Chances are that you never intend on overpaying your credit card bill, yet sometimes you may see a negative balance on your account. Although overpaying a credit card isn’t ideal — that cash flow could’ve been used toward another expense, after all — it’s usually not cause for concern.
If you overpaid your credit card, interest isn’t charged on the amount; in fact, that amount is owed back to you. What you do next, whether that’s requesting a refund or applying the overpayment to next month’s bill, is up to your discretion.
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How Credit Card Overpayments Happen
Since credit cards work by providing you with revolving purchasing power up to your allowable limit, any activity on the account can change your available balance — even after you’re issued a monthly billing statement. This includes new purchases on the account that increase your credit card balance, but also payments or credited amounts that lower the outstanding amount you owe.
If you end up making a payment to your credit card issuer for a higher amount than you owe, for instance, it results in an overpayment. This is also called a “negative balance.”
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How You Could Have Overpaid Your Credit Card
There are a few circumstances that might result in an overpaid credit card.
Submitting a manual credit card payment for an amount that’s higher than your actual outstanding balance will push your account into a negative balance. This might happen if you’ve been repaying a large purchase in equal increments each month, but don’t adjust the last payment for a smaller amount.
For example, let’s say you used your new 0% APR credit card to purchase a laptop for $2,150 and plan to make manual monthly payments of $500. By month five, you’d only need to make a $150 payment to pay off your card balance. But if you forget what your current balance is, you might accidentally make another $500 payment. The $350 difference would be an overpayment on your account.
Paying attention to your outstanding balance on the day you plan on making a manual payment can help you avoid overpayment.
Additional Payments on Top of Automatic Payments
You might also overpay credit card balances if you made a payment to avoid credit card interest charges, but didn’t realize that you already had autopay enabled on your account.
The scheduled automatic payment will still be processed, regardless of any manual payments, unless you cancel it for the month. For this reason, a double payment can result in an overpaid credit card.
Before making an extra payment, double-check whether you’ve enacted auto-pay and see how another payment might affect your outstanding balance.
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Another common scenario resulting in an overpaid credit card is if you return a purchase to a merchant or get a refund for a service. If the amount of the purchase was credited back to your credit card, and you make a payment based on what’s shown on your statement balance that arrived before this transaction, you’ll overpay your credit card bill.
If you returned an item and received a refund back on your card, remember to adjust your manual payment or auto-payment to reflect your new balance due.
Guide to Rectify Overpaying Your Credit Card
Now that you know what happens if you overpay your credit card, you may be wondering if there’s anything you can do to fix it. If your credit card balance is under $0, and you’re owed money back, there are a few ways to move forward.
Request a Refund
The Fair Credit Billing Act (FCBA) protects your rights when it comes to how your credit card account is handled. It states that you have the right to request a refund if you overpay your credit card by more than $1.
The credit card rules state that the issuer must give you a refund in the payment method of your choosing within seven business days of receiving your request. Additionally, it must, in good faith, make attempts to return unapplied overpayments that have been on the account for over six months.
When requesting a refund by mail, make sure to send your request through certified mail so you have proof of the date it was received by the bank.
Allow the Negative Balance to Roll Over Next Month
Another way to address a negative balance on a credit card is simply to do nothing. If you don’t explicitly request a refund, the bank will automatically roll over the unapplied credit toward your next statement balance.
If you have a larger statement balance than your credit during the following month, the overpayment credit will be applied and the remaining balance you owe is reduced. However, if your credit is greater than your new statement balance, your adjusted credit amount will roll over again.
It will continue this way until you’ve effectively used all of your account’s overpayment credit or you ask for a refund.
Enable Autopay on Your Credit Card
If you’re not already enrolled in automatic payments, enabling autopay for your credit card bill can help prevent overpayments due to manual payment errors. Leveraging your card’s autopay feature is a responsible way to use a credit card since it ensures you pay the correct amount on your account on time.
If you set up autopay to always pay your statement balance or outstanding account balance, it also helps you avoid credit card debt that’s getting increasingly harder to pay off.
Does an Overpaid Balance Affect Your Credit Score?
Having an overpaid credit card balance is better than having a positive balance on your account. Credit card companies report negative balances as a “zero balance” when forwarding your card activity to the credit bureaus.
A zero balance lowers your credit utilization, which impacts your credit score calculation. Although it can improve your credit compared to carrying an outstanding balance, the effect of an overpayment is the same as making a payment for the correct amount to reflect that you owe $0. In other words, this isn’t the type of scenario where you’d consider whether to pay a credit card with another credit card.
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Although overpaying credit card balances is a common occurrence, following the tips above can help you avoid a negative balance. Paying attention to this can help prevent your discretionary cash flow from getting tied up with your card issuer unnecessarily — a key to smart credit card habits.
The SoFi Credit Card offers unlimited 2% cash back on all eligible purchases. There are no spending categories or reward caps to worry about.1
What happens if I overpay my credit card?
If you overpay your credit card, the amount is reflected as a negative balance on your account balance. You can request a refund, or let the bank apply it to your next statement.
Does a negative balance have an effect on my credit score?
No, a negative balance doesn’t affect your credit score. Your bank reports it as a “zero balance.”
How long do you have to dispute a credit card charge?
You have 60 days to dispute a credit card charge, starting from the date it appears on your statement. The bank is legally required to acknowledge your dispute within 30 days of receiving it. A resolution must be enacted within two billing cycles or a maximum of 90 days from your dispute date.
How can I request a refund after overpaying my credit card?
Send a written letter to your bank requesting a refund and specifying the method in which you’d like to receive it, such as a check or other method. The bank is required to provide your refund within seven business days of your request.
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