6 Things You Must Know About Unpaid Bills

If debt collectors hound you over a forgotten bill, here’s what to do.

Sad Woman Reading Paper
(Image credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto)

1. Uh oh. You forgot.

It can happen to the best of us: A bill gets buried in a pile of papers and, before you know it, you’ve missed a payment. If you have a solid history of paying your bills on time, you’ll likely be given a longer leash than customers with a history of late payments, but you may still be subject to late fees or an increase in your interest rate. You will usually be contacted before the debt is turned over to a collection agency or debt collector. You cannot be reported to the credit bureaus, which will ding your credit score, until your payment is 30 days past due. An unpaid medical debt cannot be added to your credit report for 180 days to allow time for insurance payments to be applied.

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Kaitlin Pitsker
Associate Editor, Kiplinger's Personal Finance
Pitsker joined Kiplinger in the summer of 2012. Previously, she interned at the Post-Standard newspaper in Syracuse, N.Y., and with Chronogram magazine in Kingston, N.Y. She holds a BS in magazine journalism from Syracuse University's S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications.