What happens when you're late on your electric bill?

on November 1, 2021

Late payments can be incredibly frustrating for anyone

Not only are there consequences - and some are more severe than others - but it’s a problem that can easily snowball out of control if you’re not careful. One late payment can lead to more late payments, and soon the minimum payments due are too high for you to keep up with.

And while you can shrug off a credit card payment, for example, a late electric bill can be a bit more stress-inducing. How late can you pay your electric bill? Will they turn off your electricity? How can you recover from that? Do late bills affect your credit?

A lot of questions can arise, and it can feel overwhelming.

Let’s take a look at what happens when you miss a payment, how late can you be on your electric bill, and ways that you can avoid it happening again in the future.

Your first job: Get in touch

If you’re late on your bill, or you worry that you will be late on your bill, your first order of business is to call the electric company. The last thing you want to do is let them threaten you with consequences before speaking with them.

Like many bills, getting in front of the situation can benefit you greatly. Often, there are grace periods with utility companies, especially if you are proactive with them. Call them and explain that you are experiencing a financial difficulty, then discuss a game plan with them. That might be enough to mitigate the issue.

If it’s very late, and your service has already been shut off, the company might have you post some kind of security deposit before reconnecting you to electricity. If this is the case, know your state’s laws: these rates are regulated in some states, so know beforehand what you will have to come up with before speaking with the utility company. This number can often be as much as three times what your average monthly bill has been.

Most importantly, calling the company is your easiest option. Electric companies know that bad situations can hit good people. They are prepared to work with people in various financial circumstances. They might offer a payment plan or even a settlement, because it’s beneficial to them to get some of the money that you owe rather than nothing.

Do your homework beforehand: know what you owe, how much you can realistically afford to pay, and when you believe you can get out of this situation. If you are polite and honest with your electric company, they will likely work with you.

Know the consequences

A penalty for a late electric bill is common with many utility companies. Check your bill or agreement with your electricity company to understand what will happen if you are late with a payment. These are not hidden consequences - generally, electric companies are upfront about what fees are applied when you make a late payment.

But beyond that, going delinquent on your account could offer some more severe consequences. Paying your electric bill every month does not improve your credit, but not paying your electric bill can tank your credit history in a hurry.

If your utility company reports your situation to the credit bureaus, your score will take a hit. Keep avoiding the bill, and the utility company could report you to small claims court. Your account would then be turned over to a collection agency, and your credit history will to document all of this.

A late payment usually doesn’t show up on a credit report. But all of these consequences will. So understand what will happen if you fail to pay, and how long it will take for the utility company to report you.

This can be done via a phone call as well, as the company is usually upfront about these issues. Know your limits so that you can avoid more severe damage to your financial situation.

What are your billing options? And what about grace periods?

We’ve mentioned grace periods already, but it’s very important to understand these things.

If you normally have a solid history of making payments on time, you probably won’t hear from the electric company if you miss a payment. But, if you have a bad history, or you miss two or three payments, that’s when you start getting notified.

This grace period is typically a couple of months. There is no established rule, but it will be clear that the situation is dire long before they actually shut off your electricity. You’ll receive a written notice - and probably several of them - and likely would receive a phone call or two.

In other words, it won’t come as a complete surprise.

But if you live in a colder climate (like in the Midwest) and you have electric heat, you are probably protected by state law from having your electricity turned off. It’s often illegal to turn off someone’s source of heat during the winter months. While this is not something that you want to take advantage of, it is good to know.

Your electric company, however, wants to avoid all of this unpleasantness as much as you do. That’s why they will offer payment plans (as mentioned earlier), and other billing options for you to make your payment more manageable. This could be a more stable bill, or a bill that fluctuates depending on the time of year.

Many electric companies will also work with you to determine ways to keep your energy costs down. They could even send someone to your home to audit your energy usage to help you try to save on your electric bill.

There is another option that can help you avoid late payments on your electric bill, too.

Put your bill on autopay with Arcadia

Arcadia offers automatic online bill pay for its users, and there are several powerful features that can help you if you struggle to keep up with your payments.

With Bill Pay, your electric bill payment is paid on time, every time. You’ll never pay a late fee again. Every month, we’ll automatically pay your electric bill on time, guaranteed. We’ll even use your preferred payment method.

And if you want to earn credit card points, we have you covered. While most utility companies will charge hefty fees for you to use your credit card to make your payment, Arcadia doesn’t. You can use your rewards card as your preferred payment method, rack up those points, and save on any extra transaction fees.

Here’s how it works:

  • Connect your utility bill to your Arcadia account
  • Choose your preferred payment method
  • Every month, you’ll receive a statement 72 hours before your bill is due
  • Then we’ll automatically process your payment and send it to your utility company
  • Need to delay a payment? Just contact us and we’ll work with you to keep your account in good standing with your electric company
  • Meanwhile, we’ll constantly look for ways to help you reduce your bill

These added bonuses make Bill Pay with Arcadia a powerful and effective way to stay on top of your electric bill. Sign up today and prevent financial difficulty from destroying your checkbook.

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