Your credit card statement is one of the most important documents available to you as a cardholder. But what is a credit card statement? Learn how to read it and interpret the information that’s included in it. Every monthly period of your credit card account ends with a credit card statement. Your statement gives you a detailed breakdown of all the activity that’s taken place in your account in the past period, as well as any new balances that you owe. Even though most issuers now offer online banking platforms where you can view different aspects of your account at any time, it’s nevertheless important to inspect your statement every month in order to see everything in one place (as well as to spot any potential discrepancies). Below you’ll get a rundown of the main sections of a credit card statement. We’ll also explain how the information in each section changes period by period.
Anatomy of a Credit Card Statement
The sections described below are included in practically all credit card statements, but keep in mind that they can vary slightly from issuer to issuer.
Your Account Information section is typically located in one of the top corners of your statement. It’s a small area that briefly details your account number (wholly or partly) as well as the opening and closing dates for that statement and the date in which you opened your account.
The account summary (also known as a credit card statement balance) contains the first batch of crucial information. Here you’ll see your account balance from the previous statement, any transactions that have taken place since then – including purchases, payments, credits, balance transfers, and cash advances – and your new balance amount. You’ll also see how much interest you’ve been charged. This section may contain your credit limit as well as how much of that is still available to you after subtracting your balance. Since your cash advance limit is distinct from your credit limit, it will be listed in this section in a separate line.
The payment information section (more prominently) restates your new balance along with the minimum payment amount and payment due date. Additionally, you will see late payment and minimum payment warnings here. These warnings are required by law to be disclosed in your statement. The late payment warning tells you how much you’ll be charged in late fees if you don’t make your payment on time, and it’ll caution you about how your APR may be affected if you’re late. The minimum payment warning tells you how long it will take you to pay off your current balance if you only make the minimum payment every month, and how much interest you will have paid after the balance is $0. This warning might also include a similar calculation if you were to pay off your balance in three years.
If your credit card offers a rewards program, you’ll see how much you’ve accrued in its own section of your statement. You’ll see your current rewards balance and the amount you’ve earned since the previous statement. Remember that rewards may be in the form of cashback, points,, miles, or a statement credit depending on the type of credit card you have.
This section is where you’ll spend most of your time. The transactions area shows an itemized, chronological list of all purchases, payments, and credits that have taken place during the statement period. Each transaction should include a date – which may be broken down into a transaction date and posted date – and a description of the merchant that completed it. Some statements go into more detail and throw in the category code of each merchant or even a location. If you did not fully pay your previous statement balance, you’ll see how much interest you’ve been charged for the current statement. The same applies for late and returned payments fees, over-the-limit fees, annual fees, cash advance or balance transfer fees, and foreign transaction fees.
Interest Rate Calculation
Below the transactions section, you’ll see a summary of your credit card’s APR for purchases, balance transfers, and cash advances. If there are any balances for each type of transaction that are subject to interest charges, they will be listed accordingly. If your statement includes a year-to-date sum of interest or fee charges, it will be either in this section or the transactions section.
Paper statements will attach a coupon you can fill out and mail back to the issuer with your payment. The coupon will have all pertinent information already filled out, so all you need to specify is how much you’re paying.
If your particular credit card or issuer includes free credit score reporting, you may see it printed in your statement.
Credit Card Statement Tips
Now that you’re familiar with the primary features of a credit card statement, follow the bits of advice below to develop smart habits and stay prepared whenever your statement arrives.
Review your statement every month. Whether online or in paper, don’t just glance at your statement’s balance and forget about it. Going through every section every time will make it easier to spot any mistakes or unclear information. Inspecting every statement from top to bottom also gives insight into how you use your credit. For instance, if you notice how much interest you’re being charged each month, it might act as a wake-up call to begin spending less or start paying more each billing period.
Check your transactions as often as possible. Many people suffer from fraudulent purchases or other forms of identity theft and realize long after the crime has been committed. By looking through your transaction breakdown on every statement you’ll have a clearer idea of where you’ve done your spending – and it’ll be easier to spot any fishy transactions. Remember that each statement only includes transactions for that particular 30/31-day period. If you’ve made a purchase after your statement has closed for the month, check your account online. Online accounts post transaction data much closer to real time.
If you spot an error, contact your card issuer right away. A fraudulent charge or purchase posted twice is no small incident. If you don’t take these incidents up with your card issuer immediately, they could impact your credit report and credit score. Your credit card statement should have contact information listed that you can use if such an occasion happens. If not, you can always call the phone number located on the back of your credit card.