If you’re using a credit card as your primary payment method to earn rewards, build your credit and take advantage of extra perks, you may log in on a regular basis to check your balance. But how often is too often, and how often is not often enough?
Well, it turns out you can’t really check your online account too often — although multiple check-ins per day may drive you crazy — but you can check it too little. Here’s a good rule for how often you should check your credit card’s online account.
Make sure you’re checking it monthly, at the very least
It’s crucial to go over your statement each month to make sure all the charges are valid and in the correct amount. To verify accurately, save receipts. Otherwise, look over your statement to make sure nothing looks amiss. For instance, if you bought dinner at your favorite pizza joint and it usually costs $25 after tip, and you were charged $50, you need to dispute — or figure out how you consumed twice as much pizza. Not sure how to read your credit statement? Lucky you, we wrote all about it!
This is also a good time to look at any normal monthly bills that you automatically pay with your credit card. Perhaps you were charged too much for your cell phone or cable plan. Double check and call your service providers if you find any discrepancies.
But you should probably check it more frequently
If an overcharge could potentially derail your finances, you’ll want to be diligent about checking your online account. This will ensure that you don’t accrue interest on purchases you didn’t make before you have a chance to dispute. Of course, if you have extra funds at your disposal, you can just dispute them at the end of the billing period when the statement is released. We think a good balance is checking your online account once or twice a week to make sure your expenses are valid and your budget is on track.
It can be easy to overspend when swiping, so remember, a credit card shouldn’t be used as a long-term loan. Only charge what you can pay off in full each month, because credit card interest is very expensive. You could also use an online budgeting software that syncs your accounts and allows you to set budgets for each spending category. You can set up your preferences to send you an email when you go over budget.
Whoa, I see a pending charge for way more than I meant to pay!
Take a deep breath, there’s probably nothing wrong. Certain companies put holds on your account to make sure you can pay the balance in full. This generally happens at places like gas stations and hotels, where your balance may change after you pay, due to the amount of service or product you use.
Many online accounts will remind you not to dispute charges that are still pending. If the incorrect amount is listed as a posted transaction, then you can talk to your issuer or the vendor to get the charge corrected.
All your purchases will be pending for a few days before being posted, so some of the charges you make within a statement period won’t be due until the following month. The balance you owe before the due date listed will be the “New Balance” on your statement, not the “Current Balance” on your online account. Pay off the statement balance before the due date to avoid interest charges.
Bottom line: At the very least, check your credit card’s online account monthly. Better yet, check your account once or twice a week to ensure that all charges are accurate. Dispute any inaccurate transactions after they’re posted — not when they’re still pending — with your credit card issuer and/or the vendor you paid.
Woman using credit card online image via Shutterstock.