Average Outstanding Balance

What Is Average Outstanding Balance?

An average outstanding balance is the unpaid, interest-bearing balance of a loan or loan portfolio averaged over a period of time, usually one month. The average outstanding balance can refer to any term, installment, revolving, or credit card debt on which interest is charged. It may also be an average measure of a borrower’s total outstanding balances over a period of time.

Average outstanding balance can be contrasted with average collected balance, which is that part of the loan that has been repaid over the same period.

Key Takeaways

  • The average outstanding balance refers to the unpaid portion of any term, installment, revolving, or credit card debt on which interest is charged over some period of time.
  • Interest on revolving loans may be assessed based on an average balance method.
  • Outstanding balances are reported by credit card companies to consumer credit bureaus each month for use in credit scoring and credit underwriting.
  • Average outstanding balances can be calculated based on daily, monthly, or some other time frame.
  • Large outstanding balances can be an indicator of financial trouble for both lenders and borrowers.

Understanding Average Outstanding Balance

Average outstanding balances can be important for several reasons. Lenders often have a portfolio of many loans, which need to be assessed in aggregate in terms of risk and profitability. Banks use the average outstanding balance to determine the amount of interest they pay each month to their account holders or charge to their borrowers. If a bank has a large outstanding balance on its lending portfolio it could indicate that they are having trouble collecting on their loans and may be a signal for future financial stress.

Many credit card companies also use an average daily outstanding balance method for calculating interest applied to a revolving credit loan, particularly credit cards. Credit card users accumulate outstanding balances as they make purchases throughout the month. An average daily balance method allows a credit card company to charge slightly higher interest that takes into consideration a cardholder’s balances throughout the past days in a period and not just at the closing date.

For borrowers, credit rating agencies will review a consumer’s outstanding balances on their credit cards as part of determining a FICO credit score. Borrowers should show restraint by keeping their credit card balances well below their limits. Maxing out credit cards, paying late, and applying for new credit increases one's outstanding balances and can lower FICO scores.

Interest on Average Outstanding Balances 

With average daily outstanding balance calculations, the creditor may take an average of the balances over the past 30 days and assess interest on a daily basis. Commonly, average daily balance interest is a product of the average daily balances over a statement cycle with interest assessed on a cumulative daily basis at the end of the period.

Regardless, the daily periodic rate is the annual percentage rate (APR) divided by 365. If interest is assessed cumulatively at the end of a cycle, it would only be assessed based on the number of days in that cycle.

Other average methodologies also exist. For example, a simple average may be used between a beginning and ending date by dividing the beginning balance plus the ending balance by two and then assessing interest based on a monthly rate.

Credit cards will provide their interest methodology in the cardholder agreement. Some companies may provide details on interest calculations and average balances in their monthly statements.

Because the outstanding balance is an average, the period of time over which the average is computed will affect the balance amount.

Consumer Credit

Outstanding balances are reported by credit providers to credit reporting agencies each month. Credit issuers typically report a borrower’s total outstanding balance at the time the report is provided. Some credit issuers may report outstanding balances at the time a statement is issued while others choose to report data on a specific day each month. Balances are reported on all types of revolving and non-revolving debt. With outstanding balances, credit issuers also report delinquent payments beginning at 60 days past due.

Timeliness of payments and outstanding balances are the top factors that affect a borrower’s credit score. Experts say borrowers should strive to keep their total outstanding balances below 30%. Borrowers using more than 30% of total available debt outstanding can easily improve their credit score from month to month by making larger payments that reduce their total outstanding balance.

When the total outstanding balance decreases, a borrower’s credit score improves. Timeliness, however, is not as easy to improve since delinquent payments are a factor that can remain on a credit report for seven years.

Average balances are not always a part of credit scoring methodologies. However, if a borrower’s balances are drastically changing over a short period of time due to debt repayment or debt accumulation, there will typically be a lag in total outstanding balance reporting to the credit bureau’s which can make tracking and assessing real-time outstanding balances difficult.

Calculating Average Outstanding Balance

Lenders typically calculate interest on revolving credit, such as credit cardsor lines of credit, using an average of daily outstanding balances. The bank adds all the daily outstanding balances in the period (usually a month) and divides this sum by the number of days in the period. The result is the average outstanding balance for the period.

For loans that are paid monthly, such as mortgages, a lender may instead take the arithmetic mean of the starting and ending balance for a statement cycle. For instance, say a home borrower has a mortgage balance of $100,000 at the start of the month and makes a payment on the 30th of the same month, reducing the outstanding principal amount to $99,000. The average outstanding balance for the loan over that period would be ($100,000-99,000)/2 = $99,500.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is an outstanding balance?

An outstanding balance is the total amount still owed on a loan.

What is an outstanding principal balance?

This is the amount of a loan's principal amount (i.e. the dollar amount initially loaned) that is still due, and does not take into account the interest or any fees that are owed on the loan.

Where can I find my outstanding balance?

Borrowers can find this information on their regular bank or loan statements. They can also usually be pulled up from a lender's website for viewing at any time.

What is the difference between outstanding balance and remaining balance?

Outstanding balance refers to the amount still owed on a loan from the perspective of a borrower or lender. Remaining balance instead refers to how much money remains in an account after spending or a withdrawal, from the perspective of a saver or savings bank.

What percentage of an outstanding balance is a minimum payment?

Some lenders charge a fixed percentage, such a 2.5%. Others will charge a flat fee plus a fixed percentage, such as $20 + 1.75% of the outstanding balance as the minimum payment due. Penalty fees like late fees, as well as past due amounts, will typically be added to the calculation. This would increase your minimum payment significantly.