How to Read Your Credit Card Statement
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When you receive your credit card bill, it makes sense to review it right away. The statement is filled with important information beyond what you’ve spent that month and how much you owe.
And while that information can be overwhelming, this guide will help you understand what’s in your bill, how to pay your bill and what happens if you miss a payment. We’ll also equip you with phone numbers, links and payment mailing addresses for the largest credit issuers in the nation to make it easier to avoid late payments.
What makes up my credit card bill?
New credit card users may wonder what a credit card statement is and what information is included in it. Your credit card bill contains important information beyond what you owe and details of the current month’s purchases.
The statement also spells out several items, including:
- Any fees or interest that you’ve been charged
- What your minimum payment is
- When it’s due
- Important notices from the bank
Here’s how to read a credit card statement to understand the information that’s most important to you:
Review and pay your credit card bill
Savvy credit card users make a habit of reading a credit card statement as soon as they receive it. During this review, look for unauthorized purchases, missing credits, errors and unexpected fees. Banks allow you to dispute unauthorized charges, but only if you act shortly after discovering them.
After reviewing your bill, you should pay your bill as soon as possible to avoid late fees and minimize or avoid interest charges. If you’re unable to pay your outstanding balance in full, you should at least make the minimum payment due.
Minimum credit card payment
We generally advise readers to pay more than the minimum payment. The best option is to pay the balance in full each month to avoid interest charges.
All credit card users must make the minimum payment due each month. Required minimum payments are calculated differently depending upon which credit card you have and which bank issued the card.
If you pay just the minimum amount due each month, it could take years to pay off your debt. We calculated the effect of paying only the minimum payment on a $1,000 purchase with a 15% interest rate. The graph below shows the end-of-month balance over a period of six months.
Take note of how slowly the balance is paid down when you make just the minimum payment of $25.
If you’re having difficulty paying off your credit card bill, consider refinancing with a debt consolidation loan or a balance transfer credit card. This will allow you to reduce your interest rate and have more of your monthly payment go towards reducing your balance each month.
What happens if I pay my bill late?
Missing your payment due date can result in late fees, higher interest rates and a negative mark on your credit report. Late payments reported to the credit bureaus can reduce your credit score and cause other accounts to increase their interest rates as well.
The financial impact of a late payment depends on how long it takes you to make the minimum required payment.
Less than 30 days overdue
You’ll receive a late fee of no more than $35. Most credit issuers will only charge a late payment fee, though some may even report the late payment to the credit bureaus. Your credit issuer may raise your APR on new purchases as well, but they must provide a 45-day notice before doing so.
31-60 days overdue
Cardholders who fail to pay their bill for 31 to 60 days after the due date are categorized as “60 days overdue” on a credit report. Being this late will result in your bank reporting the missed payment to the credit bureaus, which will have an adverse impact on your credit rating.
60+ days overdue
The longer you remain delinquent in payment, the worse the impact on your credit score will be. Note that even if you’re 150 days past due, your bank cannot raise your APR on an existing balance or increase your new purchase APR past 29.99%. However, the bank may prevent you from making additional purchases until your account is current.
What happens if I pay less than the minimum?
If you’re unable to pay the minimum amount due, you may try to pay what you can afford. Although this is a noble effort, paying less than the minimum amount due counts as a missed payment.
However, your effort may provide a potential benefit. When you cannot make your minimum required payment, contact your bank before the due date about alternative payment arrangements. If you’re able to create a new payment plan, the bank may agree not to report the missed payment to the credit bureaus.
How are payments applied?
When you pay the minimum amount due on your credit card bill, the payment is applied in order of increasing APR. This means that the payment is applied to the lower APR categories first.
All payments in excess of the minimum amount due are applied to the balance with the highest APR balances first.
If your balance is part of a deferred interest offer, during the last two months of the offer the bank is required to allocate all payments toward the promotional offer. With a deferred interest offer, interest continues to accrue, but is waived if you pay the balance in full before the promotional period expires. You may also request that the bank apply payments in excess of the minimum payment to your deferred interest balance before other balances.
Banks are permitted, but not required, to apply payments in any order you request. However, most banks follow the process described above.
Grace period: How to avoid paying interest
New credit card purchases receive a grace period that allows you to pay off the balance in full without incurring interest. The grace period varies by credit card and bank, but is typically 21 to 25 days from the date your credit card bill is created. That means that as long as you pay your statement balance in full by the due date, you won’t be charged any interest.
However, this grace period does not apply to cash advances. As such, if you decide to take out a cash advance, you’ll begin incurring interest immediately. Because of this, we strongly recommend against taking out a cash advance unless it is an emergency situation.
Below are the phone numbers and websites for each of the major credit card issuers in the United States. You can use this information to contact your financial institution with questions about your credit card bill or to make a payment.
Most major credit card issuers allow you to mail in a check or money order to pay your credit card bill. Below is a list of some of the most popular issuers and their standard payment processing locations:
- American Express: P.O. Box 650448, Dallas, TX 75265-0448
- Bank of America: P.O. Box 15019, Wilmington, DE 19850-5019
- Barclays Services:
- P.O. Box 60517, City of Industry, CA 91716-0517
- P.O. Box 13337, Philadelphia, PA 19101-3337
- Capital One: Attn: Payment Processing, P.O. Box 71083, Charlotte, NC 28272-1083
- Chase cardmember services: P.O. Box 6294, Carol Stream, IL 60197-6294
- Citibank: The bank has multiple addresses to receive payment and suggests that you use the address on your most recent credit card bill
- Discover financial services:
- P.O. Box 70176, Philadelphia, PA 19176-0176
- P.O. Box 71242, Charlotte, NC 28272-1242
- P.O. Box 6103 Carol Stream, IL 60197-6103
- P.O. Box 29013, Phoenix, AZ 85038-9013
- U.S. Bank P.O. Box 790408, St. Louis, MO 63179-0408
- Wells Fargo card services P.O. Box 51193, Los Angeles, CA 90051-5493