Setting Up Your Credit Card Register

 Heading Area: At the top of each page is a heading area that provides lines for writing in the Account identifier (name, number, etc), the Year, and the Credit Limit.

This area should be filled in on each page so that this information is always readily available. Before you proceed however, consider these points:
  • The name and/or number you use to identify your Account will likely not change;
  • The Year may change during your use of a single register;
  • Your Credit Limit possibly could change during your use of a single register. 

With that in mind, your could certainly enter the Account identifier on all pages. Usually a short form of the name is all you need, but if you are tracking multiple credit cards using several registers and some of the cards are issued from the same provider, we suggest that you identify each account with the name and the last several digits of the account number (typically four) so that you can easily distinguish one account from the other.

Regarding the Year, if it is likely that you will reach the end of the register before the current year ends, or if you intend to maintain and later file your register away "by year", then enter the current year on each page as well, otherwise leave this field blank on pages you estimate will be needed for the next year, and fill in those pages after the New Year rolls in.

Enter the credit limit only on the starting page for now. Enter it on each subsequent page only when you begin to use it. For if your credit limit is increased or decreased, your heading areas will get messy if you had entered your current credit limit on each page but then had to correct all of your pages to the new credit limit. (If a credit limit change happens while you are using a page, that one page will need to be corrected, as seen in the samples on other pages of these instructions, but this procedure keeps that correction to just a single page.)

Starting Balances: Note in the heading area the first row under the Balance and Available Credit columns. For all but your very first page, this is where you enter your forwarding balances - that is, the ending balances from the previous page are entered here as the beginning balances for the new page. However, when you first start using the credit card register, you must determine these balances from other sources. This is most easily achieved by either calling your credit card provider by phone or accessing your account online. You could also figure out these balances from your last statement if you have receipts or other records of all transactions since that statement. Even if you call about or access your account online, it would help if you have receipts available at least from the last few days, then when you call about or access your account you could confirm that these most recent charges have been posted. Sometimes a vendor may have only charged a pending amount, just to verify your account. Gas stations often do this. At the moment there may be pending a small, temporary amount, say for only $1, but you know that your actual charge was more like $40, and your receipt would clarify the exact amount. Also, if you happen to be traveling, your hotel and/or car rental company may have placed a much larger, temporary charge against your account as a "hold" until your final charges are determined. Also confirm that your most recent payment has posted to your account. If you just mailed it a couple of days earlier, it likely has not been received or posted yet. If that is the case, your starting debt balance will need to be reduced and your starting available credit will need to be increased accordingly (but don't rely on the newly computed available credit balance yet until you are certain your payment has posted: there is another warning about this later!). Other transactions you must consider are any automatic charges you've pre-authorized to be charged around this time (it would be a good idea to fill out the Automatic Charge schedule located at the beginning of the booklet, or obtain the loose-leaf version if you're using the loose-leaf registers, before you determine your starting balances). Also, if you are carrying a debt balance month-to-month, how near is your statement closing date? For that is when the interest is charged and this may have already occurred during the last several days, so you must take that into account as well.

A tip on determining your available credit is to simply subtract your debt balance from your credit limit. This will give you the exact amount, as your bank will often cut off the cents portion in reporting your available credit. And if for some reason you have exceeded your credit limit (sometimes the interest charge alone will push it over the limit), your account inquiry will report simply "0" as your available credit. The amount you need however is the actual amount, even if it is a negative number due to extending beyond your credit limit ( for example minus 57.95, which would be written as (57.95) ).

In summary, when just starting out you need to get out your pencil and scratch paper and determine, using the above approaches and considerations, both your debt balance and available credit with as much accuracy as possible. Enter these amounts as your starting balances, then monitor your account carefully for a few days to confirm that you have accounted for everything. Make adjusting entries promptly in your register if any errors or omissions are discovered.  

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