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Posted on June 05, 2009

MMI offers three steps to help consumers navigate their credit card statement

Each month, you receive a statement from your credit card company - whether through the mail or via the web. But do you really take the time to read it? If you did, would you know what to look for?

There's a lot of fine print included in most credit card statements, so it can be tempting to skim the details. However, savvy consumers know that it is well worth the effort to review each and every credit card statement - no matter how little time you have. Reviewing your statement doesn't have to be a daunting task. In fact, if you know what you're looking for, it could be a simple task that takes less than two minutes. The experts at Money Management International (MMI) offer the following three steps to help you navigate your credit card statement:

1. Look for the account summary. If you have time for nothing else, look at this section to determine: your total amount owed, due date, and minimum payment amount. This section will also tell you your available balance - important to know so you don't go over your limit - and the amount of your last payment, which is where you'll want to make sure you were properly credited for your previous payment. Remember to review your transactions. This is important to help you get an idea of where you are spending your money and to keep an eye out for signs of identity theft.

2. Look for the finance charge information. This is very important information because it dictates the cost of using credit. Generally, people are most concerned with their Annual Percentage Rate - usually listed as APR. Again, do not assume you know your APR. Your credit card might carry different interest rates depending on how you use the card. Interest rates fluctuate depending on economic conditions - even if you have not made a late payment on your card. Notifications by mail regarding changes in terms are required, so be sure to review every piece of mail sent by your creditors.

3. Know what's in the fine print. You do not have to read all of this every single month. However, you should read it all at least once. And, if you have questions about anything you have read in your statement, you might find the answers in this fine print. Items usually found in the fine print include:
  • How to report your card lost or stolen.
  • Your grace period - or the amount of time you have before interest begins to accrue.
  • How to report errors found on your statement.
  • Purchase protections - some purchases over $50 might qualify for protection if you're dissatisfied with the quality of your purchase.

"Even with all of this information, there are still a few things that may be left off your credit card statement that are worth knowing," said Cate Williams, vice president of financial literacy at MMI. "To get to a deeper level of detail, refer to your original card member agreement or contact customer service."

For more information about reading your statement, visit our personal finance blog - http://blog.moneymanagement.org/ and check out the How to read your credit card statement video.

About Money Management International

Money Management International (MMI) is a nonprofit, full-service credit-counseling agency, providing confidential financial guidance, financial education, and counseling services; including housing counseling, bankruptcy counseling and education, and debt management assistance. MMI has been helping consumers trim their expenses, develop a spending plan, and repay debts since 1958. Counseling is available by appointment in branch offices and 24/7 by telephone and Internet. Services are available in English or Spanish. To learn more, call 800.432.7310 or visit www.MoneyManagement.org.