Travel Hacking: Juggling Multiple Credit Cards

In my most recent posts, I’ve talked about using credit cards to earn miles and points for travel, and have looked at a comprehensive list of the offers out there. Now comes the next step in the equation: juggling multiple credit cards.

After you’ve signed up for a credit card, and have spent and earned the proper bonus, it’s time to move on to a new card. If you’re looking to gain maximum points and miles for your spending, continuing to spend on a single card after the bonus is over won’t provide you with much. Juggling multiple cards, though, is not an easy feat, and is one that takes lots of precision and follow-up. Without it, you can find yourself drowning in too many cards, or in renewal fees up to your eyeballs (yikes!).

To manage my cards and ensure I keep track of each one – the amount I have to spend, the bonus I will get, the points that hit my account, when I have to cancel the card, etc. – I use a simple spreadsheet I created in Google Documents. I also make note of cards I apply for and am not approved for, so I can be sure I avoid applying again soon. I’ve created a public document you can use for your own credit card tracking, too! Just click the link below to see the spreadsheet yourself – and take note of the sample credit card (the Chase Priority Club card) I’ve entered into the first line of the spreadsheet.

Screen Shot 2015-03-01 at 11.27.02 AM

Get the spreadsheet here.
To save as your own Google Document , click File >> Make a Copy…
To Download to your computer, click File >> Download As…

Card Applications and Cancellations

The spreadsheet outlines each card, and most importantly: when you applied for the card, and when you must cancel the card (1 year after activation – if you’re unsure of the date, you can call your credit card company to ask when your card will be renewed. They will have this on file for you). The red column – “Cancel By” – is the most important column on the sheet, simply because it’s the one that helps you to avoid annual fees. Without canceling each card on time, those fees will pile up – so keeping a strict eye on these dates, and canceling in time (if not a little early), will keep you from paying these.

Card Basics

The sheet then outlines the basics of the card and its sign-on bonus. How many points will you get? What must you spend to get them? The “Spending Bonus” column is for those offers that require spending before you receive the points, whether it’s after the first purchase, or after a dollar amount. The “Sign-On Bonus” column refers to any card that will give you an amount of points or miles simply by signing up, though this is less common.

Tracking Your Points

I also placed a column in the spreadsheet to track when my points actually hit the rewards accounts, so I can ensure I’m getting exactly what I was promised. Typically, the points or miles will hit your member’s account (AAdvantage, Hilton Hhonors, or whatever program you’re using at the time) 6-8 weeks after the month you complete your spending requirement.

Important Notes

Finally, the “Other Rewards/Notes” column is there to fill with content of your choice about the card – important things you don’t want to forget, extra hotel nights you may be given, etc. I use this column to make note of the conversations I have with the credit card company over the phone. For example, if I call to cancel a card and they offer to waive the annual fee for an additional year, I will make note of that here, and then change the date in the “Cancel By” column to one year later.

By no means do you have to use my spreadsheet, or even my method, but I do urge you to be diligent about your credit cards! Not doing so can end in a disaster of too many cards, too many fees, and too much confusion. Using a simple method from the beginning takes all of the stress out of the equation!

Now the real question is: What card will you apply for next?