Credit Cards » Credit Card Guides » How Do Credit Card Payments Work?
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How Do Credit Card Payments Work?

Cardholders should repay their outstanding balance by minimum, partially, or full payment. Here's what to know and why paying in full is best
Author: Baruch Mann (Silvermann)
Baruch Mann (Silvermann)

Writer, Contributor

Experience

Baruch Silvermann is a financial expert, experienced analyst, and founder of The Smart Investor.  Silvermann has contributed to Yahoo Finance and cited as an authoritative source in financial outlets like Forbes, Business Insider, CNBC Select, CNET, Bankrate, Fox Business, The Street, and more.
Interest Rates Last Update: April 15, 2024
The banking product interest rates, including savings, CDs, and money market, are accurate as of this date.
Author: Baruch Mann (Silvermann)
Baruch Mann (Silvermann)

Writer, Contributor

Experience

Baruch Silvermann is a financial expert, experienced analyst, and founder of The Smart Investor.  Silvermann has contributed to Yahoo Finance and cited as an authoritative source in financial outlets like Forbes, Business Insider, CNBC Select, CNET, Bankrate, Fox Business, The Street, and more.
Interest Rates Last Update: April 15, 2024

The banking product interest rates, including savings, CDs, and money market, are accurate as of this date.

We earn a commission from our partner links on this page. It doesn't affect the integrity of our unbiased, independent editorial staff. Transparency is a core value for us, read our advertiser disclosure and how we make money.

Table Of Content

How Do Credit Cards Actually Work?

When you use your credit card for purchases, you're essentially borrowing money from the card issuer. For example, if you use your credit card to buy groceries for $50, the card issuer pays the grocery store on your behalf, and you incur a $50 debt to the card issuer. This amount is added to your credit card balance.

Your credit card balance is the total amount you owe to the card issuer at a given time. It includes the sum of all your outstanding charges, cash advances, balance transfers, and any applicable fees or interest charges.

Credit card payment cycles are specific time periods, usually lasting around 30 days, during which your credit card activity is recorded. It begins on a specific date, often referred to as the statement date or billing date, and ends on the subsequent statement date.

At the end of the payment cycle, a statement is generated summarizing your transactions and the balance owed. The statement includes details like the total balance, minimum payment due, due date, and any interest charges or fees incurred. It serves as a record of your credit card activity during that specific period.

credit card payments
You can have a minimum, partially or the best option - full payment (Photo by Prostock-studio/Shutterstock)

How Do Credit Card Payments Work?

Credit card payments work by allowing cardholders to repay the outstanding balance on their credit cards to the card issuer. As a cardholder, you have a couple of options:

  • Minimum Payment: The statement specifies the minimum payment amount you must make by the due date to keep your account in good standing. The minimum payment is typically a small percentage of your total balance, such as 2-3%. However, paying only the minimum amount will result in interest charges on the remaining balance.

  • Partial Payment: If you decide to make a payment that is more than the minimum but less than the full balance, it is considered a partial payment. For example, if your credit card balance is $500, and you make a partial payment of $200, you still have a remaining balance of $300. Similar to minimum payment, the remaining balance will continue to accrue interest charges until it is paid off in full.
  • Full Payment: Paying the full balance means repaying the entire amount owed, including all purchases, fees, and interest charges. If you pay the full balance by the due date, no interest will be applied to the purchases made within that billing cycle.

Keep in mind – full payment is the best option. By paying the full balance, you eliminate the need to pay interest charges, which can add up significantly over time. This can save you money in the long run and prevent unnecessary debt. Also, timely and full payment demonstrates responsible credit card management, which can positively impact your credit score.

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How Credit Card Payments Differs From Debit Card?

Credit card payments and debit card payments differ in several key ways:

A credit card is a form of borrowing, where you are essentially using the issuer's money to make purchases. You are required to pay back the borrowed amount later, along with any applicable interest charges.

In contrast, a debit card is linked directly to your checking account, and the funds used for transactions are deducted immediately from your account balance.

Credit card usage and payment history can have a significant impact on your credit score. Responsible use, timely payments, and maintaining a low credit utilization ratio (the ratio of credit card balance to credit limit) can help build and improve your credit score.

Debit card usage, on the other hand, does not directly affect your credit score because you are using your own funds rather than borrowing money.

In the case of fraudulent transactions, credit card users are generally protected by consumer protection laws, and their liability for unauthorized charges is limited.

With a debit card, you are personally liable for any unauthorized transactions or fraudulent activity, and recovering lost funds can be more challenging.

How Credit Card Interest Rates Work?

Credit card interest rates, also known as Annual Percentage Rates (APRs), determine the cost of borrowing on your credit card. The APR is expressed as a percentage and represents the annualized interest you'll be charged on any outstanding balance. When you carry a balance on your credit card from one billing cycle to the next, interest is applied to that balance.

Credit card interest rates can vary based on factors such as your creditworthiness, the type of card, and prevailing market rates. They can be fixed or variable. A fixed rate remains constant over time, while a variable rate is tied to a benchmark rate, such as the prime rate, and can fluctuate accordingly.

Interest charges are typically calculated using the average daily balance method. The issuer determines the average balance for the billing cycle by adding up the daily balances and dividing by the number of days. The APR is then applied to this average balance to calculate the interest charges.

What Happens If I Make A Minimum Payment?

If you make only the minimum payment on your credit card, several consequences may arise:

  • Interest Charges: By making the minimum payment, you are carrying forward a portion of your balance to the next billing cycle. The remaining balance will continue to accrue interest, and interest charges will be added to your outstanding balance. This means you will end up paying more in interest over time.

  • Extended Debt Repayment: Making only the minimum payment extends the time it takes to pay off your debt. Since you are paying a small portion of the total balance, it can take years to clear the debt, especially if you continue to make new purchases on the card. This can result in a long-term burden and delay your journey to becoming debt-free.

  • Growing Balance: If you consistently make only the minimum payment, your balance may continue to grow. As interest charges are added to your outstanding balance each month, the debt can accumulate over time, making it harder to manage and pay off in the future.

  • Credit Score Impact: Carrying a high balance relative to your credit limit, known as a high credit utilization ratio, can negatively impact your credit score. Making only minimum payments may contribute to higher credit utilization, which can lower your credit score and make it more challenging to obtain favorable credit terms in the future.

  • Financial Stress: By making minimum payments, you may find yourself caught in a cycle of debt. The debt may become overwhelming, and the ongoing interest charges can put additional strain on your finances, making it harder to achieve your financial goals.

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How Do Payments Work On A Secured Credit Card?

Payments on a secured credit card work similarly to regular credit cards. Just like with a regular credit card, you can typically make the minimum payment or a partial payment on your secured credit card.

However, the main goal of secured credit cards is to build your credit – so minimum or partial payment can have negative impact on your score and by that you actually missing the main goal of a secured card.

FAQs

The grace period is the time between when your credit card bill is generated and when the payment is due. During the grace period, you will not have to pay interest on any purchases that you made before the bill was generated.

While making a partial payment is better than making only the minimum payment, neither option is ideal for long-term debt management. Both options can result in accumulating interest charges and prolonging the time it takes to pay off your credit card balance.

Paying more than the minimum or, ideally, paying off the full balance is recommended to avoid unnecessary interest expenses.

If you make a late payment, you will likely be charged a late fee. Additionally, your credit score may be negatively affected.

The only benefit of making a minimum payment is that you will avoid late fees. However, you will still have to pay interest on the remaining balance, and your credit score may not improve as quickly.

Yes, you can make multiple payments on your credit card throughout the billing cycle. This can help lower your balance and reduce interest charges, but it's important to ensure that you make at least the minimum payment by the due date to avoid late fees

Picture of Baruch Mann (Silvermann)

Baruch Mann (Silvermann)

Baruch Silvermann is a financial expert, experienced analyst, and founder of The Smart Investor.  Silvermann has contributed to Yahoo Finance and cited as an authoritative source in financial outlets like Forbes, Business Insider, CNBC Select, CNET, Bankrate, Fox Business, The Street, and more.
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