Who knows that feeling of dread when the credit card statement shows up in the mail?
Stress and anxiety. Don’t want to deal with facing the reality of how much money I owe.
I’m a procrastinator in just about every situation, and opening up the envelope from the credit card company was never a priority for me.
Forget one credit card. If you’re like me, you have two or three credit cards. That means double or triple the dread when statements arrive in the mail.
I always know approximately the due date on my credit cards. My TD Visa is usually around the end of the month, or within a week of month end. My two other credit cards, payment is due around the middle of the month.
The minimum amount due would cause me so much stress that I hated opening the envelope and seeing how much I owed. Times three. Always wondering how I was going to scrape together enough money just to make the minimum payment.
In my article Taking Control of Debt on a Low Income, I put together a table from 2007 where I listed the credit cards and the minimum amount due. This was when I was trying to follow Dave Ramsey’s snowball system of wiping out debt.
Oddly enough, that TD Visa isn’t listed on the table, but I’d pretty much stopped using it a few years earlier after being a victim of a rogue TD Bank employee.
Anyway, it wasn’t all that long ago that the other credit cards needed between $100 and $300 to meet the minimum due. That was around $1,000 a month minimum plus another $250 for a bank loan.
But similar stories are everywhere. That kind of credit card debt is the harsh reality for a lot of people.
If you’re like me, you don’t want to look at your credit card statement at all!
It’s so hard to face the reality of how much you owe.
Here are 10 things to check on that credit card bill.
Give your credit card a glance and see if there are any weird purchases you don’t recognize. If your credit card has been compromised, the thief will likely start with small purchases to see if the cardholder has noticed. Then bump up to the big stuff.
This happens mostly to people who make a lot of credit card purchases and might not pay attention to a few extra charges.
People like me who rarely use their credit cards? We notice weird charges.
Like who stole my credit card number and tried to buy a gift card at Amazon? Luckily a sharp-eyed Amazon employee caught the discrepancy of my credit card number being added to a different person’s account.
If you notice charges on your statement that you didn’t make, phone your credit card company immediately. It’s a real pain in the ass, but they’ll reverse the charges, cancel your credit card, and send you a new one.
2. New balance
All of us probably take a quick glance at the current balance.
And then wish we hadn’t.
The new balance will likely be in large, bold print so it stands our from the rest of your statement.
The balance includes any charges you made over the past month, plus the balance remaining from the previous month’s statement, plus interest and service fees.
3. Payment due date
It’s very important to know your payment due date! If you don’t pay anything to your credit card statement by that date, you risk getting late payment fees. Miss your due date enough times, and your interest rate can get jacked up.
To keep track, I set a reminder in my Outlook calendar a couple of days before the due date.
And hope, hope, hope that I had enough money in my bank account to cover it!
If you have trouble keeping track of paying bills, or just dread when the day comes, set up a similar system on your online or phone calendar.
4. Minimum payment
The credit card statement shows the minimum amount of money you have to repay by the payment due date. Depending on your credit card company, that might be 5% of the total balance due.
If you only have a small balance to repay, the minimum payment will be predetermined by the credit card company like $10 or $20.
If you’re lucky enough to have a low minimum payment like that, just pay off the full balance owing, which will probably be $200 or less.
5. Interest rate
Your credit card statement shows your interest rate.
My statement shows two different interest rates: one for purchases (19.99%) and one for cash advances (22.99%).
Double check that your interest rate hasn’t increased. That might happen due to multiple late payments or otherwise misusing your credit card.
It’s how banks and credit card companies punish their clients. Really stupid. If someone is struggling to pay the minimum payment each month, increasing the interest rate will increase the minimum payment and might make the client unable to repay any more money on their debt.
6. Credit limit
Your credit card statement will show your credit limit. This number varies on all my credit cards.
In this same area, probably right underneath your credit limit, you will also see “available credit”. This is the amount of your available credit, less the new balance. That’s how much credit you have left to spend on your credit card.
In order to keep a good credit rating, in addition to paying your bills on time, you want your available credit to be closer to the credit limit than closer to zero.
A good rule of thumb is to always keep the available credit within 50% of the credit limit.
If you suddenly see your $10,000 credit limit has dropped to $1,000, the credit card company might have lowered your limit due to non-payment or late payments and they want you to get caught up before using the card again.
Sometimes credit card companies randomly lower the credit limit due to non-use of credit cards. For this reason, I try to make a small purchase every few months on lesser used cards.
7. Rewards points
If your credit card offers some kind of rewards program, there will be a section that shows your previous points balance, plus the points you earned on that statement, equals the new points balance.
Sometimes points expire after a period of time if they haven’t been used.
For example, that above TD Visa I mentioned was a GM card. Whenever I purchased something, points could be exchanged for cash towards the purchase of a new GM vehicle.
Ha ha – that never happened!
The points expired after 6 or 7 years, so years later, each month on my statement I’d watch those points dwindling.
Eventually TD Visa changed that to drivers rewards and we could use them towards anything for the vehicle. The catch? We had to use our TD Visa to make that purchase! In my case I bought a GPS for around $200 a few years ago and my points covered the purchase.
8. Time to pay
Somewhere on your credit card statement will be a section that tells you if you only make the minimum payment each month, how long it will take to pay off the card.
I bought some things from Amazon in October, 2020 and my total is $139.90.
I paid it in full.
However, if I was unable to pay it in full, my minimum payment is $10.
My credit card statement says if I pay the minimum payment each month, it will take one year and three months to fully repay the outstanding balance.
A lot of people are going to be looking at a real horror story – years and years to pay off the balance. And that takes a lot of things into account, like you’re only paying the minimum instead of as much as you can afford. Also assuming you don’t use that credit card to make any new purchases.
9. Contact info
Somewhere on your statement is how to contact your credit card holder. Some credit card companies are really good and have their contact information printed in big bold print on the front of the statement.
Too many credit card companies have their contact info on the back of the statement somewhere in all that little print.
How annoying is that?
If there’s a problem with the statement, such as charges you don’t recognize, you need to contact the credit card company pretty quickly. The credit card might give you a month to dispute the charges, and if you’re too late – too bad!
As I found out with Home Depot when I didn’t open their mail for months, not realizing the card had been compromised. Fortunately for less than $100. Originally Home Depot said “it sucks to be you” and wouldn’t do anything, and I paid the bill. Eventually I got a refund.
10. How to pay
Your credit card company wants to be paid, so they’ll give you some options on your statement on how to do that.
Many people go to their bank’s website and pay their bills from their online banking.
You can also detach the statement’s stub, and mail it in with a check. Another option is to go into your bank and pay in person. Or you can use your bank’s app to pay.
Dreading opening the mail
Even with my balances close to zero, I still dread opening my credit card statements. Even knowing the approximate due date on all my cards, I’ve still messed up a few times and paid on the exact due date or a day or two late.
Banks and credit card companies aren’t too concerned about clients who are occasionally a few days late paying, but otherwise operate their account responsibly.
If you don’t pay, or you constantly pay late, the credit card and their issuing bank won’t be happy with you. Your credit card could be frozen, interest rate increased, and late fees added to your next statement.
Avoid letting that happen.
If you can’t pay by the due date or can’t pay the minimum amount, look for the contact information on the statement, and call. Get on top of it before they call you. Ask about deferment programs or if you can pay a lower amount until your financial situation improves.
Suck it up and open that envelope when your credit card bill arrives.