How Do You Manage So Many Credit Cards?

Reader Craig asked,

I would like to start opening up credit cards for my wife, but don’t want to need to have two separate user names to track for each of the banks. Any way to combine to make tracking easier?

Managing myriad frequent flyer accounts, and credit card accounts, can get complicated.

In general you’re going to need to create a separate online account for each person with each bank (and sometimes more, my Chase business cards have a separate login from personal and the same is true for Citi and Bank of America).

One thing that can help though is adding your credit card accounts to Award Wallet so that your access is all in one place, single click login.

More generally though is — how do you manage what cards to use for which purposes, where you are on signup bonuses and what you want to use for different spend categories?

One of my favorite suggestions came from commenter Acker:

I thought about simplifying but love this game. I have so many darn cards – active and not. With the exception of the cards I’m working at any given time, I keep them semi-organized in a small zip lock (actually it’s a quart-sized bag).

I use a black sharpie and write right on the cards “2x gas” “50k w/ 10k spend” “cancel 1/2012″ etc. I can only imagine what waiters and clerks think, but who cares?

When I cancel a card, I write a cancel sign on the front of the card with the date cancelled. I even thought of making a Chicago Do Halloween costume out of the 50+ cards.

I won’t even guess how many elite hotel/airline cards I have. Why I keep the old cards, I don’t know.

Oh, I have a zip lock for my husband’s cards too. He has no interest in churning, so I do it for him. Of course I’m on top of our credit scores. He digs the perks and is game to switching cards whenever I need him to. I’ve got about 12 Amex cards (maybe more?)

I prefer an Excel spreadsheet myself…

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Why would anyone give any third party, including Award Wallet, their banking logins? That is not wise.

  2. I know this comes up all the time and this is somewhat amateur, but if I have a credit score around 800 and have 7 cards, would an 8th make a large impact? There is a chance I apply for a home lone in about 18-24 months…


  3. Keeping old credit cards is not a good idea. Even expired ones. If stolen they have been used to the start identify theft trail. Just my 2 cents

  4. Whenever I close a credit card account I attach part of a post-it note to the credit with the date the account was closed and then scan it to my computer. After scanning I cut it up and throw it away. Then I know when the last time I had that particular card and when I can possibly apply for it again.

  5. I guess you already know you can combine your personal chase cards into your business online profile but find some value to not doing that. Any insight why not to combine them?

  6. @seth – some really want to separate biz from personal. However, I think Chase does a good job by listing biz accounts separately from personal ones. Note that in my experience to unify business and personal into one login, I had to lose my personal login and keep the business login.

  7. A trip to Staples gets you a business card holder
    – 10 sheets x 10 cards if you like that can all fit in 1 folder
    I can’t think of many will need more than 100 cards

  8. I use Award Wallet to track point and miles balances. I believe it is safe and it is certainly convenient to have all logins in one place. I use an Excel spreadsheet to keep track of cards. I have columns such as date applied, date approved, date received/activated, date by which I must complete the bonus spend, date I completed the spend, date I received the bonus, last four digits of the card, credit line, persona vs business, bonus, annual fee, date renewed. I have a second sheet on the spreadsheet where I move any cancelled cards.

    As far as the actual cards themselves, I use 3-ring binders with clear page-protector sleeves. One sleeve for each card. Into the sleeve go any documents that came with the card and any updates received in the mail. Into the sleeve I put a sheet of paper with the credit card number in big numbers across the top. I have 3 binders: Visa, MasterCard and Discover/AmEx. It is very organized and I can easily and quickly find any card to swap them out for bonus spend categories.

  9. Also, in my wallet, I keep a 3×5 card to remind myself what cards I should be using at any given time for which bonus categories.

  10. For keeping all of my credit card information, I use 1password, I keep all of the credit card details in there. 1password syncs with all of my devices, phone,iPad, computer, I can even choose which Items I sync with my wife. With my credit card info i enter account number, expiration, verification, contact phone numbers and how many points I get. I also keep the log in information and 1 password will generate a password in the times when I need something more complicated.

    On the back of my cards, I use a label maker to how many points I earn opts air,opts fuel ext… I also now added NoFT or FT where needed to remind me which cards have and do not have foreign transaction fee.

    Where I have goal oriented cards such as AA to spend 40K to get 10K preferred points, I have a spreadsheet with a different tab for each card I need to keep track of with a goal formula that tells me how much spend I need for my goal. I only add the cards I have goals for to this. In my wallet I only keep the cards I would use on a daily bases.

    In my briefcase I keep cards like my Delta or United card I rarely use but would need for entry into clubs or to present in forge in countries for proof I purchased a ticket. I keep them in my briefcase because I generally only need them when traveling. I also use 1password when purchasing online tickets, for example since I don’t keep my delta card in my wallet I use 1password on the rare occasions I purchase a Delta ticket.

    I also have a bellboy passport wallet which I keep my passport in and local cards I would only use internationally such as the subway pass for Hong Kong or Japan or my restaurant card for the Philippines

    I used to keep a case with multiple sim cards in my briefcase, but I am now finding using an application like Bria or even Skype with a generous international data plan saves me on roaming and I don’t need the multiple sim cards anymore.

    I do use Award Wallet to keep track of points but I also log on to sites and look. I also capture screen shots of accounts using Snagit and store them. I should do a better job of this but have not been burned yet.

    Wow, I can’t believe I do all this, when did that all start.

    Now if I could just remember which points to use for the best business travel and the best way to always accomplish this I would be doing great. Problem is that is too complicated to keep track of. For that I have Ben’s and Gary’s post to follow or I use Ben’s team.

  11. Google spreadsheet with the relevant info (date opened, closed, remaining required spend, relevant card benefits, etc).

    Quicken for PC with connectivity to the banks:
    * I don’t have to remember the username/password combinations since they’re stored in Quicken.
    * Transactions are downloaded whenever I connect (few times/week).
    * I set up reminders when bills are due so I don’t inadvertently miss a payment.

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