Editorial Policy

Credit Card Hassle: Where’s My Running Balance?

Allie Johnson

February 15, 2013

I have an idea: All credit card companies should include a column with the running balance of the account, both online and on paper statements.

This would make it much easier for consumers, especially those who rely on regular online check-ins with their accounts, to make sure everything adds up.

In the past, I’ve always been more of a debit card user than a credit card user, reserving credit cards for hotels, airfare, car rental reservations and big purchases. I also like to have them in my wallet in case of emergencies.

With my debit card, I love that when I log in to online banking, there’s a column that shows the purchase or deposit, and another column that offers a running tally of the balance. Being able to see a running total allows me to efficiently check for accuracy and then get on with life.

But, lately, I’ve started to use a credit card more, both for convenience and for rewards. I pay my card off in full each month.

Mainly, I use an Amazon rewards Visa to spend my monthly “want money” — the funds my husband and I each get to fritter away on whatever we like. Because I buy a lot of books and other items from Amazon, I rack up rewards points to make my fun money go a little further.

One thing that bothers me, though, is that the online statements don’t show a running total of my balance. (I don’t get paper statements, so I’m not sure if those do.) The more I use the card, the more time-consuming it is to track my spending and payments. I have to sit there with a calculator and add up all the numbers.

I’m not sure why Chase does it this way, but as a personal finance reporter, I know that anything that obscures numbers or makes things more complicated is generally good for the company and bad for the consumer.

Apparently, at least a few other consumers feel the same way. One consumer on a forum at MoneySavingExpert.com complained that one of her credit cards does not show a running balance. “I think this is dreadful and clearly designed to keep you in the dark,” the consumer wrote. “I have phoned the bank and they say you have to wait for the paper statement to get your running balance. What? In the year 2013?”

On a review of the USAA World MasterCard Credit Card, one consumer wrote last year, “This card is great, but I really hate having to double check the number of my monthly balance online.” The consumer added: “With my Wells Fargo account, I can easily see my running balance on my credit card, not just the total amount.”

Last time I went online to check my statement, a pop-up box asked me for feedback about the card, so I wrote to suggest that the company add a column to show the running tally of the account balance online. A customer service rep wrote back, saying she would pass my comments to “the appropriate department for review.”

I hope they’ll make that change, but I’m not counting on it. In the meantime, I’m considering going back to my debit card to save myself time and hassle.