If you pay your credit card bill late, you face a penalty fee from your credit card company and potentially an interest rate hike. Even more troubling, your credit score suffers, which could limit your ability to qualify for the best credit card rates. But all is not lost. You can soften the blow of a late payment history on your credit score by getting current on your bills as soon as possible. And under the new federal credit card regulations, your credit card company must terminate the penalty rate increase after six months if you've made all the minimum monthly payments on time during that period. Here's a look at the impact of late payments and how to turn things around.