Citi Survey Highlights Late Fees, Offers Customers Solutions

June 5, 2013

Busy lives with crazy schedules and countless activity can make time whiz by so quickly that you might forget to take care of life's little details, like paying bills. Missed payments can make a big hit on your wallet if you're not careful, as late payment fees and increased interest rates can be taxing.

If you think you're alone in your efforts to pay bills on time, you're not. Citi recently surveyed 1,000 Americans across the country and discovered that over half of Americans admit to paying a bill late at some point in their lifetime. In fact, 88 percent of those who made late payments did so within the last twelve months.

Citi spokeswoman Emily Collins says that the reasons why people were missing bill deadlines was fairly consistent, with some of the most common reasons reasons being forgetfulness, lack of funds and busyness. Cell phone and telephone bills were the most likely to go unpaid first, with credit cards and cable bills being the next most popular unpaid bills.

With people already having busy lives or a lack of funds, missed bill payments can add stress and steal time from an already packed schedule. Citi notes that about 40 percent of late bill payers have taken the time to ask the bill issuer, be it a credit card company, utility company or another type of issuer, to waive the late payment fee. While this means time spend on the phone waiting to talk to a customer service representative--57 percent of survey respondents spent a good 10 minutes on the phone to handle late payment issues--that time could erase a late payment fee that runs anywhere from $15 to $35 per missed payment.

Late payment fees can also add up quickly. In the survey over one-third of respondents estimated they pay up to $25 each year in late payment fees. Twenty percent think they pay anywhere from $26 to $50.

Citi conducted this survey to figure out how its products can help stave off late payment woes. "We are always interested in understanding consumer behavior to help our customers," says Collins.

Collins mentions that Citi offers some simple tools to help customers manage their accounts better. For instance, with the majority of Citi cards, customers can set their own payment deadlines. Customers can also set up bill payment reminders via text and e-mail in order to pay bills on time.

Citi's Simplicity card is also designed to help make its customers' lives easier, and Citi is now reminding consumers of that with a new ad campaign. Collins says that Citi wanted to bring to life the way it supports its members who are juggling a lot of busyness and easily experience forgetfulness. One of the main selling points of the Citi Simplicity card is that it never charges a late payment fee. "Americans are increasingly leading hectic, busy lives and are in need of flexible solutions to help them better manage their credit card so they can avoid late fees," says Anthony Merola, managing director at Citi Cards. "By completely removing late fees and a penalty rate from the equation, Citi Simplicity is saving cardmembers time and money."

A no fee policy is something to take into consideration when looking at the credit cards you have in your wallet. Some other cards, like Discover's It card, rescind the first late fee, but Citi Simplicity touts the fact that it has no late fees, ever.

Although Simplicity doesn't offer cash back, like other popular cards, Collins notes that cash back rewards are quickly obliterated when card members start racking up multiple late fees. "Basically if you spend "$3.500, get one percent cash back and a late fee, then that cash back benefit is wiped out," says Collins.

"By completely removing late fees and a penalty rate from the equation, Citi Simplicity is saving cardmembers time and money."

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