How to Use Power BI KPI Cards

Power BI KPI Cards are a powerful visualization option for building reports. We’ll explain how to setup KPI cards, highlight common use cases, and explain the difference between the standard card visual and KPI visuals.

Use the KPI card visualization in Power BI to highlight changes in metrics over time vs a card visual for simple calculations.

Presenting Key Performance Indicators or a KPI is a foundational concept of creating reporting dashboards. They are the core component of creating reports that are quick to understand. More importantly, KPIs can be much more actionable bites of information compared to overloading managers and business users with spreadsheets full of entire financial statements and pages of numbers to sift through.

Let’s take a look at using the KPI card in Power BI!

What is a Key Performance Indicator?

A Key Performance Indicator, commonly abbreviated “KPI” is a measurable value that shows how well a business is achieving key business objectives. Businesses will use KPIs to break down complex operations into smaller bite size metrics that can be tracked over time. KPIs help managers make more informed decisions and monitor performance over time.

KPIs typically vary by industry and individual business, but some common ones that we find most often include the following.

  • Change in Sales
  • Gross Margin
  • Customer Satisfaction Scores
  • Inventory Turnover
  • Return on Investment

As you can see there is quite a range of different business topics a KPI can cover, but there is some commonality between these metrics to keep in mind for setting up a KPI visual in Power BI.

1.) A KPI is a measurement taken over time.

2.) A KPI will compare actual results against a budget, or prior period result.

We’ll keep these two commonalities in mind as we setup the visual in Power BI.

What are KPI Cards in Power BI

The KPI Card in Power BI is purpose built to present Key Performance Indicators. It has unique capabilities to present actual results compared to a goal or budget, auto-calculates a percentage change, and accompanies the information with a graph of performance over time. A KPI visual can present a large amount of information in a single visual.

Example of the different components of the Power BI KPI visual

Because the KPI card includes several built-in calculations, the setup of it requires three different components.

  • Actual Results
  • A Target or Budget to Compare Against
  • A Date to present time-series change

KPI Cards are a powerful visualization to show a lot of information at a time. Compared to a card visual they can be much more impactful.

The Difference Between the KPI and Card Visual in Power BI

The KPI visual is purpose built to track the performance of a metric against a target along with highlighting performance over time, and scale of the variance as a percentage. A Card visual is more simplistic and displays a single number or value.

This is not to say that there is not a place for both visualizations in a report. The screenshot below is of a card visual highlighting the difference between actual vs. budget. The amount of change is the same as our previous KPI example, but only shows a single value and does not give a context of scale or trend over time.

Example of a card visual for comparison against a KPI visual

There is certainly a place for both visualizations in dashboards. Microsoft recently updated the Card Visual to include new advanced formatting options that extend the possibilities of how to integrate it into your reports.

When to use a KPI vs a Card Visual

Power BI developers should utilize KPIs over Card visualizations for performance tracking over time. The following chart highlights some of the considerations that you should consider when determining which visual to use. Not all datasets will have the required information available to appropriately utilize a KPI visual.

KPI VisualCard Visual
PurposePerformance TrackingSummary Information
Trend AnalysisRequiredNot Required
Target or Budget AvailabilityAvailableNot Available
Update FrequencyFrequent Updates or Live Data Infrequent

When adding either visual to a Power BI dashboard, it’s important to keep the end-user in mind. Some users will prefer having single simple metrics presented to them, while others may appreciate the data density and context of a KPI visual.

How to Use KPI Cards in Power BI

To setup a KPI card in Power BI, click on the KPI card from the Visualizations Panel. Users will be presented with a Value, Trend Axis, and Target Field to add fields to. These fields correspond to the actual results, the target or budget for comparison against actual, and a trend axis to present the comparison over time.

These are the steps to setup a KPI visual

Step 1.) Setup the Power BI data model for easy comparisons of actual results to target results.

Because Power BI will want to compare actuals against a target value over time, it’s best to setup the incoming data to be presented in a way that can easily be compared. In our example dataset, we have a column for dates, and a column for actuals and budget. Each budgeted and actual value corresponds to a date.

Setup a Power BI data model for time series comparison when using a KPI visual

While this exact setup isn’t always possible, you should at least try to match actual results with a target amount. For example, monthly target values should correspond to monthly actuals.

Step 2.) Insert the KPI card from the Visualizations panel on the right side of the Report View screen. A new blank visual will appear.

Screenshot of how to add a KPI visual to a report in Power BI

Step 3.) Assign fields to the new visualization. Here is a quick breakdown of what each one of these fields does.

  • Value – Actual or current results presented as a value.
  • Trend Axis – This is the date field used to compare KPI performance over time.
  • Target – Target or budgeted results that the actual value is being compared against.
KPI visuals include 3 components, a value, trend axis, and target value

The following screenshot shows what the visual looks like with fields assigned to it, and some simple formatting changes.

Example of a KPI card with fields assigned to it.

In our example, we assign sales, budget, and date. The date field that we added is setup to only show a daily comparison, but try different views. It can be setup to show days, months, years or become a drillable date hierarchy.

The visual presents a daily sales goal of $14,400 against actual results of $10,200 representing a failure to reach the daily sales goal by 29.27%.

The chart behind it shows the actual daily sales trend over each day of the month.

Example of a KPI card in Power BI without a target value assigned to it

We think the chart portion of the KPI card is one of the most confusing, because it does not actually represent a comparison against a target value. Another way to look at this is with the target value removed. The chart behind the actual and target values does not change, but the conditional formatting is removed.

KPI Card Formatting Options in Power BI

To customize a KPI visual, navigate to the Format Your Visual options on the Visualization Panel of Power BI. These settings allow you to choose which components are presented and lets you adjust the graph, and conditional formatting for coloring.

Callout Values

The callout value options refer to the large numbers in the middle of a KPI card. These are the actual results that you are comparing against a goal or target value that is assigned and presented below the actuals. Formatting options are fairly standard and include things such as alignment, font size, and decimal places.

Modifying the alignment will adjust not only the callout value, but the target value as well to prevent them from becoming misaligned.

KPI Card callout value settings


Icon settings for the KPI visual are a bit disappointing. You can adjust the size of the standard icon, but you cannot adjust the actual icon. This limits it to an exclamation point or a check mark. We wish Microsoft included an option to include arrows up down or different comparative icons.

KPI Card Icon Settings

Trend Axis

Trend axis settings allow you change a KPI comparison from High is Good to Low is Good. You can also adjust the color scale of good to bad in these settings.

KPI Card Trend Axis Settings include conditional formatting and direct of high is good or low is good

Disable the Trend Axis under the KPI visual formatting options to disable the graph that appears behind the KPI actual and target results.

KPI Card visual with a the background trend graph disabled

Target Label

Target label options are similar to callout values, but only impacts the target or budget numbers that appear below the actual results.


The date portion of a KPI visual is disabled by default but can be enabled to highlight the specific comparison date that is being presented. We prefer to enable this if there is not another location in the Power BI dashboard that lets readers know when a report was last updated or if there is a specific as of date being presented.

The following video highlights some additional features and customizations that can be done with card visuals to create a more custom KPI experience for your readers.

Power BI KPI Card Tips & Tricks

The biggest challenge with using the KPI card appropriately in Power BI is setting up appropriate measures and understanding how interactions with dates work. These tips will make it easier to setup a KPI card.

Dates matter

When setting up a KPI card, ensure that the date field being used matches the time comparison that you wish to achieve. If you want to compare today’s sales against prior day sales, data must be at the individual day level. If you wish to present a year over year or month over month the data must be available in a way that can be aggregated in Power BI.

For example, the following screenshot attempts to present current month sales data compared against prior month data when it does not exist within the dataset.

Example of a KPI card error when no comparison data is available

Power BI is only able to present the data that it has available. So it will show actual results, and the prior period values look like an error and the conditional formatting does not make sense.

Rather than presenting with a Can’t Display the Visual Error, it looks like the visualization isn’t working as intended, but is typically fixed by adjusting the data model or a measure.

Use Custom Measures for Date Comparisons

The KPI visual in Power BI does not require users to specifically have a budget or target column in a data model. You can create custom comparison periods using DAX expressions and assign them to the visualization target. This technique is especially useful for creating comparisons that are year over year, month over month, or against previous day.

DAX measures are calculated as needed. This guide explains in detail how Power BI uses Power Query and DAX different for calculations. Knowing the difference can be a big time saver.

Creating Date Comparisons in DAX

Measures to calculate prior period totals can be completed using the following DAX formula template. In this example, we calculate the sales for the previous day using the PREVIOUSDAY formula.

Cookie Sales is the name of our table, Actual Sales is the field name of values, and Date is our date column.

Prior Day Sales = 
    SUM('Cookie Sales'[Actual Sales]),
    ALL('Cookie Sales'), 
    PREVIOUSDAY('Cookie Sales'[Date])

A quick breakdown of the parts of the DAX formula are as follows:

  • CALCULATE – Tells Power BI to ignore any slicers or filters that are already on the page.
  • SUM – Assigns an aggregation method for the calculation.
  • ALL – Tells Power BI which filters on the page to ignore. We’re telling it to ignore all of them.
  • PREVOIUSDAY – This is the new filter for the measure, we are telling Power BI to filter on previous day sales.

Other common filters are PREVIOUSMONTH or SAMEPERIODLASTYEAR. They can also be setup using Power BI Quick Measures.


The KPI Card in Power BI is a data dense visualization that can provide dashboard viewers with a quick summary of how a company is trending against important metrics. It far exceeds the capabilities of the card visualization but may not be appropriate in all use cases. Prior to presenting a KPI, it’s important to talk with stakeholders and business users to understand what is most important for their job role and what they need to best run their business.

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