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How to read, understand your credit card statement

How your bill should look, what information it should contain

By  and Tyler Metzger

We know you hate getting it, but a lot of work goes into your monthly credit card bill. Your monthly statement recaps your spending, shows what you owe, when you owe it -- and does so in a way that complies with rules set down by federal law and banking regulators.

Those rules changed when the Credit Card Act of 2009 went into effect and forced credit card statements to undergo a major makeover. They now must contain standardized information and clearer disclosures about how to pay your bill, and the consequences if you don't. (Details on the federally mandated credit card bill changes are below.)

Knowing how to read and understand your credit card statement is crucial, so we assembled the guide below using bills from major credit card issuers to explain your monthly credit card statement. Click "get started," then choose a financial instution and a topic.

CARD Act mandates changes
The CARD Act pushed card issuers to change statements to more prominently display when payments are due, the amount owed, the consequences of making late payments and how much they are paying in fees and interest on different types of accounts.

A key change added a warning about the cost of making only minimum payments each month. Each credit card bill must now have a box that states how long (in months or years) it will take to pay off the entire balance if the cardholder makes the minimum payment compared to how long it might take to pay it off when making higher payments. The box also states the total dollar amount cardholders would pay when both interest and principal is factored in. The results can be eye-opening for some borrowers.

Credit card issuers are also now required to include a toll-free telephone number on every monthly statement directing cardholders to accredited nonprofit credit counseling agencies if they should need help digging out of debt.

The previous standard for credit card disclosure was the "Schumer Box," which required key terms to be listed in a table and included in credit card offers, applications and monthly statements. The new standard is like the Schumer box on steroids, with much more details about terms and what they mean.

See related: A guide to the Credit CARD Act of 2009Anatomy of a credit report: How to read, understand yours

Updated: May 29, 2013



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