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.

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  • The most beneficial part of this screen is that budgeted spending and total spending should match if you are a paid in full user....

    Did you take on debt when you bought the TV?

    Like
    • satcook I believe overspending is better reflected by a difference in the top row ("Spending" and "Budgeted Spending"). 

      Like
      • satcook
      • satcook
      • 3 wk ago
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      • Reported - view

      dakinemaui Probably.  I was trying to point out the major problems in the second screenshot where the OP spent $1872,44 and only 73,44 was budgeted.....

      Like 1
    • satcook Exactly so isn't it quite strange and not very good UI at all that the two relevant numbers (when combined) are the bottom line of one column, and the first row of another column? If it was the difference of the two bottom line numbers, sure, or even better, if the calculation was done for the user in the interface, even better. But currently, seems like a mess. I think a significant portion of the users won't have the inclination and/or patience to sit down and figure out which numbers matters how the way you and I did.

      Regarding the TV, yes I did, for a single month to see how it would play out with the credit card debt feature. Did not get any wiser.

      Like
    • dakinemaui I agree with satcook that it's about Total Spending and Budgeted Spending. If you only take Spending, you don't take returns into account, and why wouldn't you?

      Like
    • Gandalf Saxe Because the other side of your comparison (Budgeted Spending) does not include returns.

      Like
  • 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.

    Like 1
      • Moohouse
      • Software developer
      • Moohouse
      • 3 wk ago
      • 2
      • Reported - view

      dakinemaui My Quality of Life meter definitely improved since replacing my "credit card" accounts with checking accounts. 👍

      And it keeps improving every time I get a direct refund to a credit card - which has happened a lot this year due to the pandemic. 😥

      Like 2
    • dakinemaui Reliable way to detect CC-based overspending, how? The only thing I've found useful it to look at the difference of the absolute values of Total Spending and Budgeted Spending, but that is not laid out in a form that is intuitive at all.

      I can buy that this is an improvement over an older system if that system was the same but with less explicit info. I just think there is a lot of room for improvement still.

      Like
    • dakinemaui Btw is there a reliable way to convert a Credit Card history into a normal account type or is the only safest thing to do to simply stop using it and make a new account (be it checking or tracking liability).

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    • Gandalf Saxe Compare the top row: Spending and Budgeted Spending.

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    • dakinemaui If I get a refund for something, shouldn't that count against overspending, i.e. non-budgeted spending? Why would you use that instead of Total Spending?

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      • nolesrule
      • YNAB4 Evangelist
      • nolesrule
      • 3 wk ago
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      Gandalf Saxe 

      Gandalf Saxe said:
      If I get a refund for something, shouldn't that count against overspending, i.e. non-budgeted spending?

       Not if the refund was in a category that was not overspent.

      Like 1
    • nolesrule If that is indeed the case then it’s even worse. Then you have an if statement where are you need to consider whether it was an overspend category or not.

       

      I guess it then also depends on whether you categorize it as income or back to the category where it came from? Again, it doesn’t make the situation better but worse.

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      • nolesrule
      • YNAB4 Evangelist
      • nolesrule
      • 3 wk ago
      • Reported - view

      Gandalf Saxe 

      Gandalf Saxe said:
      Then you have an if statement where are you need to consider whether it was an overspend category or not.

       But that's exactly how the CC payment category works. It moves money spent on budgeted purchases into the CC payment category. A refund moves the budgeted funds back to the spending category.

      A refund to one category does not affect overspending that happened in another category.

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  • I always put my refunds or cash back redemptions from my cc into To Be Budgeted - should it go into another category?

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      • jenmas
      • jenmas
      • 3 wk ago
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      Pink Wildebeest Cash Back is new money entering your budget so it makes sense for it to go to TBB. I always put returns back into the original category because if I return a pair of shoes, then no I did not spend $100 from the clothing category and my budget should reflect that.

      Like 2
  • 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.

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  • 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.

    Like 2
    • Matthew Just to let you know, it was YNAB's handling of credit cards that helped me understand how they worked (and nolesrule asking me why I was paying to $0 finished that education course).

      Sure, there are things that can be improved for PIF or even regular terminology in the UI, but I had already read the terms/conditions of the card, asked representatives, and was still unsure of a few of the mechanics. With YNAB the software, I could at least rest assured that I had these specific dollars ready to pay for these specific purchases. I don't remember if I had a learning curve, but when I figured out the software, I thought it was brilliantly eye-opening in my situation.

      And that activity box made more sense when I was paying to $0, I think. Now that I'm paying statement balances, I never look at it. 

      The CC handling's not all bad... 

      Like
    • Move Light Sound Life Completely agree! I'm talking about rounding off some edges, really.

      Like 1
      • nolesrule
      • YNAB4 Evangelist
      • nolesrule
      • 3 wk ago
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      Move Light Sound Life 

      Move Light Sound Life said:
      and nolesrule asking me why I was paying to $0 finished that education course

       I ask everyone paying to $0 that question. Not everyone appreciates it, because my style is rather brusk. Glad it helped get the gears churning, because that's my intention.

      Like 1
    • nolesrule At the time, your grey text said you were from a state known for such mannerisms. 😄 I carry grains of salt and I like to learn. 

      But really, why couldn't the representative explain it that way? Maybe they didn't know or care, or I suppose if I tell them I'm not going to pay interest, they'd rather have my money earlier than later....

      Thanks, though!

      Like 1
  • Matthew said:
    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.

    Like
    • Superbone In fairness, I don't think the average new user understands the difference. More than half (my subjective estimate) of the users who believe themselves to be PIF are really riding the CC float. Setting them up off the bat as PIF would be an extreme shock. Arguably, not a bad thing, but probably bad for business.

      Like 1
      • Superbone
      • YNAB convert since 2008
      • Superbone
      • 3 wk ago
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      • Reported - view

      dakinemaui Of course. To Matthew's point, they would make it an actual known feature of the software and to explain such things and onboard them correctly. Maybe even have a built in process to convert PIF CC user accounts to checking accounts. In that case, it's easy to see if the payment balance matches the credit card balance prior to conversion.

      Like 2
      • Superbone
      • YNAB convert since 2008
      • Superbone
      • 3 wk ago
      • 1
      • Reported - view

      dakinemaui But to your point, yes, it is currently left as an exercise to experienced YNAB users that know what they're doing. My point is that the feature is already there. You just have to know how to do it.

      Like 1
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