Credit cards can offer such a delightful array of perks, rewards and low interest rates. Alas, they don’t come with the organizational skills sometimes necessary to keep track of those benefits. So NerdWallet is here to help.
If you are a savvy credit card user and have multiple cards with different benefits, there are various ways to organize. Here are a few tips for keeping track of your perks as well as your payments.
Get the same payment date
First, call each credit card company and request the same payment date for all your cards, assuming your cash flow can handle this arrangement. That way, whatever card you use, you’ll know when payment is due.
If you have multiple credit cards, you needn’t carry them all with you wherever you go. Chances are, you are accumulating points or rewards or low interest on three or four cards at most. Place those cards in your wallet in a specific order, with the one you use most often in front.
Store the rest in folders or hanging files in a file cabinet, one card per folder (make a folder for each of the cards you carry in your wallet as well). Label each clearly; when you get a new statement, make your payment, write “PAID” and the date and amount on the statement, and add it to the front of the file. At the end of the year, consider moving the year’s worth of statements into a 9×12 manila folder, labeled with the card name and time period covered; this will be handy if you’re ever audited by the IRS.
If you don’t happen to be using a card at any given time, just drop it into its file, where it can take a nap.
Chart by rewards
Microsoft Excel is a useful tool for creating a spreadsheet to track all your cards. One method: a chart organized by reward type and value. Let’s say you have cards for all of the following, as a friend of mine does: American Airlines, United Airlines, Starwood Hotels, Hilton Hotels and U.S. Bank FlexPerks.
Create a chart with the name of the card in the left hand column; its credit limit in the next column; the current balance in the next (update this every Friday night); the reward you are earning in the next column, and perhaps the next reward goal you are aiming for. It’s also handy to add one last column with a hyperlink to your payment webpage.
Order the cards from top to bottom based on which card(s) you are collecting rewards on. If you are taking advantage of an introductory offer that requires you to spend a certain amount in a certain period of time, add another column that shows how much you still need to spend (again, update this each Friday) and the deadline. Highlight these rows with a color so they stand out.
Chart by interest rate
If you are carrying balances or have several cards with low-interest introductory offers that you’re using at the same time, create your spreadsheet like so: Name of the card in the left column, followed by columns noting the credit limit, the current balance (update on Friday), the interest rate, and any expiration date for that interest rate.
Order these from top to bottom with the most expensive cards — that is, the ones with the highest interest rates — first. You want those to catch your attention so you pay them off first.
Chart by purchase type
Many cards offer cash-back or bonus points based on what you use the card for. For instance, some offer double points on groceries. For these, use the same method you would to chart by rewards; but add several subheads or color-code the rows based on what bonus you are earning.
Credit card image via Shutterstock.