Credit Card support is super frustrating

Disclaimer: this is a rant

I have been using YNAB for around 6 months and up to this day I can't really understand how credit cards work with it. It's by far one of the most frustrating things I have come across in a very long time, and for what I saw in other posts here in the forums and other places, a lot of people share the same opinion.

YNAB's support staff and the docs try  to make their point of view understandable, but the thing is so bizarre that explanation over explanation can't make us get the point.

I have seen people just give up, and now I'm thinking about it too.

I'm going to delete 1+ month worth of transactions and reinsert all of that again to see if I can "fix" the mess. It's very hard to recommend the product to others because of such things.

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  • It's hard to tell what you're stumbling over with what's in this post. If you can give us more information, we can probably help you pinpoint where you're running into trouble.

    Credit cards boil down to this: the budget shows you what it has reserved for your payment. There are some reasons that this number might not match what you think you reserved for the payment, but the fact is, the budget thinks you have the amount in the credit card payment category reserved. If you pay more than that, the budget is going to get mad. So if there is less there than you wanted, move more money there first. Step two is figuring out why there wasn't enough money there. 
     

    Like 1
  • It's that old "Your credit card payment was greater than what you had available in your budget." problem, which has been greatly discussed in other posts.

    I'm mad because when YNAB works, it works. However, when you do something "wrong", then all hell breaks loose. It's SO easy to make mistakes and SO hard to revert and / or understand why something is incorrect.

    In my case the checkings account and credit card are both "Reconciled" - everything matches what I see in my bank. All categories have balance of 0 or bigger (aka, no overspending). However, YNAB is giving me that red bubble saying that I have paid more than budgeted, and because of that it automatically eats that amount from the next month's budget.

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      • WordTenor
      • Can we agree that goals are dumb and immature? Sure.
      • WordTenor
      • 3 yrs ago
      • 2
      • Reported - view

      Cadet Blue Horn Here are the reasons you might have less than you think you should in your credit card payment category: 

      • starting balance on a paid-in-full card - category is lower
        • ask: "Did I budget for the balance on this card when I first brought it into YNAB?" 
      • overspending - category is lower
        • ask:"Has this month, or any previous month, had credit card overspending?" (Current month overspending can now be seen in the credit card account screen on the web.) 
      • uncategorized transactions - category is lower
        • ask: "Do I have any transactions without categories?) 
      • outgoing transfers to other on-budget accounts (e.g., gift card account, mixed funding splits) - category is lower
        • ask: "Did I make any gift card purchases or cash advances?" 
      • reconciliation adjustment - category is lower for an outflow adjustment, higher for an inflow adjustment
        • ask: "Have I made any reconciliation adjustments?" 
      • taking the account balance positive - category should be $0 in this case

       

      In my experience, #1 is usually the one that people forget. The fix for every single one of these is the same--budget the amount to the card category that brings the debt on the card to where you want it ($0 if you consider yourself a paid-in-full user.) But you cannot pay the card more than is in the category, regardless of why the number isn't what you were thinking it should be. If you aren't checking the category before you make a payment and letting something beside the budget (for instance, your credit card statement balance) decide how much you should pay, you run the risk of overspending that category. 

      Like 2
  • I suspect that my case is that I pay the credit card and adjust the category later - YNAB doest nothing to prevent or even actively warn you. Whilst I might agree with you that  this is just me incorrectly using the software, there shoulnd't be so easy to mess things up

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      • Patzer
      • Retired at age 60. Thank you, YNAB!
      • Patzer
      • 3 yrs ago
      • 3
      • Reported - view

      Cadet Blue Horn 

      Cadet Blue Horn said:
      I suspect that my case is that I pay the credit card and adjust the category later - YNAB doest nothing to prevent or even actively warn you. Whilst I might agree with you that this is just me incorrectly using the software, there shoulnd't be so easy to mess things up

       I totally agree.  It is atrocious that YNAB has done nothing to fix the numerous ways the credit card payment category can get out of sync with the credit card balance.  Babysitting the special cases is a waste of time and attention, even when the fix is as simple as changing a couple of numbers on the budget screen.

      I avoided that whole mess by telling YNAB my credit cards are checking accounts. That gets them to be treated the same as they were in every prior version of YNAB, i.e. the negative credit card balance nets against the positive deposit account balances for the total budget amount, and the budget implicitly reserves cash to pay the cards in full any time I might want to.

      Unfortunately, this only works for paid in full credit cards where cash exists to pay them in full at any given time.  When that is not the case, the web YNAB treatment of cards is the second best* I've seen; it's too bad there are all those bugs that YNAB does not admit are bugs messing things up.

       

      * For cards that are actually carrying a balance, the best solution is to STOP USING THE CARD, treat it as a tracking account, and pay it off.  Then all the insanity in the YNAB credit card handling doesn't happen, and you don't incur interest from the day of purchase on all new transactions.  For living on the float, things get complicated.

      Like 3
    • Patzer Thanks a lot, I'll try this approach of using a regular checkings account for the credit card.

      Like
      • WordTenor
      • Can we agree that goals are dumb and immature? Sure.
      • WordTenor
      • 3 yrs ago
      • 3
      • Reported - view

      Cadet Blue Horn You can’t take Patzer ‘s suggestion if you are using the budget the way you say you are.  If the money isn’t there in the category before you pay the card, then you’re riding the credit card float. Making the credit card a checking account will just mask that fact;  it won’t actually solve the problem. 

      Like 3
      • nolesrule
      • Stealing From the Future fix is an improvement but is incomplete....
      • nolesrule
      • 3 yrs ago
      • Reported - view

      WordTenor Well, yes and no. It will "fix the glitch". You'll just end up with less spendable money in your budget automatically. Of course, that could possibly be no spendable money.

      Like
  • Don't feel bad. This is the most unintuitive method they ever could have come up with (IMO, and there's nothing Humble about it) BUT, take heart: once the thousands of comments you (will have) read about how this works have sunk in, you'll realize it does work just fine.

    Just budget the expense category first or right away after you post the charge to the CC, and you'll be okay. If you're paying more than the CC line says you have available, add to the budget on that CC's line to equal your payment.

    Like 2
    • JoeDid Thank you

      Like
  • Patzer said:
    I avoided that whole mess by telling YNAB my credit cards are checking accounts.

     I've seen this advice a few times on the forums and I'm ready to try it, since I pay the cards off every month and have very little use for the Credit Cards category in the budget.

    But I don't see a way to convert the account to checking now that it has already been created as a credit card. Is this a "delete and reimport" situation or is there a more clever solution?

    Like
      • Patzer
      • Retired at age 60. Thank you, YNAB!
      • Patzer
      • 3 yrs ago
      • 3
      • Reported - view

      Gray Admiral I converted them into checking accounts in YNAB 4, then migrated the budget.  However, Superbone found an elegant solution for people already using web YNAB:

      1.  Rename credit card account, e.g. change "MasterCard" to "MasterCard Old"

      2.  Create checking account with appropriate title, e.g. "MasterCard"

      3.  Select all transactions in "MasterCard Old" then right-click and select move to account "MasterCard"

      4.  Wait for an extended period while the system processes the move.  Be patient.

      5.  Delete the now-empty account "MasterCard Old"

      6.  Repeat for each credit card you wish to convert.

      Like 3
  • WordTenor said:
    You can’t take Patzer ‘s suggestion if you are using the budget the way you say you are. If the money isn’t there in the category before you pay the card, then you’re riding the credit card float.

     While I'm not 100% certain about the order I do things, I think that it's very likely I might have had red categories before paying the credit card just because there's nothing preventing me of doing that, and if YNAB makes a whole mess (from the user's perspective, not from the software's) which is hard to describe, understand and fix, then maybe the concept they're using has serious flaws.

    I use the software the way they say to use:

    1. Allocate budget to the categories ("give every dollar a job")
    2. Make goals etc
    3. Buy things, sometimes more than I have budgeted for
    4. Cover red categories by moving money from green ones

    I pay the credit card several times in the month, always in full. However, not always I have the time to adjust the budget right away.  So later on I go and fix the red categories by moving  from the green ones. I don't overspend over my total assets (that's why I use YNAB in the first place)

    Right now my CC balance is zero (aka, the bill is fully paid), all my categories are green, there's no money left do budget, and there's money in the checking account. So, by looking at that, I know that I'm living within my means, but YNAB said that I "overpaid" the credit card, which is nonsense.

    Like
      • jenmas
      • jenmas
      • 3 yrs ago
      • 2
      • Reported - view

      Cadet Blue Horn If all of your account balances are correct on the left hand side of the screen and your current credit card balance is 0, then what you need to do is remove funds from some/any of your green categories and put that money into the credit card payment category until the available amount shows as 0. That means that your budget is reflecting reality. After you make that change, is there enough in your other categories to make it through until you get paid again? If so, then yes, you are living within your means.

      If you are now in a position where you are short on funds for necessary expenses before you get paid again, then WordTenor is correct, you have been living on the credit card float - ie relying on money coming in tomorrow to cover the cost of things you bought today. Many, many people live their lives on the float and never pay a penny in credit card interest or run into problems. However, if you are on the float, then you tend to be one fluke away from taking on credit card debt.

      Like 2
      • WordTenor
      • Can we agree that goals are dumb and immature? Sure.
      • WordTenor
      • 3 yrs ago
      • 2
      • Reported - view

      Cadet Blue Horn The credit card payment category is also a category. Just like any other category, if you spend more than is in it, it will turn red to show you've overspent. There isn't enough there when you go to pay it because you are covering your overspends later instead of before they happen. 

      The credit card payment category balance doesn't show you anything really about your card itself. It shows you how much of your the budget is reserved to pay your card, just like the groceries category shows you how much you have reserved to spend on groceries. Depending on your financial situation, any category, including the card, can be overspent without your account being overdrawn or your card being positive; it just means you spent more money than you had set aside for that purpose.

      Look at your budget before you spend. "Spend" includes paying the credit card. If there isn't enough  the category, move money before you spend. 

      Like 2
      • nolesrule
      • Stealing From the Future fix is an improvement but is incomplete....
      • nolesrule
      • 3 yrs ago
      • Reported - view

      Cadet Blue Horn Don't pay your credit card until you update your budget so that you know the true amount you can pay toward the credit card. Since you are paying in full while riding the float, as it seems, you have room for a little patience rather than paying it off several times per month, since only the statement balance is due by the due date.

      Don't rush to make credit card payments. Take care of your budget first. YNAB is just a tool, and it can't stop you from screwing up your budget yourself.

      Like
  • WordTenor said:
    Look at your budget before you spend. "Spend" includes paying the credit card. If there isn't enough the category, move money before you spend.

     The problem is that if you don't move the money before it turns into a mess, like the one that happened to me and so many other users. YNAB doesn't require us to move the money before - heck, the documentation even says that's perfectly normal to cover overspending by moving money between categories - it doesn't say "move money BEFORE", it clearly states that you can do that AFTER.

    It doesn't make any sense at all to expect  users to adjust the budget before doing something because many times it simply can't be done (not because you don't have the money, but for practical reasons of the moment), and YNAB know it - that's why they say you can cover overspending later.

    Credit Card is not a category, technically it's treated like an account type - it just happens that it also shows as a section in the budget.

    Also, it's completely illogical to say that all you have to do in order to use the credit card is to allocate money in the categories you want to spend, but expect that us to move money to the "Credit card" instead of the overspent categories.

    There's a serious UX flaw with credit cards in YNAB, and the amount of topics about it make it clear. The reasoning behind the idea might be right, but the implementation is not.

    Like
      • WordTenor
      • Can we agree that goals are dumb and immature? Sure.
      • WordTenor
      • 3 yrs ago
      • 1
      • Reported - view

      Cadet Blue Horn  I agree with others that the credit card category takes some getting used to. I disagree that it’s completely counterintuitive— it gives you the information you need which is what is the max amount you can pay.  You have decided to ignore this information, and expect the budget to work anyway. 

      That is a PEBCAK error, not a UX issue. 

      Like 1
  • nolesrule said:
    Don't rush to make credit card payments. Take care of your budget first. YNAB is just a tool, and it can't stop you from screwing up your budget yourself.

     I only use the credit card, and there are several reasons that someone might need to pay several times in a month - for example, when the limit is smaller than your budget.

    Like
      • nolesrule
      • Stealing From the Future fix is an improvement but is incomplete....
      • nolesrule
      • 3 yrs ago
      • 1
      • Reported - view

      Cadet Blue Horn That doesn't change my advice to make sure your budget is up to date before paying the credit card, and/or not paying more than the credit card payment category has available. You need to be proactive, not reactive.

      When you are reactive, you will forever be playing catch up and struggling to deal with overspending and/or overbudgeting.

      Like 1
  • I agree that there's a pretty major design flaw with how credit cards work in YNAB. I'm careful about budgeting for any overspending on my credit card, but somehow I've accumulated overspending (debt) in spite of that. I've had two or three interactions with the support staff (and let me add that their responsiveness and willingness to help is excellent), but it's still not clear to me how I've accumulated the overspending. I suspect something may not be right in YNAB. I'm a long time user and fan of YNAB, but this experience has left me thinking about moving to another application or method.

    Like
      • Patzer
      • Retired at age 60. Thank you, YNAB!
      • Patzer
      • 3 yrs ago
      • 2
      • Reported - view

      Orchid Clarinet I would not go so far as to say there's a "major design flaw" with how credit cards work in web-YNAB.  I'd say there are a lot of bugs and bad assumptions in the implementation that require the user to make manual changes when no rational person would expect manual changes to be needed.  For no reason I can see, the YNAB organization refuses to admit that any of the implementation problems are problems that need to be fixed.

      As noted above, I sidestep the entire collection of bugs, bad assumptions, clumsy features, problems, poor design, whatever you want to call it.  I tell web-YNAB that my cards are checking accounts, and then they work like cards did in Classic YNAB after I eliminated the superfluous pre-YNAB debt categories.  This is a much cleaner treatment of credit cards for people who are able to pay the card balance in full at any given time (i.e., the budgeter is financially able to maintain a card payment category equal to the card balance at all times.)

      The whole complex mess is needed for people who are carrying a balance and continuing to use the credit cards, and for people who are living on the float.  I have my doubts about how helpful the implementation is for such people; but since I am not in that position I do not need to explore the implementation's shortcomings for those situations in detail.

      Like 2
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