How do you keep track of all of your credit card accounts? - Industry Roundup #8
For Issue #8 of the CreditCardReviews.com Credit Card Industry Roundup, the question caters to individuals with multiple credit card accounts and advice on how to manage them when they are across multiple issuers:
How do you keep track of all of your credit card accounts?
This week the group of contributors are Greg Johnson, Gary Leff, Robert Harrow, Dia Adams, Geoff Whitmore, and Debra Schroeder:
Greg Johnson - Personal finance expert and co-owner of Club Thrifty
IWhether you’re new to the points and miles game or you’re an old pro, tracking your credit cards is something you’ll need to do. Personally, we use a very basic spreadsheet to keep track of all our cards. Our sheet lists the name of the card, the date we applied, and the date when the annual fee (if any) comes due. We also track the amount of the annual fee and the date we cancelled the card. At the end of every month, we simply take a peek at the spreadsheet to see which cards we need to cancel and which are available for renewal.
Several different credit cards allow you to earn their signup bonus more than once, but there is usually a waiting period. Having a spreadsheet can help you keep track of which cards you signed up for and when. It’s also advantageous to have a spreadsheet if you have two spouses signing up for the same cards and you want to make sure you don’t get the details confused.
Last but not least, a spreadsheet will help you keep track of annual fees and when they’re due so you can decide whether a card is worth keeping or not. While some cards are worth keeping for the long run, you may want to cancel some after 12 months if you find the long-term benefits aren’t worth it.
Gary Leff - Named one of the world’s top travel specialists by Conde’ Nast Traveler for his service Book Your Award
When I get a new credit card I don’t accept electronic statements. That way I get a physical paper reminder of the card and the bill. I don’t need the reminder, but it’s a good backup until I build a new card and sometimes card issuer into my routine.
Next I make sure that my card is linked to an existing online account. I already have a login for banks like Chase, American Express, and Citibank so if the card is from a bank I already do business with I want to ensure that the new card is alongside my other accounts. That way I’ll see it when logging in, and I don’t need to track additional sign-on credentials.
The great thing about miles and points rewards cards is that when my points balance goes up, I look, and that prompts me that a credit card statement has closed. I log into my miles and points accounts – and many of my credit card accounts – all aggregated in one place at AwardWallet.com which both updates all my balances and can log me into an account with a single click.
Before I was accustomed to lots of cards I used to keep a spreadsheet. It had all the details of the card in a spreadsheet, including how I’d earn a signup bonus and what I was going to use the card for. I have readers who write on the back of their cards with a sharpie “3X dining” or other pertinent information. I just keep all of that in my head these days.
Robert Harrow - Product Manager for the credit cards vertical at Value Penguin
The best tip for managing multiple accounts: don’t sign up for more credit cards than you can handle. At first, this may sound silly to some. Credit cards can be tremendously rewarding if optimized and used well. However, if you have 8 credit cards and only ever use 1 or 2, you’re not actually reaping the full benefit. Worst yet, if any of those cards you’re not using have an annual fee, you may be losing money.
Be honest with yourself—it’s fine to be what’s called a “lazy optimizer.” That means figuring out how many credit cards you can easily track in your head, and not going over that number. This is the methodology I subscribe to. The first step is simple: take some time to figure out which two credit cards fit your lifestyle. Step two: use those cards whenever they’re most efficient or rewarding. For example, I enjoy the Chase Ultimate Rewards program because it allows me to move points around to different hotels and airlines. I got two excellent cards that are part of this rewards program—the Chase Sapphire Reserve and Chase Freedom. I use the Freedom card on any bonus categories where it gives me 5 points per dollar, and the Reserve for all other purchases. It’s that simple, and I still manage to rake in a lot of points at the end of the day.
Your time is valuable. If you’re going to be miserable when spending time in spreadsheets or mobile apps, avoid it. Don’t break a sweat. Managing credit cards shouldn’t feel like a second job.
Dia Adams - Owner of The Deal Mommy, a site dedicated to helping families travel more for less.
I have to confess that my previous lack of organization caused me to pay a late fee on a card I forgot I had utilized. Fortunately, I was able to get it waived, but I learned the lesson: get a handle on those cards!
To solve the problem, I created a very basic google spreadsheet. I note the date of approval, date I need to meet any minimum spend or bonus spend, amount of spend needed, payment closing date, and renewal date.
More importantly, I use the spreadsheet to mark up my calendar. I now have reminders set two weeks before every renewal date in order to make those retention calls. Doing so I just received 5,000 points from Barclay’s with $1,000 spend on the JetBlue card. Considering the card comes with 5,000 points at renewal already, the $95 fee became a no-brainer.
Geoff Whitmore - Personal finance writer and Founder of Wallet Path
I once started a lean software that would help me and others manage their multiple credit card accounts since staying on top of your credit score and credit card accounts is incredibly important. The software had 500+ users, which is a decent amount, but with no way to monetize the software I shut it down because it became too much work to manage. And I was already a little OCD about my credit card payments and accounts, so I was manually checking them anyway. Currently, I manually check all my accounts on the 15th and 30th of every month. I also, make sure I have auto payments on, and I’ll set a Google Calendar reminder when my annual fee is due. At that point, I can decide if I should pay the annual fee, downgrade the card to a no annual fee product, try for a retention bonus, or cancel.
Debra Schroeder - Writer specializing in the intersection of travel and personal finance. Founder of Traveling Well For Less
I keep track of all my credit card accounts on a detailed multi-column spreadsheet. Rather than list the cards by alphabetical order, they're listed in order of statement close date. This allows me to quickly determine which credit card to use depending on my needs and has a side benefit of keeping my credit score at 850.
If I want a charge to post soon to meet the minimum spending requirement on a new card or cards or some other bonus offer, I pick the card with an upcoming statement close date so that the purchase posts immediately vs in 30 days.
But if I want more time to float money before the bill is due, I choose a card with a recent statement close date. This gives me extra time before having to pay the bill. This is a great tactic if you make several large purchases each month.
When combined with paying your bill early you can keep your credit utilization ratio less than 10% which keeps your credit score high.
Additionally, keeping detailed records keeps me organized so there's never a missed or late payment. I pay all my balances in full each month. For someone who carries a balance each month, using a similar spreadsheet and knowing which credit card to use to extend their credit will help reduce interest charges.