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Guide to Checking Your Credit Card Balance

Guide to Checking Your Credit Card Balance
Jason Steele
Jason SteeleUpdated December 3, 2022
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Editor’s note: Lantern by SoFi seeks to provide content that is objective, independent and accurate. Writers are separate from our business operation and do not receive direct compensation from advertisers or partners. Read more about our Editorial Guidelines and How We Make Money.
If you use a credit card to pay for purchases, it can be a good idea to keep tabs on how much you owe. This can help you avoid overspending, catch fraudulent charges if they happen, and avoid getting too close to your credit limit (which can have a negative impact on your credit score). Fortunately, you don’t have to wait until your next credit card statement arrives to see your balance. Credit card issuers have made it very easy to check your balance anytime and virtually anywhere. Read on to learn quick and easy ways to check your credit card balance — and why it’s a good idea to do so on a regular basis.

What Is a Credit Card Balance?

A credit card balance is the amount of money you owe the card issuer. It will include all charges made during the last billing cycle, any balance left over from the last payment, and any fees or interest incurred. If you don't owe a balance, it will appear as zero. If you’ve returned items and charged very little, it’s possible that you could have a negative balance.If you’re looking at your credit card account online, you may notice there are two balances: a current balance and a statement balance. What's the difference? Your statement balance reflects all the charges made to your card during the last billing cycle. This is how much you are required to pay by the payment due date in order to avoid any interest charges. If you don’t pay at least the “minimum payment amount” listed by the due date, you will also likely be charged a late fee.The current balance is your most recent statement balance plus other transactions since your last statement was generated. Your current balance lets the credit card company determine whether, based on your credit limit, you can use the card to make a purchase.  As you continue to make purchases using your credit card, you’ll see your current balance increase until payment is made.Recommended: How Do Credit Cards Work? 

Why Tracking Your Credit Card Balance Is Important

Tracking your credit card balance is important for several reasons. One of the biggest is that it can help keep your spending in check. If you wait until you receive your statement to look at your balance, it may come as a (potentially unpleasant) surprise. If the sum is more than you can cover, you’ll have to carry a balance and rack up costly interest charges.By checking your balance periodically (it only takes a moment, as you’ll see below), you’ll know exactly where you stand, and may choose to cut back on spending or hold off on a major purchase until the next billing cycle.Another good reason to check your balance regularly is to avoid getting too close to your credit limit. This will help you avoid the hassle of getting declined for a purchase. It can also be smart in terms of your overall creditThe reason is that how much of your available credit you are using (called your credit utilization ratio) can have a major impact on your credit scores. Your credit utilization ratio is a percentage — the sum of all your balances divided by the sum of your cards' credit limits. Experian, one of the three big credit reporting agencies, recommends keeping your ratio at 30 percent or lower.Yet another reason to check your balance regularly: It can also help you spot suspicious or fraudulent charges on your account.Recommended: What Is a Balance Transfer Card? 

Checking Your Credit Card Balance

There are multiple ways to check your credit card balance. Here are some you may want to try.

Checking Your Online Account

You can quickly check your credit card balance by going to the issuer’s website. If you’ve never logged in before, you can find the card issuer’s web address on the back of your credit card or on a recent billing statement.Next, you need to set up an account with a username and password. You may also want to bookmark the log-in page, so it’s quick and easy to access. For security purposes, it’s a good idea not to let your computer save your username and password.Once you’re all set, you can check your balance, see purchases and payments, and even pay your bill all in one place. 

Via Regular Account Notifications

When you set up your online account, you may have the option of setting up account notifications. This feature was primarily created to help cardholders catch fraudulent charges. However, it can also be a quick and easy way to monitor your account balance. If you go into your profile settings, you may be able to sign up to receive emails, push notifications, or text messages notifying you of your current balance at certain times, such as after every purchase or after you make a payment.

Using Your Bank’s Mobile App

If you have a smartphone or other mobile device, you can use your bank’s mobile app to check your credit card balance on the go. Most major credit card issuers have phone and tablet apps that you can download from wherever you get your apps (such as the Apple App Store or Google Play store). Once you have the app, you can log in (using the same username and password that you use on your issuer’s website) to quickly check your balance, make a payment, ask a question, or access support.

Calling Your Credit Card Issuer

While it may seem old school, calling your credit card issuer can be a surprisingly quick way to check your credit card balance. Many issuers give you the balance automatically without having to speak to a representative. Simply call the number on the back of your credit card and follow a few prompts. You may be asked to provide some identifying information like the last four digits of your social security number or your billing zip code. If you have any questions about your balance or your account, you can then ask to speak to a live representative.  

Sending a Text to Your Bank

Some credit card issues allow you to text your bank to quickly get your balance. To sign up for this service, you typically need to log into your account, go to your profile settings menu and sign up for “ text banking.” Once you do, you may be able to get your balance by quickly texting a few numbers of simply “bal.”

Checking Paper Statements

Reading your credit card statement is a tried-and-true way to get your balance. Unless you opt out of paper statements, your card issuer will typically mail credit card statements to your home once a month. Paper statements are typically sent out near the end of a billing cycle before the next payment is due. This allows for enough time to review the charges, check the balance, and make a payment.If you misplace your statement or want to see statements from prior months, you can typically access them in PDF form by logging into your account.

The Takeaway

There are many ways to check your credit card balance as you use a credit card, including via phone or text, by going online or using a mobile app, or by reading your paper statements. Whatever method you choose, this simple action can help you avoid overspending and catch fraud quickly if it happens. It can also help you keep your credit utilization low, which may have a positive impact on your credit profile. With better credit, you may be able to qualify for credit cards with better rates and/or more benefits in the future.If you’re currently in the market for a new credit card, Lantern by SoFi can help. With our credit card marketplace, you can shop around and compare multiple credit card offers matched to your qualifications all in one place.

Frequently Asked Questions

What happens if you cancel a credit card with a balance?
How do you transfer your credit card balance to another card?
What is a credit card balance refund?
Photo credit: iStock/PonyWang

About the Author

Jason Steele

Jason Steele

Jason Steele has been writing about credit cards and award travel since 2008. One of the nation's leading experts in this field, he has contributed to dozens of personal finance and travel outlets and has been widely quoted in the mainstream media.
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