Check’s in the Mail

Sonja Haggert

I HAD TO PAY MY credit card bill, so I went online and set up a payment from my credit union a week before the bill was due. Why not, it’s an online transfer, right?

Not always.

The payment was due on the 16th. I went online the day before to check my bank account. It said the credit card payment was “sorted” and hadn’t transferred. Same thing the next day and the next.

I called my credit card company and the customer service representative was incredibly understanding—probably because I always pay my entire bill on time.

Then I called my credit union. The representative told me it was the post office’s fault that my check hadn’t reached the credit card company. What does the post office have to do with an online payment? Apparently a lot.

It seems that, in my credit union’s case, if a payment is over a certain dollar amount, it sends an actual paper check. Really?

I then asked the obvious question: At what amount should I allow extra time? The representative couldn’t tell me. I was transferred to another customer service representative and she couldn’t tell me, either. She also got very uncomfortable with my questions.

I entered the payment on the 9th. If the credit union needed to send out a “real” check, why didn’t it go out the next day? Then there would have been no question the actual check would have arrived on time. To blame the post office was totally absurd.

Now for the best part: The credit union said it would reimburse any fees and interest up to $50. Given the size of the card balance I was paying off, this was a pittance. It’s a bank. Don’t the folks there know that credit card companies charge interest in the double-digits and steep fees for late payments?

By now, I hope you’re thinking there’s something wrong with this picture. To avoid running into the same problem, call your bank or credit union and find out about its policies. It could save you a lot of headaches—and maybe some money, too.

Sonja Haggert is the author of Invest, Reinvest, Rest. You can learn more at

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Langston Holland
Langston Holland
3 years ago

Quite an eyeopener – thank you Sonja. I’ve never had a problem with online bank payments getting to their destinations on time, but I’ve been lucky. The credit cards I have at present allow you to add your checking account as a payment method on the credit card’s website. Executing payment each month either manually or automatically is obviously handled electronically. The thing I like the most about this method is that the credit card company is involved and not going to blame the card holder for a late payment as long as the funds are available. I assume. 🙂

Brian White
Brian White
2 years ago

I have my credits cards all set up for automatic payments, so that the credit card company is pulling the money rather than the credit union pushing it. I have set the automatic payment to happen on the due date, paying the full balance every time. It is never late, and in fact it gives me an extra day of interest free use of the credit card company’s money, because for some reason the transfer takes a day to be acknowledged, even though it only really take a millisecond. Apparently the credit card companies are happy as long as they are in control and they know it is in the works as of the due date.

I keep careful records of all my credit card payments and carefully check the statements each month, and the credit card companies have never gotten the payments wrong. Of course, there have been a couple of fraudulent charges over the years, which I caught and reported, and I never had to pay them (though it generally meant getting a new card number).

2 years ago

I use USAA for checking and once an “electronic” paper check got lost in the mail. It can happen to my checks too, but I watch those very closely to see that they’ve cleared. I like confirmation.

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