Credit Cards
December 10, 2021

What is a negative balance on a Credit Card?

A negative credit card balance refers to the amount of money that the credit card company owes you.

Your first impression of seeing a negative balance might trigger you, like maybe you’ve done something wrong. But in most cases, it means your credit card issuer owes you money.

What happens when your credit card balance is negative?

There are many reasons to have a negative balance on your credit card account, but in most cases, it's a good thing. It usually means you have credit on your account which you could use for future purchases.

4 common reasons for a negative balance on a credit card:

  • Overpayment on credit card bill. If you’ve overpaid your bill, it might leave you with a negative balance on your credit card statement. 
  • Receiving a refund: If you’ve returned an item for a refund, the vendor will typically refund the charge to the credit card used for the purchase. If you’ve already paid the charge on a previous statement, and your current balance is paid off with no new charges, the refund will appear as a negative balance on your next statement.
  • Earning cashback or statement credits: Some lenders give bonuses or statement credit based on your purchases. If your card is paid off each month, a reward or statement credit may show up as a negative balance on your next statement. 
  • Reimbursement for fraudulent charges: If your credit card was stolen and used for fraudulent purchases, your credit card issuer typically reverses the fraudulent charge. This results in a negative balance too.

How does a negative balance affect your credit score and credit limit?

A negative balance can deliver a small windfall, which is handy for a one-off splurge. And if you carried a balance in previous months, a negative balance can translate to an improved utilization rate, which can usually boost your credit score. A better score can bring all sorts of good things.

But credit bureaus won’t reward you just for a negative balance. They treat it the same as a zero balance. For frequent card users, the negative balance doesn’t last long, regardless, so even its impact on your utilization rate is bound to be short-lived.

A negative balance rarely delivers a higher credit limit too. Your limit remains the same while your balance is negative. 

For example: If you have a credit limit of $10,000 and a credit balance of -$1000, you’ll have a total of $11,000 to spend. But your available balance will return to $10,000 as soon as you’ve spent the negative balance. 

How do I fix a negative credit card balance?

You have a  few options to bring back a negative balance on a credit card to a zero balance:

  • Request a refund. You can call or email  your credit card issuer and request for a refund. Card issuers usually offer a few options -- check, money order or a direct deposit to your bank account. A direct deposit refund typically takes up to seven days to reflect in your bank account. 
  • Make new purchases. The simplest way to bring a negative balance to zero is to continue using your card for purchases. If the balance turns to positive, pay it off before the end of your billing cycle. 
  • Just wait. If you don’t request a refund or make new purchases, then your credit card company is obligated to make a good-faith effort and return the amount due to you. According to the Truth in Lending Act, any amount exceeding $1 in negative balances has to be refunded within a reasonable timeframe.

What is an average credit card balance?

In late  2021, the average credit card balance in the US is $5,525. That number has gone down significantly over the last two years. In 2020, the average balance stood at $5,897, and in 2019, it was $6,629 (11% higher than in 2021). 

                                             Benefits of using Bright to manage your credit card payments.

How Bright Money manages your credit card payments?

When you use Bright to make card payments for you, your Bright Plan will account for a negative balance and adjust your payments automatically.  

Bright is a smarter, faster way to manage your credit card debts. Powered by MoneyScience™, a new patented system built on 34 algorithms, Bright studies your finances and makes smart payments for you, always on time and always optimized to save on interest charges. With Bright, you'll pay off credit card debts faster, automatically. No more late fees and juggling payments.

If you don't have it yet, download the Bright app from the App Store or Google Play. Connect your bank account and your cards, set your own goals, then let Bright get to work.

Recommended Readings:

8 Reasons Why Your Credit Score is Important

How to Choose The Best Credit Card for You

Pranay Chirla
Technical Content Writer
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