How to Keep Track of Multiple Credit Cards Credit cards can be the best tool to help you rank up your credit, earn rewards, and increase spending power. If you have multiple credit card accounts, you can get...

By Chaim Geller

entrepreneur daily

This story originally appeared on Due

Credit cards can be the best tool to help you rank up your credit, earn rewards, and increase spending power. If you have multiple credit card accounts, you can get even more credit, rewards, and spending power.

Many people, in fact, do have multiple credit cards. According to a statistic by Fortune.com, an average American consumer has 3.84 credit cards.

But having too many credit cards can often be too much to juggle. It can lead you to lose track of some of your credit cards which can be a devastating mistake. You may have a bulging wallet filled with credit cards and be happy. But if you don't know when the card fees are due on each one, that wallet and its plastic contents are almost worthless. It can even be detrimental to your credit. It can cause you to miss payments on credit cards. Also, you may simply lose track of the benefits the cards have to offer. Many cards have high annual fees but the benefits on the card counteract the high fee. However, if you lose track of the benefits then you will have to pay a high annual fee and you won't even reap the benefits.

You want to access the complete realm of benefits that credit cards have to offer. Therefore, you will need to keep track of your cards in an organized fashion. In this post, we'll explore various ways to keep track of multiple credit cards.

Let's first double-click on why it's crucial to keep track of your cards.

Paying Your Credit Card Balances Timely

Why is it detrimental to your credit if your credit cards are a mess, you ask? Each credit card you have is unique in many aspects.

Firstly, in regards to when the card statement must be paid up. No two cards will necessarily have the same payment due date. So let's say you have three credit cards. You need to pay one of them on the 1st of the month. The next card you have to pay on the 13th of the month. And the last one you must pay each 22nd of the month.

So three days out of every month, there are three super important payments you cannot forget to make to each credit card bill.

The Perfect Time to Pay Your Bill

To add to that, there's that perfect time to pay a credit card bill. It is best to pay a card balance after the card statement prints each month. That makes it clear to the credit bureaus that your card is active and being used. If your card has no balance for a few months, it is seen as inactive by the scoring models. At that point, the will no longer help your credit scores.

But you still must make a payment before it is due. Otherwise, you risk missing the due date. Once you miss the due date, the payment is considered late and the credit bureaus mark your account in red. Red marks, or delinquencies in its more common term, have a negative impact on your credit. Paying a balance 30 days after the due date is not as bad as paying it 60 days late. It's also better than not paying at all. But even a few days late is not so good. Why mess up a clean credit report at all if the credit bureaus see that negatively? Especially if your credit score can drop because of it.

See why making timely payments is critical?

How you can Get Sidetracked

I assume sitting and making credit card payments is not the only thing going on in your life. You are juggling a bunch of other financial things. Plus personal matters, family goings-on, work, and events. Also everything you most probably have to add to your list.

A credit card bill can so easily flip off your mind. It can fall to the bottom of the list of things to take care of. Especially if all you could think about on a given 13th of the month is making it to the dentist on time. That's why, if you have multiple credit cards, you need a strategy of how to keep track of your cards. Will get to explore some great ideas soon.

Paying the Card's Annual Fee

We talked about paying a credit card bill timely. On top of that, many credit cards have an annual fee. An annual fee is a fee that a cardholder has to pay. It is usually a lump sum once a year. You need to pay the fee in order to remain a member of the card.

The fee usually automatically gets added to the credit card balance. That is how you pay it up. If you end up missing a credit card payment because you weren't keeping track of your cards, the annual fee due on your card that is included in your balance does not get paid either. That means you haven't paid the fee for the card. Your card won't get closed down if you don't pay the fee. But, your credit can definitely be marked with a delinquency if you miss the card due date due to negligence. Or being unable to keep track of when a payment is due.

The only way of being in control of the multiple dates and amounts that your cards balance come along with, is by constructing an organized manner in which to keep track of your credit cards.

Managing your credit cards well will ensure that you make your payments on time. Then, your credit score won't take a dip for the bad due to delinquent marks. Those marks come from missing credit card payments.

If you are diligent about paying your bills timely then your credit score can reach great heights. Tempted to start taking care of being organized?

Maximizing Rewards

Another aspect you would lose out on if your credit cards are out of hand, is on card rewards. Many cards have amazing reward structures and earn points on many categorized purchases such as travel, dining, groceries, gas, shopping, and more.

A card that earns 3% cashback at gas stations is best to use when you fill up your tank.

Knowing how to use Your Cards

In order to earn the cashback, you have to actually pay for the gas with the card. But if you've got no clue that you can earn cashback when you use the card for gas, you'll be missing out on those rewards. If you are oblivious to which rewards your card earns and which card to swipe for each purchase you make, you gain nothing from the card rewards. Which is a shame.

However, imagine having a clear list of the credit cards you own and the amount of reward points you earn in each category. So you clearly see that Card A earns 5 points on every dollar used at groceries and 3 points on every dollar used at restaurants. You would simply go ahead and take Card A out to swipe when you go get your weekly groceries, right? And you would know to use the same card when you generously offer to foot the bill of your friends birthday bash held at their favorite dine-out, correct?

Where it Gets Confusing

How about when you book a flight to Hawaii? Would you remember off-hand to use your Hawaiian Airlines Mastercard to make the reservations? You would get 3 points for every dollar paid for the flight. Or would you by default, mistakenly use your luxury travel card, the Chase Sapphire Preferred? You would only earn 2 points on travel.

However, it would be smart to use your Chase Sapphire Preferred card for the Hawaiian ticket if you were to book your flight through Chase Travel. Then you would earn 5 points with the Sapphire Preferred card.

Do you get the gist of how many details are involved? The rewards structure is intricate and there is a lot to remember. Your rewards bank can become bigger once you know which specific card to use for every purchase you make.

That is part of keeping track of your cards.

Reaping Card Benefits

Many credit cards also have benefits which may enhance your traveling experience. This includes auto rental insurance, lost luggage reimbursement, no foreign transaction fees, and more. There are also benefits that come in handy when shopping. Purchase protection, extended warranty, and price protection, are some examples.

These benefits are nice and you want to get all this glee when you can. It takes some forethought to be in the know about what benefits your cards have in order to gain. Because for many benefits, you need to put the charges on the card in order to later gain from it.

Let's say you want to rely on your card's auto rental insurance coverage on your next outing in a rented Kia. You will need to use that credit card when you reserve the car for your upcoming trip. If you use a different card to reserve, you will not be able to get the coverage from the first card.

So it's super important to know what benefits each card holds. In this way, you utilize them appropriately and when necessary. Particularly given that each card has such clear terms, it is imperative that you understand them all. Then you can use each card's benefits and coverages to their fullest potential.

Earning Welcome Bonuses

Here's yet another reason to keep track of your cards.

Banks attract consumers to credit cards by offering credit card welcome offers. With the offers, you can earn bonus points by completing certain requirements. Most welcome bonus requirements include spending a certain amount of money within a given set of time.

A sample of an offer can be earning 50,000 points after you spend $3,000 within the first 3 months of account opening.

Don't Lose Track of the Spending Requirements

You need to meet the spending requirements to earn the welcome bonus. So you have to track when you opened your card so that you know how much time you have left. You have to spend the full amount of money within the given time. The $3,000 spent within the first three months part of the offer (of the example mentioned above) is very important to earning the bonus. If you don't spend the required amount within the required time, you will not earn the bonus

This can get confusing and you can easily lose track of how much you already spent towards the welcome offer. You also might lose track of how much time you have left to spend.

Also, often, you anyways spend the amounts of money needed to earn the bonus points. However, if you miss the deadline by a day, you lose out on earning the bonus.

So take that, and all of the other reasons we mentioned above, into account. Can you see why it's so necessary to keep track of your credit cards?

Nonetheless, it's confusing, time-consuming, and tedious, to manage a credit card. Let alone multiple cards.

But I'm here to tell you that being in control of your credit cards can be simple.

Here are four ways you can keep track of multiple credit cards. You won't believe how seamless paying bills and earning rewards can be.

Option 1 – Use an Excel Spreadsheet

This is the simplest way to keep track of your credit cards. It's old fashioned at its best!

What you would do is create your personal Excel sheet. You can fill in the general details as shown in the above sample, including the credit card name, the due date for the monthly statement, the annual fee amount, and the annual fee due date.

Keep this sheet handy. You can check it once a week to look out for upcoming due dates so that you know upfront what bill is coming up. If you notice there's a due date in the coming week you'll be ready to pay on time and not get hit with a late payment out of the blue for sheer lack of forgetting to pay.

This sheet is an excellent and neat method to clearly keep track of all your credit cards and upcoming payments.

As you open more cards, keep adding them to your spreadsheet so that nothing falls through the cracks.

More Options to Customize Your Sheet

You can even add a column where you check off once you pay a monthly/annual fee or statement. However, you would have to uncheck it though once a new cycle or new month comes and you need to make a payment once more.

You can, if you'd like, add notes for yourself alongside each card row, to nickname the cards. You can nickname cards based on their features. If you label a card as a luxury travel card then you will know to look through its rewards and benefits before you travel to see how you can maximize the card. And if another card is labeled a great cashback card then you will definitely be on the lookout for stores where you can use the card and earn a lot of cashback.

Pros: This method of using an Excel sheet is good for various reasons.

  • It's clear
  • Very simple to set up
  • Handy, you can store it in Google Drive, download it on your phone, or even print
  • So easy to personalize.

Cons:

  • You need to actually fill out the details and keep updating it if anything changes. So you have to be able to trust yourself not to forget any important facts about the cards you own. And you have to make sure not to get lazy about updating the sheet.

Option 2 – Designate a Time to Make Payments

Another really great way of keeping track of multiple credit cards without missing payment due dates, is to set aside a designated day in the month when you make all your credit card payments.

Let's say, on the 1st of the month, or every 15th of the month, you designate the morning or evening to go through all your credit card statements and pay them.

How it Works to Have one Day a Month to Pay Your Bills

You may be surprised that you can choose just one day a month to pay all your bills, after we've mentioned earlier how due dates are crucial to ensuring you pay your cards timely. But don't forget that we said there's a period of time each card cycle that is a good time to pay a card balance; between the time after the statement prints and before the due date. So given that info, you can find one day a month that coincides with all of your credit cards' best payment dates.

Having a designated day and time to make payments will ensure that you don't forget to pay your credit cards. It'll become ingrained in your mind that at so-and-so time you take care of it.

Make sure that the time you choose is convenient for you so that it remains a long term plan. If the time is inconvenient and a hassle, you'll just procrastinate and it may cause you to miss payments.

Pros:

  • This method does not require you to do much which may make it more attainable for you.
  • You can choose a payment date based on when you know you have the most funds available.

Cons:

  • You are the one who has to sit and calculate what you have to pay and what the due dates are.
  • There can be circumstances that leave you no choice but to push off payment time, such as a sick day, and then you forget to pay the bills.
  • If you get a new credit card, there is nothing to remind you that you have a new card to pay

Option 3 – Set up Automatic Payments

A very obvious and straightforward method of keeping track of multiple cards while making timely payments is to set up automatic payments for your credit cards. If you have automatic payments then you will not even have to remember to pay the balance. The payment will be made automatically.

Once you set up autopay in your bank settings, the credit card issuer will automatically charge your account and retrieve funds towards your credit card bill.

It is very simple to set up autopay for your cards so this is convenient and simple.

Pros:

  • This is a reliable method for timely payments

Cons:

  • If you are missing the funds in your bank account, the bank will not have from where to retrieve funds which may lead to your bill not being paid
  • If autopay has a glitch in the system, payment may be missed without you even noticing until you see a missed payment mark on your credit report

Option 4 – Sign up for Credit Card Tracking Apps

The last method I'd like to mention for keeping track of your cards is to sign up to apps that do the work for you.

There are apps out there that keep track of your credit cards and all its details so that you don't have to be the one remembering all of it.

What the Apps Feature

These apps work vaguely as follows. You can set up an account in the app and then add all the credit cards you have open. According to the version you use, you would add details along the lines of the date you opened the card, your responsibility (meaning if you are the card owner or simply an authorized user on the card), and so forth.

From there on, the apps are set to display the current welcome offers on your cards and if you are eligible for the welcome offer.

The app can calculate how much time you have left to meet the spending requirements for the welcome bonus.

Depending on the specific features each app offers, it may track when you have to pay the annual fees on your cards, where you can earn rewards given the cards you have, credit card balances, some apps even integrate your checking account balances, and more.

This takes a huge burden off you. You literally can rely on an app to keep track of all your credit cards for you and you won't miss any important dates or rewards!

A couple of apps of the sort are Mint.com and CardRight.com. You can sign up for them to start tracking your multiple credit cards.

Pros:

  • These apps encompass many details; such as card benefits, rewards, welcome offers, annual fees, etc.
  • They are easy to use
  • The app does all the calculating and tracking for you
  • Most apps have a free version

Cons:

  • You have to add your cards and all details to your portal in the app.
  • You have to trust the apps with your bank login information.

Fed up with Having Multiple Credit Cards?

Some of us have better organizational skills than others. Organization plays a big role in keeping track of credit cards. If, even after reading about the several methods you can use to track your cards, you are still fed up with having to deal with so many cards, you may find yourself toying with the idea of closing some of your credit cards.

Should you Close Credit Cards or not?

The answer would be no to a consumer who is managing their payments well and is using each card to its maximum.

But I would say, definitely yes to looking into closing some of your cards if you're finding it difficult to handle so many. You're better off carefully finishing with some of your cards than trying to be a pro and stumbling with credit card payments.

Close Some Cards but Keep the Three Oldest Open

Before you close cards at random, here is a guideline to keep by so that you impact your credit as little as possible.

Don't close your three oldest credit cards. Your credit history starts when you open your first credit card. The longer your crest history, the better it is for your credit score. If you close one of your three first cards, you're cutting your credit history short.

Because let's say you have a card opened ten years ago and a card opened five years ago. If you close the ten-year-old one, you're cutting your credit history short by five years.

So try to close newer credit cards instead of older ones. It's always best to leave your first three credit cards open forever.

Once you have fewer cards open, you might find it a lot easier to keep track of them!

What it Means to Credit Scoring Models

Just a word about how credit scoring models, those who tally up your credit score (such as FICO), view closed accounts. When you close a credit card, it will remain on your credit report for the next ten years as a closed account. It does not help your credit in any way, even if you see it on your credit report.

Also, credit scoring models only count cards that are active within the last six months. Closed accounts do not fall off your credit report until ten years later but it does not help your credit score to have the account on your credit report as its inactive.

When you close a card, it automatically ceases activity. After six months of no activity, the scoring models will stop counting it as part of your credit.

Takeaways

Keeping track of multiple credit cards is not easy. However, it is worth the hassle so that your credit can stay healthy and so that you reap the benefits and rewards your cards have to offer.

And after reading this post, you get to realize that managing your cards does not even have to be a hassle. It gets straightforward if you choose to follow one, or some, of the methods we visited.

And rest assured, if you do find it challenging, you can follow the strategies we spoke about in the post to get rid of some credit card bulk.

The post How to Keep Track of Multiple Credit Cards appeared first on Due.

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