Your Retirement Center
Your Monthly Statement

Your monthly credit card statement tells you what you owe — and a lot more.
Your Monthly StatementThe monthly billing statement your credit card company sends you provides the most important things you need to know about your credit account: how much you owe and when payment is due.

But you can find out a lot more, including all the activity in the account since your last statement, and what you're paying in fees and finance charges, if anything.

 
AN EYE TO THE STATEMENT
PAPER BEWARE
If the box that tells you the balance due is less than your outstanding balance, it's because the card company is actually happier if you don't pay off everything you owe them. They prefer you to have to pay some finance charge.
Every credit card statement looks a little bit different, but they all contain pretty much the same information. Make sure you understand everything that's being reported — it's the key to using your card wisely.
It's always a good idea to check over each entry to make sure that every charge is accurate, and that every payment you make shows up for the right amount. It's easy for a merchant to slip up and charge you twice for a purchase, or forget to credit you for something you return. And credit card numbers can easily be stolen, leading to charges that aren't even yours to begin with.

Paying close attention to your statement can also help you evaluate your spending habits and improve them if you want to. Since you can see exactly where your money goes, as well as how much you spend, it's easy to figure out what portion of your card spending is going to discretionary items and what portion is going to necessities. You'll also find a chart showing how much more it will cost you to make only the minimum payment due. It can be substantial.


Your Monthly Statement

1. Your credit limit, also known as your credit line, shows the total amount of credit you have access to with your card.

2. Your total available credit is the amount you could still charge at the time that the statement was issued. It's equal to your total credit limit minus any charges that were outstanding at the time.

3. Your statement closing or billing date shows the date your statement was created. Any charges and payments on your account after this date will appear on your next statement.

4. The minimum payment due is the amount you have to pay in order to keep your account in good standing — that is, without incurring any penalties or harm to your credit history. This amount is usually about 3% to 4% of your balance.

5. You have to pay at least your minimum payment by the payment due date or you'll be penalized with additional charges or late fees.

6. Your new balance is what you owed when the period that just ended, as well as any outstanding balance, finance charges, or late fees you owed when the period started. Any part of the new balance that you don't pay gets carried forward into the next period, and you'll have to pay interest on it.

7. Your finance charge is the dollar amount that has accumulated on the balance you owe.

8. You can use your credit card to withdraw money from an ATM up to your cash advance limit. You pay a finance charge from the day you withdraw until the amount is repaid. There's usually no grace period on cash advances.

9. Credits are amounts subtracted from the balance you owe because of payments you've made, corrections of incorrect charges, or merchandise you returned.

10. Your previous balance is the amount you owed when your last statement was issued. Your new balance is calculated using this number as a starting point.

11. Charges are the purchases and cash withdrawals you make. Each of these has a date and a reference code in case you need to discuss it with your card issuer.


 
 
ONLINE STATEMENTSMany card companies let you view your statement online. This can make the information you'll find a lot more timely and convenient, as well as a lot more useful. You can check your account status any time and from anywhere. But that's just the beginning.

Since online records are updated regularly, you can see exactly what's happening with your account whenever you want, without having to wait for a paper statement to arrive once a month. And most cards let you make payments online, which can save you time and make your life a lot easier.

Some cards even go beyond a simple online statement — they can notify you by email when a billing period on your account closes, for example, or when a payment posts to your account. If your card offers extra reminders like these, it can't hurt to take advantage of them.


 
JUNK MAIL, CREDIT STYLE
You'll probably get a lot of other material in the envelope that holds your monthly statement, most of it offers of various things to buy. At first glance, these can seem like great deals. They may not require any money up front, and you can pay for items over an extended period of time.

But if you stop to analyze — and to do the math — they're often actually just long credit arrangements that can cost you a lot more than whatever you're getting is worth.

 

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