What good is all the numbers on the Credit Card Activity view?
Can somebody tell me the use-case of looking at these numbers:
Why do we need the Credit Card activity view with:
Spending ... Budgeted Spending ...
Returns ... Payments & Returns ...
Total Spending ... Total Activity ...
What good does all these numbers do? Why is it beneficial to take a simple concept (have an account that is allowed to carry a negative balance) and split it into "Card spending" and "Category spending"? How does this help anyone to check their spending, see how much they want to / need to pay off on the card and make good choices?
I have never ever used the Credit Card Activity screen for anything. I'm curious to know what other people gain, if anything, from these metrics.
Unless I'm missing something, they're useless. See the second screenshot. I bought a TV on my credit card but it wasn't settled because I bought it late in the month after the settlement on the 28th. How does that reflect on these numbers?
What does the Total Activity number say? Absolutely nothing. I couldn't gone into debt in some category using my credit card, and it doesn't show here.
What does the Total Spending number say? Absolutely nothing. It could be covered by "Budgeted spending" or not, but isolated it doesn't say anything.
What does the Total Spending + Activity numbers say together? Absolutely nothing. I couldn't gone into debt in some category using my credit card, and it doesn't show here.
The best I can say is that:
Positive "Total Spending – Budgeted Spending" should be positive, otherwise you do into debt. But that is hardly obvious from the Credit Card Activity view above.
The only meaningful indicator is whether you have any yellow "credit card overspending" colors in your Budget. But you could have that in multiple categories, so you don't get to have an overview anywhere of the credit overspending for the month. And yes, the Credit Card Activity view seems useless.
All of this for me just underscores the fact that credit cards seems to be implemented fairly clumsy and unnecessarily complicated in YNAB. They are, by far, the worst part of the YNAB experience. The rest more than makes up for it, YNAB is really really good overall, but I just wonder why this aspect feels so bad.
Did I miss something? Thoughts?
PS: Yes I did read https://docs.youneedabudget.com/article/1687-credit-card-activity - didn't help.
I don't find much use for the CC Activity Detail. It is useful as one reliable way to detect CC-based overspending at any time. (The CC account register only indicates it for the current month.)
(I'd actually prefer overspending for a given month, both credit and cash types, was summarized in the budget header, with a "click-to-take-me-there"!)
The point of the CC handling is to explicitly show the user how much cash is reserved for their payment. Older versions of YNAB did not show that, and many people often sent the CC more than they should have. Intuitively, it matches perfectly with all other categories, and the movement between categories fits the envelope budgeting paradigm to a T. (It's money that's available to pay that bill.) It's DEFINITELY an improvement for the majority of users.
If your cards have paid-in-full status, feel free to remove the "warnings and safeties" by representing your CC with a checking account. You obviously can't finance anything or temporarily ride the CC float, but it's a 10 second matter to balance transfer back to a real credit account until PIF status is restored.
Gandalf Saxe said:
is there a reliable way to convert a Credit Card history into a normal account type
You have to create a new checking account regardless. I feel the balance transfer is safest (just make a payment from the new account and close the old one). Others have mass-moved all the transactions over instead, which may have impacts to historic TBB values due to differences in overspending handling. The current month, however, will be correct.
Before you do this, you should ensure that card's payment category covers the entire account balance. Otherwise, your TBB will take a hit, since paid-in-full status is rigorously enforced at all times.
Is it too late for me to weigh in on this?
Gandalf Saxe I agree with almost all of what you're saying.
I do think YNAB's credit card implementation is basically sound, because credit cards are inherently complicated, and any way of modeling them that takes into account all of the many things that can happen with them in the real world (budgeted spending, unbudgeted spending, refunds, overpayments, positive balances, and so on) is also going to be at least somewhat complex too.
But that Activity window? Not necessary for budgeting. If your Credit Card Payment category doesn't match your current balance, look for overspending in the current month. If you don't have any, the mismatch is due to something else—a past positive balance, overspending last month, a balance adjustment, cash back... whatever. It doesn't matter. The solution is always the same: move money into or out of the Credit Card Payment category to make it match.
There are definitely things we could be doing to make those adjustments necessary less often: highlighting overspending that occurs in the previous month after the month has rolled over is probably the most pernicious. And there's probably a case to be made for a "I always pay in full—set me up YNAB 4-style" mode. We're currently doing a lot of work toward better debt management in YNAB, and I hope some of those things will eventually be part of that initiative.
And there's probably a case to be made for a "I always pay in full—set me up YNAB 4-style" mode.
Luckily, that already exists, hidden in plain sight. YNAB calls it a "checking account". 😉I currently have four credit cards masquerading as checking accounts. They work exactly how you describe above. I tried the stock handling for a handful of months but I personally received no value out of it and I had to babysit it and make adjustments every once in a while. I made the switch to checking accounts and I've never looked back. Total bliss.