Making payments on time is the easiest way to keep your credit score healthy or improve it if it's not as high as you'd like. But what happens if you make late payments?

Your credit score is constantly changing as the information in your traditional credit report accumulates. If you are more than 30 days past due in paying a creditor, it can and mostly likely will report your delinquency to the credit reporting bureaus that tabulate your FICO credit score. Payment history makes up approximately 35 percent of your traditional credit score, so late payments significantly affect your score as well as your ability to get new credit in the future.

One thing you might not know is that all late payments are not equal. 30 to 60 - day late payments affect your credit score more dramatically in the months in which they occur, but they affect your credit score less as time passes. 90-day late payments are more harmful to your credit score—especially when you've had one within the past 24 months. Missing one monthly payment for one or two months isn't as bad for your credit score as missing several payments in the same month. And missing one quarterly payment is worse—it can be as bad as a charge-off or a collection.