Q. My husband passed in 2019, and at that time, I called our Capital One credit card, on which my husband was the primary cardholder, to see if I could still use the card. They said yes. But recently there was a death in my family and I was a few days late on my payment. They cancelled the card. In the past, I would just pay a late fee. Should I fight them or change to another card?
— Worried

A. We’re sorry to hear about your husband.

Many businesses have policies in the fine print that often come as a surprise to consumers, who don’t often read all the terms and conditions.

While it may not seem appropriate, the Capital One customer agreement says that the company may change your credit limit at any time, said Claudia Mott, a certified financial planner with Epona Financial Solutions in Basking Ridge.

She said as a result of the pandemic and the perceived risk of consumer’s inability to pay their credit card balances because of job loss, many credit card companies took a very hard stand on late payments.

In addition, she said, many consumers had their credit limits reduced despite a good payment history just because the card was infrequently used.

In more normal economic times, your one late payment may not have caused Capital One to do anything, especially if your credit rating is good, Mott said.

You should know that payment history comprises 35% of an individual’s credit score and a late payment can remain on your credit history for seven years, she said.

“One late payment may not have caused a significant drop in your score, but it certainly would have impacted it,” she said.

It is possible to get a late payment removed from your credit report by requesting a goodwill adjustment if you’ve had a good payment history in the past, she said.

“The process would entail writing to the creditor and asking that they `forgive’ the late payment and adjust your credit report,” she said.

You can monitor your credit report to see if the change occurs by obtaining a free copy at www.annualcreditreport.com now, waiting a few months and getting a copy from one of the other providers. Every consumer has the right to a free copy of their credit report from each of the three main providers — Equifax, Experian and Transunion — annually.

Opening a new credit card with another bank is going to increase the available amount of credit you have and may improve your credit score, but you must use the card in order to keep it open, Mott said.

“The impact on your credit score comes as a result of the change in the credit utilization ratio (CUR), which is 30% of your credit score and is a calculation of how much is owed as compared to the credit limits you have,” Mott said. “If you pay your cards off each month, then your CUR is likely very low, which is a positive for your score.”

Also note that the new bank may be taking similar actions as Capital One given the current economic circumstances and you should discuss this with them before proceeding.

Email your questions to Ask@NJMoneyHelp.com.

This story was originally published on Feb. 9, 2021.

NJMoneyHelp.com presents certain general financial planning principles and advice, but should never be viewed as a substitute for obtaining advice from a personal professional advisor who understands your unique individual circumstances.

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