When the Credit Card Balance on Your Report Is Wrong

Couple reviewing their credit card statement and worrying that the balance is wrong.

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At a given point in time, your credit report shows the last credit card balance reported by your credit card issuer. Because of the timing of credit report updates, this balance may not reflect the current balance on your credit card, and your credit report may appear to show the wrong balance.

How Balances Are Reported to the Credit Bureaus

Throughout your credit card billing cycle, your credit card balance changes many times as payments, credits, purchases, fees, and interest are added to your account. Your credit card issuer doesn't report your credit card balance to the credit bureaus every day, so these daily fluctuations aren't reflected on your credit report.

Many credit card issuers only report your credit card balance at the end of your billing cycle. This would be the balance that shows on your credit card billing statement. That balance will show on your credit report each day until it's updated again at the end of the next billing cycle.

If you've made any payments or purchases since your last billing cycle end date, then the balance on your credit report won't match what you see when you log on to your online credit card account, for example. In reality, what's happened is that the credit card balance on your credit report hasn't been updated yet.

The "Right" Balance

To have a certain balance to show on your credit report, you should pay your credit card down to that balance, then wait until after the end of your billing cycle to make any other purchases with your credit card. Keep in mind that finance charges are usually added to your balance at the end of the billing cycle. This could affect the amount you need to pay to get your balance to the desired amount.

High Balance on Credit Report

In addition to your last reported credit card balance, your credit report also includes a "high balance." This balance is the highest balance ever reported to the credit bureaus for that credit card account.

The high balance remains the same each month unless a higher credit card balance is reported. While some creditors and lenders may include the high balance in a manual evaluation of your creditworthiness, this balance isn't currently included in your credit score.

Correct Balance Is Important

The second most important factor in calculating your credit score is the amount of debt you have—more specifically—the ratio of your credit card balances to their credit limits. If your credit report shows high balances for your credit cards, your credit score could suffer. If your credit card balances are truly inaccurate, your credit score could be lower than it should be.

Correcting Inaccurate Information

If your credit card balance is truly incorrect—e.g., you paid off your balance a few months ago, and your credit report doesn't reflect that—you can submit a credit report dispute. This request will have the credit card company provide the most recent balance.