I’m that person who always has a new credit card. With the barrage of lucrative credit card sign-up bonus offers and some nice ongoing perks just for holding a certain credit card, I’m making the most of what credit card companies offer while making sure to manage multiple credit cards responsibly.
When you manage multiple credit cards with different banks, it can be a bit of a hassle. Knowing which cards to use when and how to get the most out of each of them can take some time to learn as well. And if you don’t keep track of all your cards, you might end up paying unnecessary fees and damaging your credit score.
Here are some of the best tips on how to manage multiple credit cards.
Don’t let credit go to your head
Before applying for a dozen of the best credit cards, make sure you’re completely in control of your spending habits. Credit card companies will dole out tons of credit to you if you have a relatively good credit score and a stable income. But that pristine credit report can quickly turn into bad if you don’t know how to manage multiple credit cards.
When you manage multiple credit cards, it’s even more important to pay attention to your expenses to make sure you’re not overspending. Your spending should be limited to the funds available in your bank account. Unless you have a plan to take advantage of a long-term 0% intro APR card for a big, but necessary, purchase, don’t spend more than you can afford to pay off at the end of the month.
You can get hit with late fees and interest payments if you spend more than you can afford. Plus, those late payments will show up on your credit report. Consistently bumping up against your credit limit can also impact your credit score. That’ll make it hard to get approved for more credit cards in the future. And they affect your interest rates for major loans like mortgages and auto loans. If the fees spiral out of control, you could even end up in credit card debt, which is the last thing you want.
That means paying attention to your spending and staying on top of all of your accounts, even if they’re with several banks. Luckily, there are some tools and services that can help you manage multiple credit cards and avoid credit card debt.
Know your dates
Every credit card has a few important dates you should track, especially when you manage multiple credit cards. Using a spreadsheet or writing them down in a notebook can take care of most of the problems with managing multiple credit cards. Know the following three dates for every credit card:
- Payment due date: This is the most important date to know. If you want to manage multiple credit cards, keep track of this date for each card. This is the date you have to send money to the credit card company. If your payment doesn’t come in on or before that date, you’ll get hit with a late fee and start racking up interest. If you’re using autopay, make sure you have the funds ready to withdraw from your account before the due date. If not, you could get an overdraft fee. You can often change your due date by calling the credit card issuer.
- Statement closing date: Most credit card companies close cardholder statements on the same day each month. This date can be useful to know. It can be the difference between paying for a big purchase in 25 days or 55 days if you time things right (or wrong). As mentioned above, you shouldn’t spend more than you can pay off right away. But a few extra days with cash in an interest-bearing account never hurts.
- First month of the cardmember year: This is usually when the annual fee for premium cards hits your statement. If you manage multiple credit cards with annual fees, review each credit card’s benefits before this month. Consider downgrading to a no-annual-fee card if you can’t justify the fee. You can also call the credit card issuer and see if they’re willing to offer you a bonus to stay a cardmember.
Make your life easier: Use autopay
When you manage multiple credit cards spread across multiple banks, one of the best things you can do is use autopay. As mentioned above, you should know the due dates of all your credit card bills, but it’s easy for them to slip your mind. Before you know it, you could be paying a late fee if you don’t have autopay set up.
You can often change your payment due date by calling the bank that issued the credit card. This can make it easier to match your credit card payments with the dates you get paid. So, if you get paid on the 1st and 15th of every month, see if you can change your due dates on your two most-used cards to the 5th and 20th of the month. That way the money is in your account when autopay hits.
Online services can help you see all your credit cards in one place
Several online tools can help you see credit cards from multiple issuers and their balances in one simple dashboard. On top of that, they’ll help you stick to a budget. Folks who manage multiple credit cards would benefit greatly from using one of these. Two of the most popular are Mint and Personal Capital. These tools also help you keep an eye on all your bank accounts, investment accounts, and other assets like real estate.
To use these, you do have to trust another website with your login information for all of your financial accounts. While both Mint and Personal Capital offer bank-level security, some consumers may be uncomfortable with having their login information stored with third-party websites. But if you want to see all of your accounts in one place, there’s no better option.
Services to help you maximize credit card rewards
The main benefit of signing up for a bunch of credit cards is to use rewards points for things like travel or cash back. But when you manage multiple credit cards that offer rewards, you also have to keep track of multiple award accounts. This can be a challenge too.
The service from AwardWallet is like Mint or Personal Capital, but for travel award programs. It’s perfect if you manage multiple credit cards that earn points and miles. It can show you balances for your airline miles, hotel points, and credit card rewards. You’ll have to provide login information for each award program, but savvy travelers can get a lot of value out of seeing all their points in one place to build travel itineraries.
Another service, created by Points.com, Points Loyalty Wallet, lets you manage your various loyalty programs all in one place. You can also redeem your points and miles for gift cards through the platform or trade them between participating programs. That said, the redemption and trading options offer a relatively low value, so this service is best for simply tracking your rewards while juggling multiple credit cards.
Take advantage of all of the benefits
The last tip for people who manage multiple credit cards is to take advantage of all of the extra benefits each of your cards offers.
Some hotel and airline credit cards provide an automatic status upgrade. That could get you free room upgrades, late checkout, preferred seating, and even upgrades to first class. Make sure you take advantage of the status you get just for holding a credit card.
Other credit cards offer extra protection over your purchases and travel plans. Many credit cards have extended warranties and price protection on purchases, but others have even greater benefits. For example, some cards offer trip cancellation and interruption insurance. If your trip is cut short or cancelled due to sickness or weather, you can be reimbursed for prepaid nonrefundable expenses. Sometimes you’ll also get trip delay insurance if you have to stay overnight and the airline won’t offer a free hotel room. If you rent a car using the card, you may get free collision insurance (decline the car rental agency’s offer). When you manage multiple credit cards, you should know the benefits offered by each so you can use the right card in the right situation.
Premium cards often offer annual credits for travel or airline fees, TSA Pre✓® or Global Entry fee reimbursement, and access to airport lounges. Using these benefits can help you get the maximum value out of the hefty annual fees of these cards.
Knowing all the benefits of your credit cards, and more importantly, which cards have which benefits, is the key to getting the most out of your wallet when you manage multiple credit cards. But if you don’t keep up with the day-to-day maintenance and management, you’ll get hit with too many fees to make it worthwhile.