Since gotten my first credit card many years ago, I have always followed my dad's advice - use the credit card like a debit card and pay off the full amount at end of each month. Personally I have developed my own approach. Instead of paying whatever amount is listed on the monthly statement, before making a payment, I would log in to the credit card's online banking website, check the current outstanding balance, and make a payment of the current balance.
Using this approach, I have never received any credit card interest charges.
So you can imagine how surprised and shocked I was when I received a paper statement in the mail the other day and saw an interest charge line item of $61.03.
"What the heck?" The interest charge didn't make any sense to me at all.
Note: This particular credit card is a card I use for work. There's no online statement available, so I rely on the monthly paper statements to determine how much I owe. In other words, I go against my approach and do not pay the current outstanding balance for this particular credit card.
I took a close look at the statement again and noticed a very very stupid mistake that I made.
The previous balance was $4,456.34 but I only paid $4,453.08.
Somehow I managed to type in the wrong number when I made an online payment last month.
A $3.26 difference led to an interest charge of $61.03?
Did they charge the interest based on the full $4456.34? Something just didn't add up.
So the next day I called the credit card company. As I expected, $61.03 interest charge was based on the amount I charged on the card, not the balance difference. So I got dinged for on the full $4,456.34 for twenty-something days worth of daily interest charge.
Darn! No wonder people get into never-ending crazy credit card debt!
I explained to the customer representative about my dumb mistake. Luckily he looked at my payment history, noticed that I always paid in full each month, and decided to waive the interest charge.
Lesson learned? Always double or tripe check when making a credit card payment using your bank's online payment system.
PS: Isn't it a bit ironic considering I just recently wrote about my beef with personal finance experts?