Debt is a concern for all small business owners. While some debt is considered good debt—debt that ultimately helps the borrower net more in savings or income—other debt is deemed “bad debt.” The latter includes debt that can directly and negatively impact a business owner’s credit score, or that costs money or potentially limits their ability to secure financing in the future. Past-due debt, sometimes referred to as “delinquent debt,” falls into this category.
Past-due debt is the money owed on a missed debt payment. For example, let’s say you receive a credit card bill of $1,000 with a minimum monthly payment of $50. If you don’t make that $50 payment on time (usually within a month), it will become past due. This delinquent debt payment will often accrue late fees and additional interest if not paid.
You don’t necessarily need to pay the full $1,000 at once—but you missed the required minimum payment, which caused a debt payment to become past due.
Past-due debt can come in a variety of forms. Your debt can be due for utility payments, rent, credit cards, loan payments, and invoices. Essentially, any expense with a payment that isn’t made on time becomes past due.
Debt that is past due is also considered delinquent. However, there are differing levels of delinquency. Each level has its own penalties and risks to your financial reputation. Here are a few examples:
If you’re contending with multiple sources of debt, then consider starting with your past-due accounts. Paying off your overdue debts first could prevent your account from going into collections and affecting your credit score.
If possible, make the minimum payments on all of your accounts—even if you can’t pay off the full balance. Hitting these minimum payments proves to creditors that you’re still willing to pay what you owe and aren’t going to fall into delinquency.
If you are ever in a situation where you’re unable to make the minimum payment, contact your creditor ASAP. Some credit card companies offer hardship programs where you can pause payments for a few months. Your other lenders may be willing to accept partial payments in the short run.
Payment history is one of the biggest factors of your credit score. Your history lets lenders know how likely you are to miss a payment or become delinquent on the account. Because of its high value, a missed payment will stay on your credit report for 7 years, whether the missed payment is 30- or 90-days late.
However, a missed payment might not affect your credit score for the full 7 years. If you only miss a few payments, then your credit score might rebound in a couple of years. Multiple factors contribute to your credit score, and maintaining a good payment history is one of the best ways to keep it strong.
While your lenders will likely remind you about upcoming bills, you can also set payment reminders to ensure that you at least make your minimum payments. These reminders will help you avoid past-due debt, even if you still need time to pay off your full balance. Making these small payments will help to protect your credit and your future financial opportunities.
If you’re too busy to remember to make payments, you can also set up autopay options to draft from your account. Just make sure you have enough money to avoid overdraft fees.