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If you are going to sign-up for more than one or two rewards credit cards, then my best advice is to get a simple but effective tracking system in place that will tell you when you got a card, what card it was, when you got the sign-up bonus, when the annual fee is due, when you closed the card, etc. It doesn’t have to be a fancy system, and it can be on a spreadsheet, on a piece of paper, in a Word document, or whatever you are most comfortable with. Regardless of how you do your tracking, you need to have at least a basic tracking system in place so you know not only what cards you have right now, but when you are most likely to be eligible for something else.
This is especially true with the sign-up bonus “rules” now in effect at Citi, Chase, and more where you need to know when you opened a card, got the bonus, and even closed the card, as that can impact when you can most likely get the next one (and its bonus).
Of course, not all of us currently have this organized document in play. If you fall into that “not as organized as I wish I was” category, don’t worry, you can get most of this info pretty easily and for free via your free annual credit reports.
Get Your Free Credit Report
Once a year you can get your free credit report from each of the three credit bureaus, Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. Unless there is a good reason to do otherwise, I would not get all three credit reports at once, but instead would spread them out through the year. This way you can have free access to your official credit information every few months.
Count Your Credit Card Revolving Accounts on Your Credit Report
In the case of trying to figure out when you opened or closed credit card accounts, you will simply select a credit report from one of those three bureaus and then start counting revolving card accounts. Don’t worry about things like mortgages or installment loans such as student loans, car loans, etc. for our purposes.
In many cases, business credit cards will not display on your report, though the credit inquiries for when you applied for those accounts very well may display if it was in the last 24 months. For now though, don’t worry about credit inquiries as we are focused on actual card accounts.
If you are counting for the purposes of the Chase “5/24 rule” and trying to get the Sapphire Reserve card or similar, then you want to look for the open date of new credit card accounts. If you are an authorized user the account may still display on your credit report, but you can usually get Chase to not count that if you talk to them over the phone. Store cards also may not be counting towards this “unwritten rule”. In the example below, one of the four credit card accounts displayed would count as it was opened (just) less than 24 months ago on 9/28/14.
When you are counting, you want to count not only in the open accounts section as shown above, but also in the closed accounts section of your credit report. For example, if you are counting to see how many new accounts you opened in the last 24 months, it still counts even if you have already closed the card. The date you closed the card can also matter for some bonus eligibility with Citi and American Express so don’t skip the closed accounts.
If you are worried about the Chase 5/24 issues, then if it was opened in the last 24 months, count it. If it was opened more than 24 months ago, then don’t worry about it for 5/24 purposes.
What your credit report won’t tell you is exactly what credit card you are looking at. For example, it will say American Express on your credit report and give you part of the account number, but it won’t tell you if it is an American Express Starwood Preferred Guest Card or an American Express EveryDay Preferred Card. You will either have to remember what it is based on the open date, or then head to your Amex online account and compare account numbers or check with the card issuer directly to narrow it down further if you are really confused on exactly which card you opened when.
I just went through this exercise for my husband, Josh, and to my surprise he was at only four new credit card accounts in the last 24 months across all of the banks. He has had more than that factoring in small business cards, but since those weren’t on his personal credit report, they didn’t count for 5/24 purposes. I’ll post more on this later, but let’s just say today got 100,000x better thanks to this exercise!
Know before you go.
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