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How to Manage Your Credit Cards if You’re Disorganized

May 26, 2015
Credit Card Basics, Credit Cards
How to Manage Your Credit Cards if You’re Disorganized
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One of the perks of carrying multiple credit cards is being able to take advantage of different rewards. But if staying organized isn’t your forte, you might be wary about being able to stay on top of payments and when to maximize which rewards. Never fear — the Nerds have some tips to help you get your cards in order so you can make the most of their offerings.

Make your payments on time

If you’re managing multiple credit cards, forgetting to make a payment is a real danger. If this happens, you’ll not only have to pay a late fee, but you’ll also begin incurring interest on the unpaid balance. Use these tips to avoid forgetting your due dates:

Create reminders: Most credit cards offer email or text alerts to help you stay on top of your due dates and keep you apprised of your balances. But if you prefer to keep your inbox level low, you can create your own notification system by setting up a calendar reminder on your phone or computer or making a habit of paying off your balance once a week on the same day.

Set up auto-pay: Credit card issuers usually provide an automatic payment feature to make it easier to pay on time. You can choose to pay the minimum payment, the full statement balance or a fixed amount. The Nerds recommend paying your full statement balance every time. When using auto-pay, keep an eye on your checking account balance. If you don’t have enough cash in checking to cover the automatic payment, you could get hit with an overdraft fee.

Change your due dates: A great way to make sure you pay all your credit cards off on time is to do it all at once. Although credit card issuers aren’t required to change your due date, many are willing to accommodate you if you ask. Some even allow you to choose your due date in your online account. This can also be helpful if your credit card due dates don’t fall in line with your payday or are too close to other big due dates such as rent or your mortgage payment.

Maximize your rewards

If you own more than one rewards credit card, you might find it difficult to keep track of which rewards categories each card offers. To make the most of your perks:

Keep it all in one place: Create a spreadsheet and list the reward categories for each credit card. You can then save the spreadsheet to your phone via Dropbox, Google Drive or Evernote to check before you pay.

Set up your wallet for success: Organize your credit cards by how often you use them. For example, keep the card you use for everyday purchases in your wallet at the top and consider leaving the airline card you use only when booking flights at home.

» MORE: Why nearly every purchase should be on a credit card

Know when to cut back

With the right habits, anyone can learn how to manage multiple credit cards without running into problems. However, it’s important to know when enough is enough. If you start feeling like you’re unable to add another card without losing control, listen to your instinct. No reward program or sign-up bonus is worth being saddled with late fees or credit card debt.

The bottom line: If you do it right, managing multiple credit cards can be a rewarding experience. But before you apply for an extra card, make sure to have a plan to stay organized.

Ben Luthi is a staff writer covering personal finance for NerdWallet. Follow him on Twitter @benluthi and on Google+.

Image via iStock.