Make Contact Early
Don't wait until you've already missed payments to contact your creditors. This can result in late fees, credit freezes and even interest rate increases. If you know you're going to be late or short, call the companies and ask to speak to a customer service representative. Explain your financial situation, such as a job layoff, injury or unexpected expenses. The creditors will want to know your circumstances are temporary, and they typically want you to be in good standing when you make the requests. Don't expect to be granted deferments on a regular basis. Companies may have a limit on how many times they're willing to give you a pass.
Some credit card companies may have a set time limit on how long you can defer payments. Tell them what you ideally need and negotiate from there. Common deferment is a single month cycle, which can give you breathing room to get back on your feet financially. Other companies may not allow you to skip a payment but might be willing to allow you a seven- or 10-day grace period. Still others will require that if you defer one month, you'll have to make double payments on the following billing cycles or be subject to fees.
Other forms of deferment or delay may be available from your credit card companies. For example, you may be able to request an increase in your credit lines, which could lower your minimum monthly payments. Creditors may also accept partial payments in lieu of the full amounts. The options you're offered will likely be based on your credit history with each company. Whatever you agree to, ask company representatives to send you written confirmations that detail the terms of your agreements.
Deferring payments on credit cards can compound interest and make it harder to get caught up on bills. If you fail to pay your creditors, it can have a negative impact on your credit score, making it harder for you to get loans or reasonable interest rates in the near future. Consider using a qualified debt counseling service to help you better manage your finances and protect your credit.