I apologize for the delay in posts this week. It has been a crazy week, but I hope I’m back on track. Given that I’ve spent a bit of time explaining how to sign up for credit cards, I thought it was only fitting that I also provide information on how to track your credit cards. This is incredibly important for several reasons. As I explained, you should only be signing up for credit cards in batches every 3-4 months. This is because you want to give your credit report a break so that over time, the inquiries that show up on your report start to fall off. Banks, when pulling your report, do not like to see a lot of recent activity. They directly correlate that with an individual having financial trouble and needing to get a hold of a lot of credit at once. This also contributes to my advice to sign up for 2-4 credit cards per round. This is because if you sign up for credit cards at the same time, the banks will not see the other inquiries. But, if you wait, a day or more, they will see the other inquiries which will give them concern.
The template that I use for tracking my credit cards is found below:
|Credit Card Name||Sign Up Bonus||Annual Fee||Minimum Spend Requirement||Date Applied||Date to Close|
You’ll want to keep track of the exact name of your credit card that you’ve signed up for. This is because occasionally banks will release a card similar in name to what you’ve already signed up for but in reality is actually different. This usually means you will be eligible for the sign up bonus again since it is not the exact card you’ve already signed up for. For example, United had a United Mileage Plus Visa card and now that they have merged with Continental, they are offering a United Explorer Visa card. If you had the Mileage Plus card, you are still eligible for the bonus of the Explorer card.
Of course you want to keep track of your sign up bonus, not only so you know what you will be getting, but also to make sure that the bonus you signed up for is what you got. There have been several people who have signed up for a limited time offer but only received the regular offer. If you don’t keep track of what you signed up for, it makes it harder to ensure you got the right bonus.
The annual fee is also important. Most people don’t mind paying the annual fee for a large sign up bonus. But you want to know what the annual fee is when your anniversary is coming up so you can decide if the benefits that you are receiving (or not as the case may be) are worth the annual fee.
The minimum spend requirement is a big one. If you don’t meet the requirement, you don’t get the sign up bonus. You want to keep close track of this one. If you are unsure of the exact date by which you must meet the requirement, send a Secure Message via your online account and ask. My experience with Chase, Citibank, and American Express has been quite positive. They have given me the exact date by which I must meet the requirements.
You’ll also want to know the exact date that you applied for the card. This is important to help you keep track of when you might want to close the card. The general consensus is that you should keep the card open as close to 12 months as possible before closing. This is because, one, they could technically take your bonus away if you haven’t used it yet, and two, you could be flagged as someone who is only signing up for bonuses and not a customer the bank wants. This could prevent you from getting future credit cards with that bank. You don’t want to hit the 12 month mark on the cards that have an annual fee, so if you know the date you applied, you can cancel 11 months out. Keep in mind that it’s quite important to your credit score to keep open as much of your credit limit as possible. As your credit limit goes down, your utility (% of how much credit you are using versus how much credit you have extended to you) goes up. Banks like to see a low utility % when evaluating whether or not they will issue you a new card. In order to avoid this, but still cancel a card, call the credit card company and ask to transfer almost all of your credit line to another card that you have with that bank that is still open. This not only keeps your credit line the same, it also gives you leverage should the credit card company request you transfer credit from an existing card to one that you are applying for before they will open it for you.
Keeping track of when you opened the card is also important so you know when you can apply for another round of credit cards (keeping the 3-4 month timeframe in mind). A hint that I have used when I haven’t tracked a credit card well is to look on your credit card and see when the expiration date is. You signed up for your credit the month of your credit card expiration date.
Another fantastic tool for tracking your miles and points once you get them is Award Wallet. I use them to track the miles and hotel points of every member of my family. Unfortunately, you can no longer track American Airlines (American has disallowed this option, but Award Wallet has a workaround that requires a quick installation). You also are not able to track Southwest points. But every other airline and hotel that I use are monitored on this website. They also can track your travel plans as well. So, on one concise page you can see your miles and points. And on another you can see all of your booked travel plans. It’s free and it is a great way to find everything in one spot!
So, there you have it! My advice for keeping track of all these miles and points that you are (or will be) racking up!