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How to read your credit card statement

Peter Terlato avatar
Peter Terlato
- 6 min read
How to read your credit card statement

There’s no two ways about it: Australia is a country that’s very familiar with credit cards. Australia has the world’s second highest rate of consumer credit per capita, at $89.71, according to the latest global financial analysis.

Global finance publication Moneyzine recently released a report which found Australia ($89.71 per capita) was second only to Switzerland ($127.39 per capita) when it came to personal debt.

Clearly we know the ins and outs of how to use a credit card. But how well do we know some of the other basics of being a cardholder? For instance, how well-versed is the average Australian when it comes to reading and deciphering their credit card statement?

If you’ve ever pondered all the figures, limits, summaries and warnings that are often included on your monthly credit card statement, we’ve put together a simple guide so that you can better comprehend the important elements and what to take away from them.

What is a credit card statement?

Your credit card statement provides a monthly overview of how you've used your credit card. Within this statement you'll find a record of your transactions; the balance that remains unpaid; the minimum amount you're required to pay and when it’s due; the credit that you have at your disposal; details about how to make your repayments; as well as information regarding interest, fees, and other charges.

Each month, your bank or credit provider will deliver a new statement, which may be sent either through the mail or online via web banking services.

Credit card statements often include your account number and personal details, such as your address. For this reason, it’s important that you file away or dispose of these documents properly. If you receive your statements by mail and think one is missing or undelivered, contact your bank immediately so that they can find out what happened and issue a new statement.

See below for a visual example of a credit card statement.

Defence Bank credit card statement 1

Source: Defence Bank sample credit card statement.

What is the statement period?

The statement period covers the purchases and charges during the span of what is usually around 30 days, though it varies depending on how many days there were in the month, the number of business days and when you opened your account. 

Between the end of the period and the payment due date, you have a ‘payment window’, during which you need to at least pay the minimum amount if you don’t want to be charged a late payment fee. If you want to take advantage of interest-free purchases, you’ll typically have to pay the total amount due, in full.

Contrary to popular belief, the interest-free period, for example 55 days, doesn’t apply to the day you bought that Dior handbag or that expensive new suit. It refers to the number of days from the beginning of your statement period to the payment due date. That means, depending on when you bought those items, you might only have a few days of no interest before you need to repay your debt.

What are the payment details/summary?

Typically, your statement will show the essential payment information in a separate box on the statement. Here, you will likely see information including: 

  • The payment due date;
  • The closing balance of your credit card (i.e. how much you owe in total) and; 
  • Any overdue payments you need to carry out.

You may want to pay the latter off as quickly as possible to prevent any negative repercussions to your credit score.

What is an account summary?

The account summary provides all the details on your closing balance. You can think of it as an explanation of how you got to the total you’re sitting on. It will list the:

  • Opening balance, or how much you owed at the very start of the statement period
  • Payments and other credits, or any total that has been credited to your account during the statement period
  • Purchases, cash advances and other debits, or everything charged to your card
  • Interest and other charges, or the sum charged to your card from fees and interest
  • Closing balance, or the total once all of these costs have been added together

Regarding purchases, your statement will also list details of each transaction charged on your card during the period separately. It might be a good idea to review these individually and make sure nothing is incorrect or out of the ordinary - if you have less money to put into your savings account this month, perhaps an error was made. If the account has secondary cardholders, the transaction list should also note which card made which purchases, making it easier to determine the culprit of any extravagant or extra spending.

What is the credit limit?

This is usually listed under the account summary or beneath the transaction list. Simply put, it’s the most that you can possibly charge to your credit card each month. Meanwhile, your available credit is the remaining portion of that sum you haven’t used yet. If you want, it’s possible to change your credit limit, though you can’t reduce it below your balance or the minimum set by your credit provider.

What are rewards points?

This part is relatively self-explanatory - if you have a rewards card, this section of your statement will inform you how many points you’ve earned for the month and in total. When comparing a range of different credit cards, some Australians may be interested in signing up for a card that reaps rewards.

What are the payment options?

Bank statements will display the available methods for paying your bill, usually found towards the bottom or end of your statement. The most common approach for making payments is through online banking - either via your banking app or official website portal.

Additionally, your credit provider may offer alternative methods of making payments over the phone or enabling automatic payments (autopay) from a designated account. If you've arranged autopay, this will be indicated on your statement. For instance, your statement might contain a remark like, “We will initiate a direct debit from your chosen account on xx/xx/xxxx date, as per your request.”

If you encounter any challenges while attempting to pay your credit card bill, don't hesitate to contact your bank.

What is the minimum repayment warning?

Since 2012, all Australian credit card statements are legally required to carry this section. It informs you of two things:

  • How long it would take to pay off your balance if you only made the minimum repayment, plus interest charges.
  • An alternative payment amount you could pursue if you wanted to pay off the balance in two years.

In essence, this section is meant to prevent you from becoming a serial revolver and help you to get out of debt faster. You might use the information to pay a little extra each month, or set up automatic payments for the amount so you don’t need to think about it.

If you’re reeling under the weight of credit card debt, don’t lose heart. There are a number of options available to help you get your finances back on track. Consider these simple steps to pay off your credit card debt for good.

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Product database updated 22 Jun, 2024

This article was reviewed by Personal Finance Editor Mark Bristow before it was published as part of RateCity's Fact Check process.