How to Keep Track of Multiple Credit Cards
By Allie Johnson
July 29, 2013
If you’re juggling multiple credit cards (and using some of them for different purposes), it can be tricky to keep track of your spending, bill due dates and rewards.
When my husband and I were putting all of our expenses on just one rewards card, the ease of spending with plastic lulled us into being a little less diligent with our finances. As I’ve also learned in the past, using multiple cards can increase your odds of getting mixed up with your finances.
Use these six tips to help you stick to your budget, make payments on time and get the most of your perks while using more than one card:
1. Budget before you spend. It’s easy to pull out the plastic now and worry about crunching numbers later. But when you use credit cards, it’s crucial to plan before you spend a cent. As the blog You Need a Budget points out, it doesn’t matter how you paid your $100 grocery bill. That amount should be recorded in the food category on your budget and considered spent, even if you haven’t yet paid your credit card bill. Using multiple cards can make things even more confusing, but adhering to a budget can help keep you organized.
2. Keep your cards straight. It’s hard enough to keep track of a slew of cards, but what about when some of your cards — the Discover It card, for example — have regularly changing rewards categories? That can make it hard to know which card to use when. Self-improvement website Always Improve Me has a simple solution: Put a piece of scotch tape on the front of each card and jot the categories on the tape with a marker. That way, you can be sure you’re pulling out the right card at the right time to maximize your rewards.
3. Record your purchases. The more credit cards you’re using, the more complicated it will be to keep track of them. So, it’s a good idea to come up with the tracking method that works for you and to use it to record your spending regularly — if not every day, then every few days or at least every week. Some personal finance experts recommend saving your receipts and recording those purchases in one place when you get home. Others recommend jotting down all purchases in a notebook. Whatever you do, don’t count on the credit card company to keep track of your purchases for you.
4. Keep running tallies. Once you have your individual purchases recorded, you need to regularly transfer them to your spreadsheet, online program, app or wherever you keep track of your budget. You’ll need to keep a running tally of the total amount you’ve spent across all of your cards that month and the total for each budget category. For example, if you charged a $30 oil change on one of your cards, you’ll record that amount in the car maintenance category of your budget and also add it to your running total credit card balance. You might have to make adjustments, just like you would if you were spending cash. For example, if you go over the amount you budgeted for dining out, could you cut back in the lawn care or gifts category to make up for it?
5. Set up payment alerts. If you’re juggling multiple cards, you might be juggling several payment due dates, too. The Frugal Travel Guy recommends setting up text or email alerts or other reminders for your bill due dates, using whatever system works for you. If you use online banking through your credit card company, you can also set up alerts to notify you when a charge over a certain amount is spent on your card. These alerts can serve as nudges to check in with your finances and record your purchases on your budget tracker.
6. Keep track of your rewards. The effort of juggling multiple rewards cards will come to nothing if you’re not careful about tracking, maximizing and redeeming your rewards. Many consumers aren’t: An April 2013 survey by ThePointsGuy.com found 73 percent of consumers don’t know their rewards balance. So use a tool like AwardWallet.com to track your rewards earnings.