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How Paying a Credit Card Works: Understanding Your Credit Card Statement

11 min read
John Ganotis Michelle Black By John Ganotis
Expert reviewed by Michelle Black
Updated Nov 07, 2019

A credit card doesn’t have to cost you anything. Learn the details of credit card statements so you can avoid debt and finance charges (interest) while building great credit.

All the different amounts on your credit card bill can be confusing. On top of that, you may be wondering how you should pay your credit card bill to avoid interest (finance charges) and maximize your credit scores.

This is a guide to help you understand what amount of money you should pay, when you should pay, and why.

Here’s the quick version: we recommend you always pay the full statement balance by the due date. This makes it easy to stay out of credit card debt while avoiding expensive interest and fees. Paying in full and on time may also help you to establish positive credit history. Read on to find out why.

How Much Should I Pay on My Credit Card Bill?

Here’s the first page of the most recent statement I got for my Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature Card (Review):

When it comes to paying the bill, the most important information is in the top right:

This shows me I should pay $1,258.56 on or before 1/23/2018.

The New Balance here is the amount due for this statement period. It’s also sometimes called the Statement Balance or Outstanding Balance.

Under the Account Summary section, you can see this statement is for the billing cycle from 11/27/2017 to 12/26/2017. The New Balance is the amount I owed on 12/26/2017 when this statement was generated. At the top of the Account Summary section you can also see that my previous balance was $482.42, which I paid in full during this past statement period, when it was due.

To make sure you can always afford to pay the full statement balance, it’s important to exercise discipline in how much you spend on credit cards. Don’t spend more than you can afford to pay in full each month. This is where a lot of people get into trouble with credit cards. Once you fall into the trap of paying less than you owe, it’s easy to quickly accumulate debt by spending more than you can afford to pay off in full each month.

If you have a short-term goal to maximize your credit scores, you may want to pay a portion of your balance early, before your statement period even closes. Read this post all the way to the end for details on that.

What Is the Minimum Payment?

My bill says the Minimum Payment is $25.00. If I can just make the minimum payment due, why would I want to pay any more than that?

Some cardholders make the mistake of thinking the Minimum Payment is the amount they should pay each month. All you need to do is look at this table on my credit card statement to see why that’s a bad idea:

If I were to only pay the credit card minimum payment, it would take me seven years to pay off this $1,258.56 credit card bill! And, I’d end up paying over $750 in interest charges during that time!

Since 2011, credit card companies have been legally required to include this table on credit card statements to help you understand why it’s a bad idea to only pay the minimum. Even in the second example on the table, paying a little less than double the minimum, it would take me three years and cost me about $325 in interest. Not a smart move. Here’s how those numbers look on a graph:

Introductory 0% APRs

There is an exception where it might make sense, at least financially, to only pay the minimum monthly payment. If you use a card with a 0% intro APR offer, whether it’s a card with a 0% APR on purchases or a card favorable to balance transfers, you’ll have some time when the bank doesn’t charge interest. In this case, it’s important to at least pay the minimum each month so the bank still considers your credit card account in good standing, with no late or missed payments. (Of course, because an outstanding balance may increase your revolving utilization ratio — aka the percentage of credit limit used — paying just the minimum may not be a good idea from a credit scoring perspective.)

You can get by only paying the minimum, at least for some of the introductory period, since you won’t have to pay credit card interest charges on the balance you’re carrying. But, make sure you have a plan to pay off that whole balance before the introductory period ends so you can avoid interest. Otherwise, you’ll be stuck with credit card debt that’s accumulating costly interest charges.

Here’s a simple plan you could use for 0% intro APRs:

  • Divide the total amount you owe at the beginning by the number of months in the intro period.
  • Pay at least that amount on time each month.
  • By the time the intro period ends, you will have paid off the entire amount, and avoided interest completely.
  • Consider dividing by one less than the number of months in the introductory period, just to give yourself an extra cushion.

Getting Out of Credit Card Debt

If you’ve found yourself in debt or paying the minimum every month, consider the avalanche method for paying off your debts, which involves tackling the debt with the highest interest rate first. You may also want to look into balance transfers to help speed up the debt repayment process. Transferring debt to a card with a lower interest rate can help you get out of debt sooner by reducing the cost of interest as you pay it off. Balance transfer offers make a good complement to the avalanche method, and they can be used together effectively.

What Is the Grace Period on Credit Cards?

In the example above, I made purchases during the 11/27/2017–12/26/2017 statement period, but the due date for that statement period was not until 1/23/2018. This 28-day gap from 12/26/2017 (the end of the billing cycle) to 1/23/2018 (the due date for that billing cycle) is known as the credit card grace period.

Since I pay the entire statement balance by the due date every month, the bank won’t charge me interest on these purchases. But if you don’t pay off the entire statement balance by the due date, you can lose that grace period. Depending on the card terms, the bank may charge you interest on purchases back to the date they were made, new purchases going forward, or both.

When you look at the Schumer Box in the terms for a card, this is the section that vaguely explains how the grace period works. Here’s that box for my Amazon card:

Legally, if a credit card company offers a grace period (as most do), it must give you at least 21 days from when you get your statement to pay before it starts charging interest on new purchases. Note that most cards, like in the example above, only provide a grace period on purchases, but not on balance transfers or cash advances.

To put this another way, even though I spent more on my card after this 11/27/2017–12/26/2017 statement period closed, I didn’t have to pay off those purchases by the 1/23/2018 due date. They’ll be due the following month on 2/23/2018.

Here’s a table to show you how the due dates, statement periods, and amounts due line up. I’ve included information for my past few statements. Notice how the Due Date for each statement period falls during the next statement period. So, on 12/23 I paid for purchases that were made between 10/27 and 11/26. If I bought something on 10/29, for example, I didn’t actually have to pay for it until 12/23, almost 2 months later. And I still didn’t have to pay any interest on it as long as I paid the full balance (which I did).

Cycle Start Cycle End Due Date New Balance Due
9/27/2017 10/26/2017 11/23/2017 $1,271.96
10/27/2017 11/26/2017 12/23/2017 $482.42
11/27/2017 12/26/2017 1/23/2018 $1,258.56

When I log into my Chase account online between 12/26/2017 and 1/23/2018, I’ll see new purchases I made during that time period. The account’s total balance on their website will be higher than $1,258.56 because of those new purchases. However, since I’ve been paying on time and in full every month, I can still avoid interest by only paying $1,258.56 by the 1/23 due date.

If I were to pay any amount less than $1,258.56 by 1/23, though, I’ll get charged interest on those purchases back to when they were made. I’d also lose my grace period on any new purchases I make. The only way I’d be able to get the grace period back is by paying off the balance in full.

What Does Available Credit Mean?

You may have seen something on your credit card statement that says Available Credit. What does that mean? Is it money sitting in an account somewhere that’s up for grabs?

Don’t make the mistake of thinking this is the equivalent to store credit, like when you have a gift card for a store.

A credit card is a type of flexible loan. You can spend up to a certain amount at one time, which is determined by your credit limit (sometimes known as your credit line). Here, the credit limit of the card ($12,000) is shown as the “Credit Access Line.”

The next line, after the Credit Access Line, the statement lists Available Credit. This amount the remaining amount the credit card issuer will let me spend right now. Otherwise, if I want to spend more, I’ll have to pay some money back first.

Available Credit is roughly your credit limit minus the current balance of the account. In this case, since my credit limit is $12,000 and I currently owe $1,258.56, I’m authorized to spend up to $10,741 more right now, before I pay anything back to the credit card issuer, since $12,000 – $1,258.56 = $10,741.44. Most credit card issuers will round off any partial dollars, like the 44¢ in this case.

When Should I Pay My Credit Card Bill?

First of all, don’t pay late. If you can’t afford to pay the full statement balance, make at least the minimum payment by the due date. On top of any fees your bank may charge for late payments, a late payment on your credit reports can stay there for seven years.

Generally, we recommend that you pay the full statement balance on the due date. Paying by the due date lets you maximize the grace period while avoiding late payments. If you do this, make sure you allow enough time for your payment to process so it will post on the due date. Paying slightly before the statement closing date may help maximize your credit scores.

Credit card issuers can vary in how long they take to post a payment to your account. For the first few billing cycles, you might want to allow ample time to see how long your credit card payments take to process. Check with your specific bank to find out what counts as an on-time payment if you’re paying on the due date. You should also ask how long payments take to post to your account. You can get details by calling the customer service phone number for your financial institution.

Most credit card issuers will let you set up online payments from your checking account or savings account so your bill will automatically get paid on the due date each month. You’ll often be able to pick from several options, like the minimum amount due, a fixed amount, or as we suggest, the new statement balance.

This is a great option to avoid late payments and credit card debt. If you do set up automatic payments, be sure to review your statement before the payment date so you can identify and deal with any fraud or unauthorized transactions that may show up on your card.

We recommend setting your autopay date to about five days before the payment due date. This will give you some time to catch any errors, like returned payments, before the due date comes and you’re hit with late fees and interest.

Credit Card Closing Dates Explained

Your payment due date is of dire importance, but it’s not the only date that plays a major role in the credit card payment process. You should also have a clear understanding of your statement closing date.

Your credit card’s statement closing date falls at the end of the billing cycle, and it marks the day that your statement is generated. Every transaction you make with a credit account between one statement closing date and the next closing date will appear on your following statement.

As we mentioned above, you don’t actually have to pay the bill on the statement closing date to avoid interest. You’ll just have to pay by that billing cycle’s due date, which will generally be a bit later.

Is It Bad to Pay off My Whole Balance Before the Statement Period Closes?

Some people pay their accounts down to $0 early, before the statement is even generated. When the bank generates the statement it shows a $0 balance, or nothing owed. In my example, this would happen if I had paid off the $1,258.56 in new purchases before 12/26/2017.

This will be good in general for your credit scores, but in most cases it’s probably unnecessary. As long as your account has a grace period, you can take more time to pay without any penalty. Paying early won’t save you any money on interest (as long as you have that grace period).

However, if you’re aiming to improve your credit scores rather than have more time to pay, paying your balance before the statement closing date can help because it lowers your overall credit utilization. In almost every case, having a lower credit utilization is better for your scores — the exception is that 1% utilization is technically better than 0%. But the difference is quite small and not very important for credit building purposes, so it’s generally easiest to aim for 0% utilization if you want to improve your credit.

Getting Your Grace Period Back

If you’ve carried a balance in a previous statement period, you may have temporarily lost your grace period. Many credit cards work this way. That means all new purchases start accruing interest immediately on the day they’re made.

If you’ve lost your grace period, you’ll usually need to pay off your entire outstanding balance down to $0 (not just the previous statement balance) some time during your statement cycle. Check the terms of your card or call the phone number on the back of your card to get details about how you can get your grace period back if you’ve lost it. With most cards, you’ll only need to do this for one billing cycle, then you can go back to paying your statement balance in full on the due date to avoid interest and make the most of your grace period.

How to Pay When You Want to Maximize Credit Scores

There is one situation where you may want to pay some (or even all) of your balance early.

Credit utilization, or how large your balances are compared to your credit limits, is a major factor in credit scores. In FICO Scores, 30% of the points are largely based on this factor.

You can figure out your utilization on a card easily: divide your credit card balance by the credit limit of the card. For example, if you have a $500 balance on a card with a credit limit of $1,000, your utilization is 50%.

A lower percentage of credit utilization is generally better. So, if you have a $100 balance on that same card, instead of $500, your utilization is only 10%. This is seen as better by credit scoring models. The only slight exception is 0% utilization compared to 1%, which was covered in the previous section (lower is better, except 1% is better than 0%).

With most credit scoring models, utilization doesn’t have a history. What matters are the balances and credit limits on your credit reports right now, regardless of what they were in the past. This is where having a higher credit limit can help you. A higher limit on a credit card gives you more room to work with in terms of your credit utilization.

For example, a $500 balance on a credit card with a $1,000 limit equals 50% utilization. But a card with a $500 balance and a $5,000 limit is only 10% utilized. Even though the balance is exactly the same in both scenarios, the card with the higher limit would likely result in higher credit scores since it keeps your utilization rate lower.

If you’re going to be applying for a new credit card or loan soon, you may want to maximize the credit score points you get by reducing your credit utilization, even though you’re already paying off your cards on time and in full every month.

You can reduce the balance reported to credit bureaus, and thus the utilization calculated by credit scoring models, by paying a large portion of your outstanding balance before the statement period closes. In other words, you can pay some or all of your balance in full before the statement closing date.

As you can see on my statement at the beginning of this post, my card’s credit limit is $12,000. Even though my balance is about $1,200, that’s still only around 10% utilization for this one card, which is not bad at all. Let’s say I were to spend around $6,000 on this card in a month, which would be 50% utilization. If I didn’t have much available credit on other cards, that could make my overall utilization high, temporarily dropping my credit scores.

If I know I’m not normally planning on spending that much on this card every month, and I’m not applying for new credit any time soon, I probably wouldn’t care. I’d just continue using the card and paying it in full on the due date every month as usual. But if I were applying for a mortgage in a few months, for example, I may want to maximize my credit scores by reducing the reported utilization.

In that situation I may decide to pay $5,000 early, before the statement closed, so only a $1,000 balance would be reported on my statement, and to credit bureaus. That would put this card around 8% utilization. If I wanted to get extreme with it, I could shoot for a balance of $120, or exactly 1%, by paying $5,880 before the statement closing date.

I could also aim for 0% utilization by paying the balance in full before the statement closing date. While that utilization ratio wouldn’t be as good for my scores as the 1%, it would be better than anything else.

You could go nuts trying to prune your credit utilization to 1% every month, but that’s probably a waste of time. This technique could be helpful, though, if there are a few months where you’re spending a lot on credit cards, but also applying for new credit.

Did you like this article? It’s our mission to educate people about how to use credit cards responsibly. If you found it helpful, please consider sending it to one friend or family member who you think would like to learn about this, too.

Do you have any questions that weren’t answered here? Hit the Ask button and I’ll get back to you right away. If you want to learn more about building credit with credit cards, check out this guide.

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  • 재현와이프🎏

    Hi John, thanks for the article but I still can’t answer this question of mine. My statement for last month is $500, and the minimum payment date is Oct 21st, minimum payment is $25. I paid $250 on Oct 6th already, so now I should pay the remaining $250 before Oct 21st, correct? I am confused because my current balance is $400 which throws me off a bit. and though I already paid $250 for the previous statement, when I click on Payment it will ask if I want to pay the full $500. I thought they’ll substract the amount I already paid so make it easer so now I’m very confused how much I should pau before Oct 21st without paying a fee. I also often do this (pay a portion first) then it gets very confusing so I hope you can help me out. Thanks!

    • John Ganotis

      It can vary from one bank to the next — some keeps do a better job showing the remaining statement balance and making it easy to pay the remaining statement balance, while others are more confusing. It sounds like if you owed $500 on your statement that’s due Oct 21 and you’ve paid $250 then you still owe $250 by the due date. The current balance includes new purchases that have been made since that previous statement closed.

  • Jose32

    Hi John, I had a quick question, I have a limit of 1000 being my first credit card and I’ve kept to the 30% used for the past month, I recently had to buy some clothes for a new job and had to spend about 600 more or less, now if I pay in full the 600ish will it hurt my credit for going past the 30%? Or should I pay part of it until it becomes 30% so on the statement it reflects 30% used?
    -Thank you and I hope you reply because I cannot find an answer to my questions

    • John Ganotis

      Are you asking about credit utilization and how that impacts your credit scores? Generally, lower utilization is better, as long as it’s not 0%. So 50% is better than 80%, 20% is better than 50%, 10% is better than 20%, etc. This page talks more about credit utilization:

      If you’re concerned that your balance will be high on your statement closing date, you can make a payment early, before the statement closes, to lower the balance. Usually credit card issuers report balances on the statement closing date, so this would help you have lower reported utilization for that statement period. So, if you owe $600 and have a $1000 credit limit, your utilization would be 60% when the statement is generated. You could pay some of that early to reduce the utilization, so sure, you could pay $300 to get it down to 30% if that’s what you’re choosing to aim for, or even better you could pay more, like $500, so you’d have 10% utilization, which is much better. Keep in mind most credit scoring models don’t look at the history of utilization, just what your current utilization is. Let me know if you have any other questions.

      • Mary

        Hi John,
        My Capital One statements run from 26th-25th with a payment due date on the 22nd of every month.
        I utilize all of my credit limit every month making multiple payments every month.
        They have been reporting to the credit bureaus on the 24th-25th every month. The balance reported is alway 0%. My question is the 0% hurting my credit? Would I benefit more my rolling 1% over each month and paying it when my new statement cuts?

  • Alexis Sawyer

    Hi John,

    Thank you so much for your article, it’s extremely informative and helpful.

    I will be getting my first credit card soon, starting with the Visa Classic with a $1,000 limit. I feel a bit lost as to how the whole payment thing works. The bank informed me about the 5% monthly payment minimum, etc. but your article has opened my eyes about aiming to pay the balance in full each month before or on the due date.

    I just don’t want to fall into a trap, and not knowing what I’m getting myself into. The right timing of payments, etc. seems so complex and makes me feel as if I have to do a lot of planning surrounding my credit card payments each month.

    I hope you can help me out with one of the main questions I would like to ask you. For example, if I spend $700 on my credit card, leaving me with a remainder of $300 credit, if I make a payment of say $100 on it the next day, would that put my remaining credit to $400 and my balance to $600? If so, when I make that payment would it process onto my account immediately where I could make additional purchases?

    Also, is there a limit to how much I can spend daily with a Visa Classic credit card? Being that my minimum is $1,000. Is it possible for me to go over the $1,000 limit and just be charged an overage fee or would my card decline if I’ve reached the limit?

    And final question, if there is a limit on how much I can spend in a day, for example if the daily limit is $500, does that mean if I tried to book a hotel for the total of $503 in one day I wouldn’t be able to?

    I highly anticipate your response, John! Thank you so much!

    Warm regards,

    Alexis Sawyer

    • John Ganotis

      For your first question, about spending $700 then paying $100, yes, the way you described it is the way most cards work. You may not see the change in your balance or available reflected immediately or the next day, since that depends on how long it takes your particular issuer to process a payment, but typically you’ll get the additional available credit and see the updated balance within a few days of making a payment. I’m not sure if your particular issuer has any type of daily spending limit, but that’s not typical with credit cards.

      Depending on what your credit card issuer offers, you may be able to opt-in to going over your limit so you spend slightly over the limit and be charged a fee. Otherwise, cards will typically be declined if there is not enough available credit to make a purchase.

      Regarding your last question, I’m not aware of any cards that have a daily limit.

      • Alexis Sawyer

        Thank so much!!!!

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  • salvadore

    hi john
    thank you so much for this article.

    You have broken down and explained all the questions i had regarding due dates, statement dates, grace periods, billing cycles, intrest, minimum payments and paying early.

    better than the credit card companies.

    its a lot to keep up with and can get confusing to be honest!

    but i get it now

    thanks and have a great day!

  • Aneel Rai

    I have Capitalone card. I paid a medical bill from my credit card and then paid my credit card bill from my bank account. Now the hospital receieved money from Insurance company and are refunding overpayment on my credit card since thats what i initially used to pay. So theres a credit balance on my credit card. How can I get this back in my bank account? Is there a possibility. This is few thousand dollars.

  • Gigi

    Hello! My question is when I make an online purchase with the store credit card and then the items become on sale after a month or so can I return item not used to then buy the items on sale and expect a refund of the original price credited to my statement balance or the items are already paid for and wouldn’t make sense to return because it will just be added as a credit increase?!. Help me please lol!?.

  • N12NJA

    If a credit card bill is paid in full then the next day the credit card is used again – does the grace period reset or will it count as interest on the original debt as by the next statement you would still owe some money?

    • John Ganotis

      What matters is the statement balance — with most cards, if you pay the full statement balance each month by the due date the grace period will remain active for any new purchases and you won’t be charged interest on them. You can continue using the card the whole time and avoid interest as long as you pay the full statement balance each month. Does that answer your question?

  • Geraldo T

    Okay so let’s say I got a balance of $400 and my due date is on the 18th of each month and my statement ends on the 21st of each month, If I pay the full 400 on the 18th (due date) but still make a purchase before my statement ends, do I still get charged interest for that purchase I made 3 days before my statement ?

    • John Ganotis

      If you always pay your full statement balance by the due date each month and your card has a grace period then any new purchases after the previous statement period closes will not accrue interest from the time of purchase and will be due on the next statement.

  • Ren Cox

    Someone told me that there’ll always be monthly payments on a credit card, regardless of whether I use it or not that month (and given I don’t owe anything). Is that true?

  • John Ganotis

    Depending on the issuer, it may take some time for the payment to process or for the available credit to reflect a payment.

  • Dawn Shuptar

    We currently have two cards… one has a two points for every dollar spent, and we can redeem for travel rewards… we have redeemed for over $3k in travel this year… the other we are carrying a balance and want to pay off… we are in a position where we can pay it off… but we want to get 2 points on the dollar with the first card… there are zero points for balance transfers… do you have any suggestions for ways around this to still get the points??

    • John Ganotis

      If you have debt (that you’re likely paying interest on, unless you have a 0% introductory APR) and you can pay it off, why don’t you pay it off? I don’t understand what you mean by “still get the points” — you don’t generally get any extra rewards when you pay off your bill, the rewards are usually earned when you spend.

  • Jack Eagle

    You often repeated the phrase, “pay the full balance on the due date”. To use your example, are you suggesting that the cardholder does not pay anything until the 23rd of january? Why would I want to avoid paying off the balance during the grace period as opposed to on the final due date?

    • John Ganotis

      The only reason is that it’s unnecessary to pay early and part with the money early, unless you want to reduce the amount that’s reported to credit bureaus.

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  • John Ganotis

    Check with your credit card issuer about your options for allocating payments to specific balances. You may be able to make a $1000 payment to your regular purchase balance rather than your promotional 0% introductory APR balance.

  • Michelle Ment

    Good morning Ganotis. My boyfriend and I are trying to rebuild credit. He was elgible for a secured credit card with a credit limit of $200. He put me on his card as an authorized user. We are now learning about credit cards, as we’ve never owned one before.

    Our first cycle ended December 7th, and its not due until Jan 4th 2019. Our utilization was at about 80% pretty high and we didn’t mind because we had the money to pay it back. Today Dec 21st we paid it through Capitol One ATM in full. We owed $134 and put $140 in the machine. It never gave us our change back though.!

    1) Why is that???
    2)What will happen to the $6 now?
    3)Did we pay too early?
    4)What date would you suggest we pay?

    We read your article and understand the best way to build credit is to have a utilization between 1%-10%. So if we utilize about 80% do we pay 70% of that off early and then wait until January 1st per say to pay the remaining 10%?

    (so that I won’t get confused, please use dates given in your examples when you explain if possible. Thank you soo much in advance :)

    • John Ganotis

      1) I don’t know, as I’m not familiar with paying a credit card at an ATM. I recommend you contact Capital One to ask about that.
      2) I’m not exactly sure, but if you owed $134 and paid $140 then you’ll likely have a balance of -$6 on the account. If that’s the case you can spend that much before actually owing anything because you overpaid, or you could request that balance as a check from your issuer.
      3) In my opinion there’s no such a thing as paying too early, but it sounds like you may have paid earlier than you needed to since the due date isn’t until January 4.
      4) I suggest paying on the due date with most cards. Cards that have bad customer service or payment systems may take longer for payments to process or clear, so if it’s the first time you might want to pay a week or two early just to see how long it takes.
      5) Most credit scoring models don’t consider utilization over time, so if you have 80% one month and 10% the next month, the 10% is all that matters if that’s when you’re concerned about maximizing your credit scores. So, if you always want to maximize your credit scores every month you could pay off some of your balance early every month, but if you’re not actively seeking new credit you could just pay off your statement balance in full each month and then if you’re going to be seeking new credit you could pay off some of the balance for a month or two before that to make sure your reported balance is low relative to your credit limit. In your example, if you wanted to have lower utilization reported you could have paid some of the $134 off before the statement period closed on December 7, then the remainder some time between then and the due date (January 4).

      • Michelle Ment

        Okay, I called the bank realized we made an error. We still owe $24 dollars on the balance. Thanks for that information though!

        So just to be clear to maximize our credit scores, we need to pay some of it back before our statement period closes. & then pay the rest very close to due date? (We can’t pay on due date bc it takes a business day to go through) so if we owe $100 on a $200 credit limit. We should pay $90 before statement period close (Dec. 7th) and then the remaining $10 on Jan. 2nd which would post Jan. 3rd. I’m just really scared to mess up and get late payment that’s why I said Jan. 2nd.

        • John Ganotis

          You don’t need to do that every month to maximize scores as long as your utilization is low, but you can do that if you want to maximize scores for that reporting period if you’re concerned your utilization is high. (at least the way most credit scoring systems work). Read this page to learn more about the factors that impact your credit scores:

  • 13ftBaboon

    I have a half million dollar credit limit, should I buy the snickers bar large size on sale for $10 dollars? They are mean.

  • modupe_2

    hi i was still confused on this article. so i have a $200 credit card, if i spend $20 a month. should i pay this $20 right hen i use it, or should i pay it after 2 weeks? i don’t want to accrue interest and i also want to build credit. thank you.

    • John Ganotis

      With most cards, you can wait until the statement is generated that shows your statement balance is $20 and then you can pay that before your due date to avoid interest. You don’t need to pay right away after you use it.

      • modupe_2

        thank you.

        • sara

          Just to piggy back off this question…. I know we don’t need to pay in full right away…. but if we do, will it still benefit our credit? The statement balance would always remain $0 when reporting to credit bureaus.

          • John Ganotis

            You can still build credit history that way, but you may have slightly lower scores with 0% utilization than 1%, although that’s not a very big deal:

          • modupe_2

            you have to pay it back in full before your due date but not before it is reported to bureau. before the bureau leave it at 10%. they pay it off before the due date to get bbetter scores

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  • Justin Shaffer

    If I have a balance on my card, but on my next bill it says there’s nothing due. Should I still make my regular payments I make every month?

    • John Ganotis

      If your statement balance is $0 and your card has a grace period then you don’t owe anything for that statement period and can likely still avoid interest by just paying your statement balance in full any time it’s more than $0.

  • ConnorBudd

    Hi, my Credit Card is payed in full on the due date. I needed gas and forgot my debit card at home (CC only used for emergencies) Will i be charged interest (I got the gas at 6:37 PM and the deadline was 5PM)

  • Allison

    I closed out some old accounts (in good standing/no balances), which I found out was a horrible decision as my credit score dropped about 75 points :( Now, I’m trying to build my credit back up. I do know that my balance on one of my credit cards is 89% of my credit limit, which I now know is not ideal. Would it make sense to transfer some of that balance to get me down to under 30% on that card?

    • John Ganotis

      If it makes financial sense for you to do that to pay off the debt faster by saving on interest while reducing utilization, and you can get approved for a card with favorable balance transfer terms, then it may make sense as a way to decrease overall utilization and increase credit scores.

  • emily

    Hello, thanks for the informative article. I have struggled with credit for a long time and have decided to get it back in shape. Aside from getting my student loans out of default and making payment plans with my debtors, I have opened a credit card with a small balance. I intend to use the card only to build credit by buying one thing a month that I need (like gas) and paying the balance. To be sure I understand what your article suggests, I should pay just a portion, like 90% of my balance every month? And can I py it the same day as I buy to be sure I don’t overlook it or run out of money to pay later? I’m talking about like, $30, so it shouldn’t be an issue, but for peace of mind I’d rather pay immediately. Is this an effective method? Or should I wait to receive the bill?

    • John Ganotis

      We recommend paying the full statement balance by the due date every month. If you want to pay off your entire balance early (the same day or soon after, before the statement period actually closes) that should still be fine for building credit history.

  • Laura

    So if we have a credit card for $300. If our bill for this month is 135 and I paid it in full, will our available credit reset to the full 300? I thought it would but then I tried to use the credit card for a small purchase of 26$ and it was declined for insufficient funds. when I checked the app, it shows the payment of 135$ went through but it’s still showing we have no available credit. Why is that? Does it take a few days after the payment goes through in order to reset the available credit?

    • John Ganotis

      That depends on your credit card issuer. Some issuers take longer than others to update Available Credit after a payment posts.

  • flashn00b

    So i have recently made a rather large purchase, though the Statement Balance says $0. Should i pay off the purchase amount anyways?

    • John Ganotis

      If you’re concerned about having high utilization during this month you could pay off some of the balance early, before your new statement period closes, but as far as avoiding interest you don’t have to pay anything yet if your statement balance is $0 as long as your card has a grace period (which most cards do).

  • sprikitew

    Hi John very informative article. Read a lot of comments and was somehow confused with others so i guess i would like to ask instead to understand my future plan, so i got a new card with 14 month 0% introductory APR and i purchased a phone costing $750 on a $1000 credit limit, my utilization would be 75% by the due date. i plan to pay off $750 in 8 months, that would be $100 every month and 8th is $50…however im concerned with utilization over the first months as the it would mean 75%,65%,55%,etc. credit utilization. how would you advice such purchase on a $1000 limit credit? how to make it look good for my credit?

    how about adding new purchases as well over the months like groceries,gas,others?

    • John Ganotis

      Most credit scoring models don’t consider history of utilization, so if the high utilization lowers your scores you’ll likely see them go up as you pay off the debt (as long as everything else stays the same).

      Check the terms of your card to be sure, but with most cards, any new purchases you make during that 0% intro period will add to the balance (debt) you have to pay off by the end of the 0% period to avoid interest. The exception is store cards, which are sometimes “deferred interest” offers and behave differently than 0% introductory APR offers.

      • sprikitew

        ohh wow this is well understood. Just the answer i needed. Got me thinking it wouldn’t help my score.

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  • I have a 500 limit and have 25 minimum to pay 26% interest.. I’m at 500 limit. how much should I pay to improve my credit.

    • Dinae

      you can pay the minimum $25 if you want to, but that is still have you at a very high utilization rate. If you want to improve your credit, you want to always have your utilization rate at 10% of your credit limit or lower. So if you only spend $50 or less on your card each month and also pay it off right before the due date, you will improve your credits score! Just remember a credit card is used to build credit (so not going over 10% utilization and paying in full each month), not to use up the whole limit and pay minimum payments each month. Also, paying the card balance about a week before the due date has always worked for me! Good luck and happy credit building! (:

  • Hassan S El-Amin

    If I have a $500 credit limit and I spend $200, when would I pay off the $185 so that I can show that my credit utilization is only 3%?

    • John Ganotis

      If you want your statement to show 3% and your balance is $200, you would pay the $185 before the statement closing date.

  • Michelle Crandell

    I pay my card in full monthly but my credit report averages around a $1000 on the card. Is that how the credit report will typically run?

    • John Ganotis

      Yes, most credit card issuers report the balance on your statement closing date.

  • If I have a credit card will at $10,000 limit with $0 balance and another credit card with a $2000 balance and a $8000 limit what would be my credit utilization? The only two cards I carry any balance on are cards that have promotional deals. For example the $2000 card balance is at 0% for for 24 months and I make a $100 payment every month well before the due date.

    • John Ganotis

      Your overall utilization would be around 11%. ($10,000 + $8,000 = $18,000 and $2,000 ÷ $18,000 = ~11%)

  • edit profile

    Helpful hint. BoA doesn’t care for Wells, and vice versa. Credit card at Wells gets paid online by BoA. One of these hold up the payment an extra day or two. If you pay your Wells credit from your Wells checking, it will go thru almost same day. I’m using these two banks from my experience models.
    Just saying

  • Thomas roberto
  • Mecha Charizard

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  • shahriar anvari

    hi, I have a $5000 credit card limit. I want to build my credit score fast. I want to know, is it better to pay my balance before due date or set a specific amount to pay. I have enough funds to pay full balance every month.
    Thanks for your answer.

    • John Ganotis

      We recommend paying the full statement balance each month to avoid interest. You could also pay more, up to your current balance, if you’re concerned about utilization. With most popular credit scoring models, the amount you pay doesn’t cause you scores to go up or down faster or slower, but what matters is your utilization at any point in time. Read this to learn more about utilization:

      • shahriar anvari

        Thanks, it was really helpful

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    Say i have a credit line of $1000 and it’s maxed my minimum payment is $35 if I pay $235 will it give me $200 available credit?

    • John Ganotis

      If you have a $1000 credit limit and a $1000 balance, then if you pay $235 you will end up with $765 available credit once your available credit is updated (unless you have interest fees for not paying your bill in full — in that case you’d have less available credit based on your new balance).

      • Steve R.

        🤔. First, I love this article. I think you may have misread Abaddon’s question though :)

        • John Ganotis

          After looking at that again, I meant to say: if you pay $235 you will end up with $235 available credit and $765 balance. This is before any additional interest or fees are added.

          • Steve R.

            😉. As mentioned above, I still love this article! Thanks

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  • Spider Pig

    Question. What happens to my score if I max out my card but pay the balance in full once a month? Would that even show on my credit? Let’s say I have a credit limit of $1,000 and I use that balance in full but pay it off before the bill is due, would that even show on my credit? Would it build my score fast, or would it be better to pay off the balance over three months instead of 1? I’m not too concerned about utilization because the impact is so small, and once they see that I am handling the balance responsibly those points will come back and my credit would be higher than before. Basically, would using a thousand dollars and paying it off fast be better than using 50 here and 50 there, and paying it off just as fast (assuming a thousand is my limit)?

  • Aaron D

    I’m a little confused on building credit quickly, and I am a first time credit user who’s 18. If I were to buy something, say $150 on my 1k credit line, turn around next week and pay off the $150 in full, will this boost my credit quickly or not at all. My only interest is building credit.

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    Hi John!

    The post is well written and very informative. Thanks for sharing this with us. I always pays my credit card fee on due date. I want to know what happens if i pay the payment before the statement date and use the credit card again. Let’s say that i have a 185$ balance and 195$ available credit. My statement day is 13/08/2019 and my due date is 05/09/2019. I pay the whole amount just before the statement day. Later i buy something with the credit card (ex: 100$ phone on 18/08/2019), then my balance will be showing as 50$ and due date is still 05/09/2019 in my online dash board do i have to pay it before the due date of 05/09/2019?

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  • Veronica Martinez

    Okay , I am a bit confused
    So, Example my closing date is 07/15-08/14 and due date is 09/11 my balance is 162.13 right & I Pay The Full amount before 09/11 & I Still Make purchases & Then my current balance is 117 Would the effect my payment or that 117 would be on the next payment of 10/11 ? Or would I have to make that full payment before my closing date ?

  • Minnie Girl

    Hi @gohnjanotis:disqus thank you for this excellent article. I am really confused by a couple of things about when to pay off the credit card balance. For the longest time I was paying off the credit cards in chunks throughout the month – whatever I could afford – with the latest chunk paid off by the due date. But what used to get really confusing is that I couldn’t always tell what was the current balance versus the last statement balance. And then I remember a couple of credit card CSRs telling me that if I paid the bill like that it wouldn’t necessarily get applied to the last statement balance. (and also that it would not help with making the interest rate less – which I thought it would as I thought I was lowering the total owed.) Or something like that. And then a couple of times I got hit with interest fees partly from the confusing of what I thought I was paying versus what was owed to satisfy the full previous balance. (this only happened a handful of times).

    It got so confusing that I started waiting until the online statement showed me what the last statement balance is and then I had the concrete clear # there. And only then have I started paying it off – again, usually in chunks with the last amount some time by the due date.

    So am I doing it correctly? (to maximize credit score, minimize utilization, etc)

    And when you say paying it off before the statement closing date is that the statement closing date that happens just BEFORE the due date? So like say due date is 10/15/2019 it’s the closing date right before like 10/10/2019? So i want to pay most or all by 10/10 and not 10/15? And do credit card issuers always make it very clear what the statement closing date is or do I need to look at the full statement to make sure?

    I am probably more clear than I think I am but I just want to make sure I’m doing it correctly because we’re going to be shopping for a mortgage soon.

    Thank you again for this article (it’s the only one that I’ve come across that lays things out in specific details) and for your help.


    • John Ganotis

      It sounds like some of the issues you ran into may be related to the terms of one of your specific cards and how payments are handled. There can be some slight variations in policies from one issuer to the next that can vary from how most cards work. For example, some cards don’t have grace periods (meaning new purchases always accrue interest, regardless of whether the statement balance was paid in full each month).

      In general, with most cards (that have grace periods) as long as you pay at least the full statement balance each month (not the full current balance, but the statement balance) by the due date of that statement you’ll be able to avoid interest, whether you pay it all at once or in pieces throughout the month. Some issuers make it easier than others to see how much statement balance you have remaining. I know from experience that Barclays, for example, only shows the full statement balance throughout the month regardless of any payments that have been sent, but American Express shows the remaining statement balance once some payments have been made.

      If you’re concerned about having high utilization at any point in time, you could pay part of the balance early (meaning you’ve already paid the full statement balance, so then you’re starting to pay off some of the current balance, which isn’t due until the next due date) but with most credit scoring models low utilization is only important at any specific point in time when you want to apply for new credit, for example, or in your case, a mortgage. This page explains a lot more about utilization:

      If you want to have 0% utilization, you can pay off the full current balance before the statement closing date(paying the current balance by 10/10/2019 in your example), but this is not necessary to avoid interest and you may see slightly lower credit scores if you are at 0% utilization (explained here:

      You may need to contact your issuer or check your statement to see the statement closing date (it’s not usually as clearly stated as the due date on bank websites and apps).

      • Minnie Girl

        @gohnjanotis:disqus thank you so much for your reply – I’ll go over it to make sure I understand, and read any further articles if I haven’t yet read them.

        I was coming back here because today when I signed in to one of my Citibank cards, I expected to see the statement closing date happen before the due date, based on what I had understood, and about paying the full balance before the statement closing date (which I was understanding would always be before the due date). But this is what I have:

        Statement closing Sep 24
        Last statement balance $221.49
        Minimum due $0.00
        Payment due Sep 21

        So the statement is closing AFTER the due date of Sep 21.

        What am I misunderstanding? I’ve got something backwards obviously but can’t figure out what.

        ETA: I just reread your response and I think what I am getting is that utilization has to do with paying the CURRENT balance before the statement closing date? (so it’s also assuming by default that you’ll pay – or have paid – your last statement balance in full also). Am I starting to get this?

        • John Ganotis

          Yes, the due date is usually several days before the statement closing date, but keep in mind that’s the due date for the previous statement period.

          Revolving utilization is based on the balance on your credit reports, which most credit card issuers report on the statement closing date. If you want that number to be $0 or 0% then one way to do that would be to pay off the full current balance by the closing date. If you have paid your account down to $0 by paying the current balance then you’ve paid at least the full statement balance.

          • Minnie Girl



            Closing Date applies to Current Balance
            Due Date applies to Last Statement Balance (previous statement)

            It’s falling into place now.

            Thank you John.

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    Why does the credit card company send you a refund check if you have a credit balance?

    • John Ganotis

      Some credit card issuer will just leave the credit balance on the account for a short amount of time so other purchases will cancel it out. The policies vary depending on the credit card issuer.

  • Vivian

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    I also want to know if the statement balance and the current balance are two separate bills I need to pay or is it the price different of the current balance? Because I have another credit card that both state the same amount

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