Payment Available Amount Larger than Credit Card Balance

Hi everyone- 

Longtime YNAB user here (since 2016) - and I'm STILL confused about how credit cards work. I thought I had it, and then this month things just went wonky. 

We pay off our balance on our credit cards in full, and have done since May of last year. All purchases are accounted for in the budget. All accounts are reconciled. And yet, the Payment-Available category is over $1000 more than the card balance for one card, and $400 more than the card balance for the other.  I haven't budgeted extra funds to those lines since last May because all things are covered in their category lines. All category lines look either zero-ed out or green going back at least 2 years. Can anybody tell me why those Available numbers are so far off from the balance and the purchases? 

Thanks! 

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  • Have you had any returns or cashback transactions on those cards? Cashback in particular can cause the payment available amount to be higher than the card balance, since the card balance is reduced, but unless the cashback transaction takes it positive, no money from YNAB moves to RTA.  (Returns should be categorized to the appropriate category, and thus wouldn't cause the same issue. But if you/YNAB categorized them to RTA, you'd have the same issue as with the cashback.)

    You can safely move the $1000 and $400 to other categories, since you don't need it for the credit card payments.

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      • lfree
      • lfree
      • 2 wk ago
      • Reported - view

      Fuzzball Meows Wow, am I confused - especially about returns and categories. More story, I guess is required on my end.

      So way back in March of 2020, I bought like, 10 pairs of shoes from Zappos to try them on. I kept 1 or 2 pairs, and returned the rest. This left a change of around $1000 in my clothing budget line. At the time, I budgeted for the amount I would pay for the two pairs (around $200), and let the balance ride knowing that when the return came in, it would credit the category. But the return didn't happen in the same month. And since credit card balances don't carry over in the categories, when I put that 800+ credit in the Clothing category, Ynab treated it as a budgeted cash amount. So for all subsequent clothing purchases for months, it looked like I had 800$ to spend there. And I didn't have to budget those purchases.

      This morning, I thought that this might be the source of my issue (which began this morning as around a $1000 underpayment in Available  Payments on that particular credit card line). So I covered the original purchase with another category and categorized the $800 credit in RTA when it came in. Then adjusted any subsequent purchases in the Clothing budget line that had drawn on that credit by covering them with other categories. At that point, then the balance today in Available for Payment flipped to the $1000 credit. 

      Clearly, I am messing something up big time with returns (and likely Points Redemptions as well). SO I guess this is an addition to my original question. If I purchase something on the card, categorize it, and then return in in a different month, I should assign that return to the original category even though the negative balance has been removed from the category? 

      Honestly, this is one aspect of the new YNAB I kinda hate. I remember the good/bad old days when a credit card purchase in a category held negative over into the next month, so that returns could be accounted for this way. #oldschool

      Thanks so much for your input! 

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    • lfree Honestly, how you handle returns depends on what you care about.

      Option 1) If you care about average spend over time in a category, then you budget the full $1000 for shoes, spend it, then when the $800 refund on the credit card comes, you change the category in the account register from RTA to shoes, regardless of which month it happens in. That keeps your spend over time in that category accurate, although crossing the month line can mess up the individual month's spend (in terms of how you think about it).

      If you do this method, YNAB will initially move the $1000 from shoes to the credit card payment category. Then, when you make the refund category also shoes, YNAB will move $800 from the credit card payment category back to the shoes category, keeping your category available amount and credit card balance amount the same.

      Option 2) If you don't care about the average spend over time in a category, then when the refund shows up on the credit card, leave it categorized to RTA. Assuming your credit card balance is still negative, you would now have an extra $800 in the credit card payment category you can move anywhere in your budget you want.

      This method is what you do for cashback on credit cards also - record the transaction as RTA, then move that amount from your payment category to wherever you'd like in your budget.

      If you do this method, YNAB will still initially move the $1000 to the credit card, but will not move the $800 to the shoes category. Your shoes category will have the full $1000 spend for whatever month you did that in, so your average over time will be wrong. But your budget will still be accurate if you don't put the money back into that category and instead put it elsewhere in your budget.

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  • Fuzzball Meows said:
    when the refund shows up on the credit card, leave it categorized to RTA

     I don't do this because I don't like random payees from returns in my income/expense report.

    All returns go to the category the spending came from.  OP, in your case, you would have moved the $800 from the clothing category to the CC to deal with the fact that the month turn occurred in the middle of your process.

    Since you didn't, all you need to do is move money around to ensure you have PIF status on your cards right now and your other categories are as you wish them (er, based in reality).

    Regarding CCs and PIF status, you can either represent yours as a checking account (though that wouldn't let you float $1000 in trial shoes), or there's a list floating around somewhere on the forum with all the things that can cause the CC Payment category to diverge from PIF status. Fuzzball Meows already addressed about how to deal with rewards. :)

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  • lfree said:
    If I purchase something on the card, categorize it, and then return in in a different month, I should assign that return to the original category even though the negative balance has been removed from the category? 

    This is my preference, as it keeps my returns offsetting my spending in my reports. For returns that occur after the monthly rollover, you'll want to keep a sharp eye on that Credit Card Payment category, though! In instances like your Zappos example, you'll want to move the money right back into your Credit Card Payment category after entering the return transaction.

    That said, messing with the past can be dangerous! To move forward from today, you'll want to first cover any credit overspend in the current month, then move money into your Credit Card Payment category until the amount in the available/payment column is equal and opposite to what's on the card. 

    Here's a bit more on managing a PIF card, how to handle cashback rewards and returns. Let us know what questions you still have, too! 

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