One of the most common questions I get asked is “how many credit cards do you have?” and “how do you keep track of everything?”. Well a conservative estimate of my credit card count is around 20 active cards. I understand that this is shocking to some and the common question that comes from that is “doesn’t that screw up your credit history?” The short answer is no, it doesn’t. In fact it helps my credit score but that’s not the point of this post. I will fully cover credit scores in another post but today I will help answer the question, “how do you keep track of everything?”.
The concern is a legitimate one. Nobody want to keep a crazy spreadsheet with all your points balances, credit card balances, due dates, etc. It seems to be a lot of work. Well, if we were living in the 90s or early 2000s, it might be but today I will introduce you to two tools that I use to make sure I know my points balances and how much I owe on my credit cards and when they are due.
First let me say that while I have a lot of active credit cards, I actually use 3. When you first sign up for credit cards, there is usually a minimum spend requirement before you get your sign up bonuses. What I do is use a card exclusively until I meet my minimum spend, pay it off and put it in a drawer. That’s it. It’s that simple.
The cards I keep in my wallet are the ones that I find provide me with the most utility on daily spend.
They are currently:
- American Express Platinum Card – I receive 1.25 points for every dollar spent so I use this card wherever American Express is accepted … and yes, most places take it nowadays.
- American Express Gold Card – I will use this card when I make purchases at gas stations, grocery stores, pharmacies and for travel related expenses because I receive 2 points for every dollar.
- Capital One Aspire Card – With this card, I receive 2 points per dollar spend at all locations so I use this card anywhere my American Express is not accepted.
The obvious question here is “why don’t you use your Capital One Aspire card for everything when it returns 2 points per dollar spent?”. It’s a good question and the answer is that when redeeming points, American Express’ Membership Rewards provide me with more value than the Capital One points. Again, this is another rabbit hole that I will cover off in another post. When I do, I will link this article to that one.
The other thing to keep in mind is that I NEVER carry a balance and I ALWAYS put every dollar of spend on my credit card. If I purchase a slurpee, it goes on the credit card. If my daughter wants a lollipop, it goes on the credit card. I employ this strategy because dollars equal points and there’s no point leaving points on the table.
So back to the point of this article, what tools do I use to keep track of everything?
I would seriously be lost without AwardWallet. AwardWallet is a free utility that keeps track of your points balance and allows you to keep your points program’s login information in one spot. This is beneficial because with one click in AwardWallet, you can automatically log in to all your accounts. AwardWallet will keep track of your points balances, your status levels, your award certificates and your plan expiration dates (3 programs for free, unlimted with the Plus plan).
As I mentioned, AwardWallet is free but it uses a Freemium model so if you want all the features, it’s $5USD for 6 months. To me the cost is well worth it. Below is a table that shows the differences between the free and paid version.
So what does the interface look like? Well let’s take a look.
As you can see, you can keep track of multiple award balances and you can update all the balance with the click of a button. You also can see when your points expire and your status with each program. There is also a companion mobile app (free) that lets you check your balances on the go and the best part is that it’s not a stripped down version. You have access to the same things in the mobile app as the full online version. This is very handy when you need to remember your login information on the go or want to check your balance.
This program takes 99% of the headache out of tracking your balances. I highly recommend you sign up for it and use it right for all your programs. You can get even more advanced and track things like trips and hotel rooms you have booked and associated with your membership numbers.
Mint.com is uses the exact same concept as AwardWallet but instead of keeping track of your points balances, it keeps track of your bank balances and credit card balances. Additionally, it keeps track of your due dates and sends you reminders via email when you have a bill coming due. This feature has saved me a few times in the past.
The best part of this is that Mint is totally free.
For an overview of Mint, check out the YouTube video below:
With these two tools, you easily eliminate the hardest parts associated with the tracking of points and balances and it’s all FREE. The business model for both AwardWallet and Mint is to use the information you plug into it to recommend financial products that might suit your needs. You are under no obligation to sign up for any of these offerings but many people do, which pays for the upkeep and hosting of the sites.
I highly recommend signing up for these two services because it makes your foray into the points collecting world a
little lot less scary.