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I’m often asked questions about how I “manage” my credit cards, including:
- If you have 20+ credit cards, how do you fit them all in your wallet?
- How do you keep track of which cards earn bonus points in which categories? How do you get family members to put the right purchases on the right cards?
- How do you keep track of payment due dates and annual fee due dates?
I have a bit of experience with all of the above, so figured I’d share my thoughts:
If you have 20+ credit cards, how do you fit them all in your wallet?
So my credit card organization system is really easy. I have a money clip (with a credit card “slot”), a wallet, and then a credit card binder. I keep the cards I use for everyday purchases in my money clip. These are cards that are potentially useful for everyday purchases if I’m out and about, like the following:
- Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card — 2x points on dining and travel (and travel includes parking, taxis, etc.)
- Ink Plus® Business Credit Card — 5x points on office supply store purchases (plus cellular phone, landline, internet, and cable TV services, though I have all those on auto-pay)
- Premier Rewards Gold Card from American Express — 3x points on airfare and 2x points on dining, gas, and groceries (in the US)
- Any card that I’m trying to complete minimum spend on.
Those three cards have me covered for 99% of my day-to-day purchases.
Then I keep other credit cards in my wallet. These are cards that I’ll sometimes use when the circumstances warrant it, and if I’m traveling internationally I may replace the Premier Rewards Gold Card with one of them in my money clip, since that card has foreign transaction fees:
- Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express — 2x points on Starwood stays
- Starwood Preferred Guest® Business Card from American Express — one Starpoint plus 5% cashback for stays at select US Hyatt properties, via the OPEN Savings program
- The Hyatt Credit Card — 3x points for Hyatt stays (so I use this at international Hyatts, where I wouldn’t use the Starwood Business American Express)
- The Platinum Card® from American Express — I have this for access to various airport lounges, or for rental car coverage overseas
Then I also put all my airline and hotel elite cards, as well as Priority Pass membership card, in my wallet.
Lastly I have a binder with the cards that I keep but never actually spend money on. This includes cards like:
- Hilton HHonors Card from American Express — This is a card I keep long term because it gives me access to Hilton AXON awards; I don’t actually put any spend on it, and since the card has no annual fee it’s worth keeping long term to help build my credit score
- Citi® Platinum Select® / AAdvantage® World Mastercard® — Again, this isn’t a card I put any spend on, but you get a 10% rebate on award redemptions up to 10,000 miles per year, which more than justifies the annual fee in my book
- US Airways Mastercard — This card has a 10,000 mile anniversary bonus, so I keep it around for that
- Alaska Airlines Signature Visa Card — I’ve never made a purchase with the card, but it has a $75 annual fee and comes with a $99+ annual companion certificate, so is well worth the annual fee to me
- Alaska Airlines Business Visa Card — Same as the above, though it only has a $50 annual fee
How do you keep track of which cards earn bonus points in which categories? How do you get family members to put the right purchases on the right cards?
While this isn’t a helpful answer for most, I just know the benefits of each card off the top of my head. But if you don’t (or family members have cards they don’t know the best uses for), what’s the best way to keep track of them? Here are a few options:
- While perhaps a bit trashy, you can use a sharpie to write the category that you’re supposed to use that card for on the back of it. For example, just write “Dining” or “Groceries” in big letters on the back, and I guarantee they’ll never forget again.
- You can use the same method as above except attach a Post-It note to the card, though those tend to get lost.
- Or what I do for my family members is try to keep things simple. Rather than telling my parents the five different cards they should spend money on, I ask them which categories they spend the most on, and then just have them use those cards. So for example, right now I tell my dad to just use the Premier Rewards Gold Card from American Express for gas and groceries and the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card for dining and everything else. In the past I gave him five cards to spend money on to try and optimize every possible spend bonus category, and he just couldn’t keep track of them, so I find sometimes it makes sense to just simplify things and go back to the basics.
How do you keep track of payment due dates and annual fee due dates?
To keep things simple all my cards have the same statement closing date. It’s not the 1st or 15th of the month, since those are hellish days to begin with, but having one consistent date works well for me. That way on the same day every month I can go through all my statements, make sure everything looks correct, etc.
Then as far as card annual fees go, I set a reminder in my calendar for the renewal date of the card so that I can decide whether I want to keep or cancel the card at that point. If I decide to keep it I make the annual fee payment immediately.
What organizational methods do you use for your credit cards?