How to Read Your Credit Card Statement

Glossary of credit card statement terms

Here’s what each of the labeled sections in the image above means. For more information on the below items, see our guide on how credit cards work.

1. Account summary

Your account summary is an overview of your credit card statement for the month. It tells you all about your monthly usage and how much you owe. Yours may not include all of these things or it may list them in a slightly different order, but usually, an account summary will include:

  • Account number: This is your credit card number. You will use this to identify yourself if you need to contact your credit card issuer.
  • Previous balance: Your credit card statement typically shows your last month’s balance for reference.
  • Payment credits: This is how much you paid toward your previous balance last month. If you paid your last bill in full, this should be the same amount as your previous balance.
  • Purchases: This is the total dollar amount of purchases you made with your credit card during this billing cycle.
  • Balance transfers: This is the total dollar amount of any balances you transferred during this billing cycle. You may not see this on your credit card statement if your card doesn’t permit balance transfers.
  • Cash advances: This is the total dollar amount of all cash advances you received during the billing cycle. This may also not appear on your credit card statement if your card doesn’t allow cash advances.
  • Fees charged: This is a running total of all fees you accrued this billing cycle. It can include things like late fees, balance transfer fees, and cash advance fees.
  • Interest charged: If you’re carrying a balance, this will show how much interest has accrued over this latest billing cycle.
  • New balance: This is how much you currently owe. It’s based on your past balance and your new purchases from this billing cycle, plus any interest and fees.
  • Past due amount: If you haven’t been keeping up with your credit card payments, this will tell you how much you’re behind by.
  • Credit access line: You may also see this written as your credit limit. It tells you the maximum balance you can have at any given time.
  • Available credit: This is your credit limit minus your current balance. It tells you how much more you can charge to your card going forward.
  • Cash access line: For cards that offer cash advances, this tells you how much you can borrow.
  • Opening/closing date: This lists the beginning and end of the billing cycle. Purchases made before the opening date or after the closing date will appear on your previous or next credit card statement, respectively.
  • Days in billing cycle: This tells you how long the billing cycle lasts. It’s normally around 30 days.

2. Credit card statement balance and payment information

The payment information section provides you with important information about your new balance and your monthly bill, including:

  • New balance: Though it’s listed elsewhere on your credit card statement, your card issuer lists your balance here as well, just so you can’t miss it.
  • Minimum payment due: This is the minimum amount you must pay the card issuer by the due date in order to avoid a late fee.
  • Payment due date: This is the date you must send payment to your credit card issuer to avoid late fees.
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3. Late payment warning

The late payment warning tells you the maximum dollar amount you could be required to pay if you don’t pay your credit card bill on time. Most card issuers won’t charge you this much for a first-time offense. Check your cardholder agreement for more information on late payment penalties for your first, and any subsequent, late payments.

4. Minimum payment warning

The minimum payment warning usually includes a table to help you understand how long it will take to pay back your balance if you only make the minimum payment. Often, that period is several years — and that’s if you don’t charge any more to your card in the meantime.

It may also include a comparison section showing how much more quickly you could pay off your balance if you paid more than the minimum. Some credit card statements also include a phone number you can call for credit counseling if you’re struggling with your credit card debt.

5. Rewards summary

Your credit card statement should have a rewards summary if you earn credit card rewards. This section contains the following information:

  • Previous rewards balance: This was your rewards balance prior to this billing cycle.
  • Rewards earned this month: This tells you how many rewards you earned during this billing cycle.
  • Bonus rewards: If your card offers bonus rewards in certain categories, your statement may call out how many rewards you earned in these categories.
  • Total rewards available: This tells you how many rewards you have available to use right now.

Visit your online credit card account or contact the card issuer by phone to see how much those rewards are worth and what you can spend them on.

6. Important changes to your account

This section highlights any significant changes your card issuer plans to make to your account in the near future. These might be changes that specifically apply to you, like triggering a penalty APR because you’ve made a number of late payments. Or it could be things that apply to all cardholders, like a change to the card’s APR.

Your credit card statement should tell you which of your transactions these changes will affect and when they’ll go into effect. If you have any questions, contact your card issuer for more information.

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7. Payment coupon

If you pay your credit card bill by mail, you must cut off this payment coupon, usually found on the bottom of the first page of your credit card statement, and send it in with your check. There should be a spot on the coupon for you to write the amount of the payment you’re making. This helps speed up the payment process and ensures your card issuer applies your payment to the correct account.

If you pay your credit card bill online or have the money automatically debited from your bank account, you don’t have to do anything with the payment coupon.

8. Account activity

The account activity section of your credit card statement lists all the transactions you made during the current billing cycle, including the date of the transaction, the merchant’s name, and the dollar amount. Some credit card issuers also attach a reference number to each purchase. That way, if you have a question about a transaction that’s showing up on your statement or you suspect you may be a victim of identity theft, you can quickly tell the card issuer which purchase you’re referring to.

Those who carry a balance from one month to the next and those who did a balance transfer or took a cash advance will find a more detailed breakdown of the fees and interest they incurred in this section as well.

9. Fees and total interest to date

Your credit card statement may include a brief table summarizing how much you’ve paid in interest and credit card fees for the year to date. Let this serve as motivation for you if you’re trying to pay off credit card debt.

10. Interest charges

The interest charges section gives you a more detailed explanation as to how your credit card issuer calculates the interest you owe. It may have separate sections for purchases, balance transfers, and cash advances if they all have different APRs. You’ll also find information about a promotional APR here, if your account has one, including expiration dates.

You might see symbols like (v) or (d) after the interest charges section. These are a sort of mini glossary. Some of the most common terms and symbols you might see include:

  • Promotional APR: This is a lower APR than the standard APR and it only lasts for a certain number of months after you open your account. It may apply to purchases, balance transfers, cash advances, or all of these.
  • (v): This stands for “variable.” It means your card’s interest rate is tied to the prime rate or a similar benchmark that may change over time. If it does change, your interest rate may increase or decrease accordingly. The card issuer does not need to notify you of these changes in the Account Changes section because this relationship is spelled out in your cardholder agreement.
  • (d): This means your card issuer uses the daily balance method to calculate your interest charges. This method totals up your actual daily balance on every day of your billing cycle and multiplies this by the daily rate, which is 1/365 of your APR.
  • (a): This means your card issuer uses the average daily balance method to calculate your interest charges. This is where it takes the average balance on each day of your billing cycle, adds them up, and multiplies them by the daily rate.
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Frequently asked questions about credit card statements

You may have some questions if you’re learning how to read your credit card statement. Here are the answers to some of the most common ones.

How can I view my credit card statement online?

You can view your credit card statement online at any time by logging into your online credit card account and navigating to the statement information. If you’ve opted into electronic statements, your card issuer should send you an email every month when your new statement is available. It should contain all of the same information as the paper statement detailed above.

If you prefer to receive your credit card statements by mail, you can choose paper statements instead, though you may have to opt into this, as more and more companies are transitioning to online statements to save paper.

What happens if I pay my credit card bill before I get the statement?

You can pay your credit card bill at any point during the billing cycle, even before you receive your monthly statement. On your statement closing date, which is usually at least 21 days before your payment due date, your card issuer will calculate your interest charges for the month and your minimum payment. It also reports your payment to the credit bureaus.

If you pay off your balance before this date, your payment will reduce or eliminate your balance and give you more credit to spend in the second half of the month. Making a payment will also lower your credit utilization ratio because credit bureaus only see what the credit card issuers report once per month. When your credit card bill arrives, it should show all of your purchases for the month, plus your first payment. Your new balance should list your remaining balance for the billing cycle.

If you pay after the statement closing date but before you actually receive your statement, you can calculate what you owe by subtracting what you’ve already paid from the new balance on your credit card statement when it arrives.

Credit card statements admittedly aren’t the most exciting reads, but there’s a lot of important information packed in them. Hopefully, this guide helps you better understand how to read your credit card statement.

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