Managing credit cards can be hard.
Trust me, I know. After accumulating over 50 credit cards - with 15 open at any given time - managing multiple credit cards was a part time job for me at one point. Through this experience, I have learned two tricks that help far more than anything else I do.
Note that downloading the CardTracker is free and does not generate revenue for TFG.
The first trick is with Microsoft Excel and something I use every time I apply for a credit card. It takes a minute to fill out and saves you a great deal of time in the long run.
This is the TFG CardTracker, which you can download for free. I built this tool to keep track of valuable card data and refined it for over a year. The final product captures all the data you'll need in the future - and a little more for fun.
I can't stress enough how much easier managing multiple credit cards is with a tool like this. I offer two examples to help explain why:
- Banks require time to pass between card applications, either for the same product (e.g. two Chase United personal cards) or different products at the same bank (e.g. one Citi AA card and one Citi Hilton card). Having your application date and, if applicable, closure date means you can quickly see which cards you are eligible for and which cards to avoid.
- Frequent flyer numbers are needed for a lot of things: logging in to websites, applying for award cards, booking tickets online, etc. But, for security purposes, airlines and hotels don't always include the number in emails to you, the customer. Every time I am booking tickets or speaking with a representative, I have the CardTracker open with all of my frequent flyer numbers in one place. This saves time having to sift through emails looking for the right number.
That is only two specific benefits. The truth is I am continually opening the tool to check my information - whether for personal use, like how many miles I've earned, or to make sure my next card application is valid.
I even added a "trip" section to keep track of all the money you are saving by using miles. I find it helpful in discussing the benefits with friends, family and readers.
I mentioned that I will have 15 cards or so open at any given time. Even as somewhat of a control freak with my banking - I'm constantly checking my accounts for fraud, if refunds posted, etc. - 15 cards is just too many to manage.
Which is why I strongly recommend signing up for email and/or text alerts for all of your card accounts. As a best practice, I make sure to check "paperless" banking and set "transaction alerts" when activating a card.
The result is custom emails every time one of your credit cards is used over a set amount, usually as low as $10 or $20. This takes all of the uncertainty out of the equation, a big positive for those - like me - who would worry with so many accounts.
For example, recurring charges I have forgotten about sometimes hit old cards of mine. By receiving the email, I am able to either pay off the exact amount, refute the charge as fraud and cancel the card, or cancel the subscription service that made a valid charge (usually resulting in a refund).