Knowing your credit card balance is essential, particularly if you’re about to make a large purchase. You may also want to see how much damage was done after your last shopping trip or confirm that your most recent payment was posted to your account. Thankfully, you don’t have to wait until your next credit card statement arrives to find out your current credit card balance. You can easily check your balance via phone, internet, account notifications, or smartphone app.
Why Your Balance Is Important to Know
Maintaining a good credit card balance is important for your credit score and your overall financial health. A high credit card balance can hurt your credit score, particularly when you're using a large percentage of your credit limit. High balances also mean higher monthly minimum payments.
You can tell whether credit card balances may be affecting your credit score by calculating your credit utilization ratio. This number shows the ratio of your credit card balances to their credit limits. In other words, it tells you how much of your total available credit is already "spent" and how much is available. It's worth 30% of a credit score calculation, which makes it one of the most important factors in your score.
Here's an example. If you have a card with a credit limit of $5,000 and a balance of $2,500, the utilization ratio is 50%. You have used 50% of that account's available credit.
Calculating Your Utilization Ratio
You can quickly calculate your own utilization ratio, for all of your cards, and for each one individually.
Start by making a list of all your credit cards. Write down the credit limit and the balance of each credit card (get these details by checking your online account or calling the customer service number on the back of your credit card). Then, for each credit card, divide the credit card balance by the credit limit. Multiply by 100 to convert the answer to a percentage.
Any credit cards with balances over 30% could be affecting your credit score. Work to reduce those balances for a better credit score.
Check Your Credit Card Balance Over the Phone
Call the number on the back of your credit card to reach your card issuer’s customer service line. Enter your card number using your phone’s keypad and any other identifying numbers (like the last four digits of your social security number or your billing zip code) and follow the prompts to hear your credit card balance. Many customer service lines can give you the balance automatically without requiring you to speak to a representative. Any questions you have about your account or recent transactions will have to go to a live person.
Over the Internet
If you have set up an online account for your credit card, your process is simple. Just open up a web browser, go to your card issuer’s website, and log on to your account to check your balance. If you haven't already set up an online account, you can create a new account once you’re on the card issuer’s website. Check the back of your credit card or a recent billing statement to get the correct web address for your credit card issuer. If you need some assistance, your card issuer’s customer service department can help you set up your online account.
When you’re creating the account for the first time, choose a username you can remember and a secure password that can’t be easily guessed. Once you’ve logged on, not only can you see your current balance, you can also view recent transactions and other account information.
Via Regular Account Notifications
With most credit card issuers, once you have set up your online account, you now have free rein to customize how closely you want to monitor account activity. Although this feature was designed mostly to help combat fraud, it allows you to receive emails, push notifications, or text messages notifying you of all recent account activity. Some companies enable you to set up email notifications to update you with your current balance after every purchase or monthly payment.
Via Smartphone App
If you have a smartphone, you can do most of your banking and credit card monitoring right on your phone. Most major credit card issuers have smartphone and tablet apps that you can download to easily check your credit card balance and other credit card details.
Visit the Apple App Store or Google Play store to download your card issuer’s app. When you download and open the app, you’ll log in using the same username and password that you’d use on the website. Some companies may let you establish a username and password through the mobile app, but if not, go to the lender's website. Your smartphone or tablet has to be connected to the internet or cellular data in order for you to access your credit card information via the smartphone app.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
What does a negative balance mean on a credit card?
A negative balance means you are owed money through the credit line. For instance, if you have a -$5 balance, then you can spend $5 with that card before building debt. This may occur when you receive a refund on a credit card purchase you've already paid off.
What happens if you cancel a credit card with a balance?
A credit card company is unlikely to allow you to close a credit card if it still has a balance on it. You will have to pay off the balance before you're able to close it.
How do you transfer your credit card balance to another card?
A balance transfer allows you to transfer all of your debt from existing accounts, such as a credit card account, to a new account. Ideally, the new account will have a lower interest rate or a 0% promotional period, which will reduce your interest costs as you work to pay off the debt. Applying for a balance transfer card is similar to applying for any other credit card. Once approved, you can transfer your funds onto the new card account.
What's the downside to making the minimum payment every month instead of paying off the whole balance?
The minimum monthly payment is unlikely to pay off the entire month's account balance. If it doesn't, then that means you will accrue interest charges at the end of the statement cycle. This increases your debt and, if the debt builds up enough, then your credit score could suffer.