrong account
- Write the wrong account number on your check
- Write a check that is returned (bounced) because there’s not enough money in your checking account to cover it
To rebuild your payment history with each creditor you contact, honor each renegotiated term (due date, payment amount) and make future payments on time.