Especially if you receive paperless statements and set up automatic payments, you might feel tempted to ignore the monthly statement from your credit card company. However, this document includes key cardholder information that can help you manage your finances, improve your credit and avoid paying higher costs. While statement details vary, you'll often have sections with your account summary, payment details, account notices, transactions and finance charges and fees. Learn how to best use this information to improve your financial health.
Credit Card Statement Header
Your statement usually starts out with a header including basic details. For example, you'll see your card issuer's logo, the card's name, your name and address, the closing date and at least the last few digits of your credit card account number. You'll likely also see your card company's website and phone number.
Video of the Day
Account Summary Section
This section offers a quick summary of your account with several important details. You'll see your previous balance along with any credit card payments, credits, purchases, cash advances and balance transfers during this period. In addition, you'll see details for any past due amount owed as well as interest and fees charged during this billing cycle. You'll then see the new balance that you could pay off fully to avoid further interest charges.
The account summary also shows your total credit limit along with the remaining available credit. Pay close attention to these numbers since the Fair Isaac Corporation warns your used credit makes up 30 percent of your credit score. Therefore, you'll want to avoid using a high amount of your limit or else your score could further get hit. In addition, having higher credit card debt puts you at risk of defaulting and ending up owing more in interest and fees and experiencing credit score damage.
Other details here include your closing date and the number of billing cycle days, often ranging from 28 to 31. This helps you identify the cutoff for when transactions appear and affect your payment amount. You'll want to note that if you make a purchase close to the end of the billing cycle, it might not appear until the next one due to transaction processing and charge posting times. The same applies to refunds you might be due for returning products.
Important Payment Information
According to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, your statement will list the payment due date, minimum payment amount and new statement balance at a minimum. You'll need to make at least the minimum payment by the stated due date to avoid a late payment fee and higher annual percentage rate (APR) along with damage to your credit score.
The Commonwealth of Massachusetts says you'll often have a grace period of at least 20 days for paying off new charges without incurring interest. Therefore, consider doing so if you can afford it since it will save you money in the end. At the same time, just paying a little more than your minimum payment still helps reduce your overall debt, cuts down on interest and can have positive effects on your credit score. If you can pay in full monthly, that's the best strategy to avoid interest and keep your credit in good shape.
Your credit card issuer should also include some payment instructions, such as a mailing address, phone number or website to use. You might also have a payment coupon with important details you can conveniently mail with a check or money order. You may also see a credit counseling phone number to call in case you have issues making your payments.
While statement details vary, you'll often have sections with your account summary, payment details, account notices, transactions and finance charges and fees.
Key Notices for Your Account
You'll usually see a late payment warning section notifying you of potential penalties, such as a late fee and higher APR. However, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency notes your card company needs to allow you at least three weeks from when you get the statement before it can consider your payment late. This means you shouldn't incur a late fee, have your interest rate penalized or get a negative item on your credit report in such a situation.
In addition, you may see a minimum payment warning. This details how much interest you'd pay and how long you'd have to pay if you just make the minimum payments on your balance. You can use this information to see how paying your debt off more quickly can save you money.
Other notices might mention general changes to fees or interest rates or increases to your credit limit. For example, you might have received a promotional interest rate when you opened the card account, and a notice could warn you that your rate increases soon. On the other hand, the card company might have reviewed your details and given you a higher overall credit limit, lower purchases interest rate or a higher allowance for cash advances.
Detailed Transaction List
This important billing statement section shows all of the month's account activity, including the transaction reference number, transaction and post dates, description and transaction amount. This includes charges for purchases, cash advances and items like annual fees as well as credits for payments and any refunds received. You'll usually see items sorted from earliest to latest.
The National Credit Union Administration recommends taking a close look at this section so that you can make sure there aren't unauthorized charges. If you see a charge that you didn't make or that is a different amount than it should be, you should dispute it with your credit card issuer by phone or online. Your credit card company usually won't hold you liable for unauthorized charges, but you'll need to report the issue quickly. If you suspect fraud, you could also contact the credit bureaus to have a warning on your credit report.
Your transaction list also helps you see where your money goes each month, so it's handy for budgeting. Some card companies will allow you to go online and see transactions sorted by category with a graph that makes it easier to spot areas where you might overspend.
Finance Charges and Fees Details
Below your transactions will be information on the fees and interest charges incurred during the billing cycle. You'll see details for each fee and interest charge as well as the total amount for each category. For example, you might see a late payment fee, balance transfer fee and cash advance fee as well as separate interest charges on purchases, cash advances and balance transfers. In addition, you'll see year-to-date totals for fees and interest charged.
Another section will show you the interest charge calculation details, including the interest rates charged for each balance type, the current balance for each category and the actual charges for the billing cycle. When reviewing these details, you'll usually notice that you pay a higher interest rate for cash advances than for purchases and balance transfers. That's why the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation advises against cash advances unless absolutely necessary.
Other Credit Card Statement Items
Depending on the card you have, the statement can include other items. For example, you might have a rewards summary showing cash back or points earned, pending and redeemed during the cycle. American Express offers a special Pay It Plan It plan with some cards, so you could see a plan summary section if you have one. You could also see more sections showing account terms, promotions for items like balance transfers or details about receiving a free credit report or credit score through your card company's service.
- National Credit Union Administration: Understand Your Credit Card Statement
- American Express: Pay It Plan It® Frequently Asked Questions
- Federal Deposit Insurance Corporations: Credit Cards
- myFICO: What’s in My FICO® Scores?
- Office of the Comptroller of the Currency: The Bank Is Not Giving Me Enough Time To Make the Payment on My Credit Card Account. How Many Days Does the Bank Have To Send the Statement Before the Due Date?
- Consumer Financial Protection Bureau: Sample Credit Card Statement
- Commonwealth of Massachusetts: Credit Card Secrets