Credit Card Billing Cycles: Everything You Need to Know

FT Contributor
Credit cards sitting on top of their statements.

A credit card billing cycle is the amount of time between one credit card statement and the other. When you’re approved for a new credit card, your billing cycle starts that day. All purchases, fees, credits, and interest charges that post in the next 28 to 31 days will be included in your first billing cycle. Once the billing cycle is over, the card company will add up what you owe and send you your first credit card statement to pay.

Also known as a card billing period, the length of the cycle can vary by a few days, but is usually a month long. Other loans and credit products, such as auto loans and student loans, have billing cycles. This guide focuses on the billing cycle of a credit card.

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How Long Is a Billing Cycle?

A credit card billing cycle is usually around 30 days but can range between 28 and 31 days on length. The variation in your billing cycle depends on the agreement with your card issuer, how many days there are in the calendar month, or on which day of the week the cycle ends or begins.

Although the federal government mandates a credit card’s billing cycle length to keep things clear and consistent for consumers, they allow for a variation of up to four days to account for weekends or holidays.

Grace Periods

The credit card grace period is the number of days you have to pay your bill in full before interest charges kick in. Imagine if you didn’t have a credit card grace period —  you’d have to start paying interest on an item the moment after you make a purchase.

The grace period is usually between 25 and 55 days long. It all depends on when you made the purchase and when your credit card bill is due. If you made a purchase soon after your new billing cycle began, you have a longer amount of time before you have to pay your bill, compared to buying something on the very last day of your billing cycle.

Billing Cycles and Introductory Rates

Some credit card issuers offer lower interest rates for a certain number of billing cycles to incentivize customers to sign up for a new card. Some even come with a no-interest period. It’s an attractive deal, especially if you have a high credit card balance you’d like to transfer and pay off, or if you have a big-ticket purchase coming up.

Buying a washer and dryer during the promotional period may give you the chance to pay off the appliances at low or no annual percentage rate (APR) over the next few months. But the offer is only useful if you pay what you owe on time and before the promotional period is up.

If you’re considering a card for its promotional no-interest or low-interest APR period, pay careful attention to the terms and conditions. If you don’t pay your balance off in full before the promotional period is over, the remaining balance will incur the regular interest rate. And if you forget to make a single payment during the promotional period, the card may cancel the offer and charge you the standard interest rate for the remaining balance.

Where to Find Your Billing Cycle

As mentioned, your billing cycle may change by a day or two from one month to another. In a perfect world, your credit card billing cycle starts on the first day of every month and ends on the last day. Since a credit card billing cycle doesn’t work that way, checking your billing cycle dates regularly will keep you on top of how the cycle length varies. Some ways to find the billing cycle include:

  • By logging in to the card account online;
  • By looking at the credit card statement;
  • By calling the credit card issuer.

You can manually calculate the length of your billing cycle by taking a look at your last credit card statement and counting the number of days between the beginning and the end of the previous month’s billing cycle.

For example, if your last billing cycle was from April 9, 2020, to May 7, 2020, your billing cycle length was 28 days. You can calculate your next billing cycle by starting with May 8, 2020, and counting forward 28 days. Your next credit card billing cycle would end on June 5, 2020.

Can You Change Your Billing Cycle?

There are times when you may want to change your billing cycle. If you get paid on the 28th of every month, but your credit card bill is due on the 25th, changing your due date to the 30th could give you a little breathing room.

Credit card issuers will let you change your due date through the card’s online portal or by contacting customer service. Once you change your due date, your billing cycle will be adjusted accordingly. Some cards may only allow their customers to change their due dates once every 90 days.

Keep in mind that many card providers warn that the change in due date could take up to two billing cycles to take effect. Be sure to pay your bill on or before the original due date until you see the new due date on your card statement.

How Billing Cycles Affect Your Credit

Unlike other credit card factors, the billing cycle itself doesn’t have an impact on your credit score. But forgetting to pay your credit card bill on time, or overspending that leads to a high credit card balance can affect your credit score.

Late payments may be reported to the credit bureaus by your card issuer. As for having a high credit card balance, the credit bureaus look at how you use your credit to determine your credit score. Known as the credit utilization ratio, it’s one of the most influential factors affecting your credit score and accounts for 30% of your score.

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