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Advice

What is a credit card balance?

CNBC Select explains how a credit card balance works, so you can familiarize yourself with this important term on your bill.

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The Discover offers on this page are no longer available via CNBC. As a result, Discover offers described on this page may be out of date.The Discover it® Balance Transfer offer is not currently in market.

A credit card balance is the total amount of money you owe on your account. However, you may not know exactly how card issuers calculate what you owe or whether it's good to carry a balance.

Below, CNBC Select explains how a credit card balance works, so you can familiarize yourself with this important term on your bill.

What is a credit card balance?

  • How is a credit card balance calculated?
  • Is it good to carry a balance on a credit card?
  • What's the difference between a credit card balance and statement balance?
  • Where can I find my credit card balance?

How is a credit card balance calculated?

Card issuers calculate your credit card balance by adding up any charges you make, along with accrued interest, late payments, foreign transaction fees, annual fees, cash advances and balance transfers.

Credit card balances also reflect any payments or statement credits made to your account. Your balance can change from month to month depending on whether you pay your bill in full and on time.

Is it good to carry a balance on a credit card?

No, perhaps one of the biggest credit card myths is that it's good to carry a balance on a credit card. Carrying a balance on your credit card doesn't help your credit score, it only has the potential to hurt it.

Lingering balances on your account directly affect your credit card utilization rate. This is the amount of credit you're using compared to the amount of credit you have available. The higher your credit card balance, the higher your utilization rate, which can hurt your credit score.

Take action: Check your credit score for free.

If you carry a balance on your credit card, you'll also have to pay interest charges (unless you have a card with an introductory 0% APR on new purchases). It's a waste of money to pay interest on your balance if you can afford to pay off your credit card bill in full each month.

If you're already carrying a balance on a credit card, consider transferring it to a balance transfer credit card, such as the Discover it® Balance Transfer. This can help you save money in the long run, if you commit to paying off your balance during the introductory 0% APR period.

Discover it® Balance Transfer

Discover it® Balance Transfer
Information about the Discover it® Balance Transfer has been collected independently by CNBC and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of the card prior to publication.
  • Rewards

    5% cash back at different places each quarter after you activate bonus categories (on up to $1,500 in purchases, then 1%). Plus, unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases.

  • Welcome bonus

    At the end of your first year, Discover automatically matches all the cash back you earned

  • Annual fee

    See terms

  • Intro APR

    See terms

  • Regular APR

    See terms

  • Balance transfer fee

    See terms

  • Foreign transaction fee

    See terms

  • Credit needed

    Excellent/Good

*See rates and fees and our methodology, terms apply.

Pros

  • Cash-back program

Cons

  • Bonus categories must be activated each quarter
  • Cash-back program limits 5% cash-back earnings to $1,500 a quarter
  • Fee charged on balance transfers
  • Transfer timeline: Balances must be transferred by a specific date, refer to your cardmember agreement for the exact date
  • Estimated total fees and interest on debt repayment: $471

What's the difference between a current balance and a statement balance?

When you receive your bill, there will be two balances listed: current balance and statement balance. A current balance is the total amount of money you currently owe on your credit card. Meanwhile, a statement balance is made up of all the charges you made during the last billing cycle. This doesn't include any pending charges or purchases made after your billing cycle ended.

Learn more: Should I pay the statement balance or current balance on my credit card?

Where can I find my credit card balance?

There are several ways to find your credit card balance. The simplest way is to log into your account online or via your card issuer's mobile app. Your current balance and statement balance will also be shown on your bill along with the required minimum payment. You can also call customer service.

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Editorial Note: Opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the CNBC Select editorial staff’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any third party.