Hello!

I'm in a pickle and am trying to understand how to not have my credit score dinged, or get reported with a bad mark...yet I can't find an answer to this question anywhere. So I hope someone can help with some insight.

I know that if you miss a credit card minimum payment, you don't actually get dinged with the credit bureaus until you've missed the following payment 30 days later, right? So it's the second consecutive missed payment that actually gets you in trouble ("officially", anyway).

But here's where I'm not clear. I had some huge medical expenses in my family, so I missed my minimum payment last month, let's say it's $250. Of course, the following month, there's the new minimum payment of $250, plus, say, a $40 late fee for the missed payment, and of course, the accrued interest tacked on. So for the this due date, the new payment due is of $550 or so, right?

Now here's my big question. Do I NECESSARILY have to pay the full $550 to not get dinged with a black mark reported to the credit bureau? (meaning, is the metric here to get dinged "two consecutive late payments"?).

Or...

If I don't have the $550, can I pay the late amount from last month, plus the late fee (in other words, just pay the older debt which is approaching 30 days) and thus not get dinged, even though I'd be late on the newer minimum payment of $250? (meaning, the metric to get dinged here would be "debt that is older than 30 days" or "debt that has aged more than 2 payment cycles").

In other words, am I screwed if I can't pay the full new minimum payment, or could I just pay the older portion which is late? (and would that include either the late fee and interest, or just what's late?).

Sure, I could ask my bank, but I don't trust them to tell me if the latter thing is possible, simply because they would pressure the hell out of me to pay it all and do a scare tactic about how I'd get in trouble anyway if I don't do the first option.

So in short - what is the minimum I need to do in order to avoid having my credit damaged? Is it only if I pay the entire past due plus the newly due etc to the tune of the $560, which is the new minimum payment...or if I just pay the late bit from last month (plus the fees), am I off the hook for just a little while until my next paycheck and won't get reported just yet?

Thanks so much! I would enormously appreciate any feedback...time is tight and I'm worried I can't make the full minimum.