Need help organizing and tracking credit card due dates and payments? These tips can help
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As someone who uses many different travel rewards credit cards, keeping up with statements, due dates and making sure I pay on time can be quite the juggling act. In any given month, I might have 10 or more cards in use, each one generating a statement and balance due.
If you’re like me and want to maximize your points and miles earnings based on your monthly spending, you’re probably using any mix of following cards:
- Rotating quarterly categories (i.e., Chase Freedom (No longer open to new applicants) or Discover it Cash Back, which both offer 5% cash back on different categories every quarter up to the first $1,500 in purchases each quarter you enroll; then 1%);
- Limited-time offers or bonus points up to $20 credit on streaming and wireless (until December 2020) with The Platinum Card® from American Express)
- Regular bonus spend (i.e., 4x on U.S. supermarkets (up to $25,000 in purchases per calendar year; 1x after that) with the American Express® Gold Card or 3x at supermarkets with the Citi Premier® Card)
- Your basic 2%/2x points for everything else (i.e., Citi® Double Cash Card (2% cash back; 1% when you buy, plus 1% as you pay) or the The Blue Business® Plus Credit Card from American Express (on the first $50,000 in purchases each calendar year; then 1x).
The information for the Chase Freedom, Discover it Cash Back has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.
Why is paying on time so important? Paying late can result in late fees, interest charges and potential negative reports sent to the credit bureaus, which can lower your credit score. If you pay late, it could potentially cause you to be denied the sign-up bonus on a new card or an anniversary bonus on renewal. Some card issuers may forfeit the points you earned on that statement if you don’t pay on time.
So what’s the best way to keep up with all of this and make sure everything gets paid in full and on time? Our tips are below.
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Streamline your bill delivery
The first step in organizing your credit card payments is streamlining your bill delivery. Whether you prefer mailed paper statements or emailed notifications of paperless statements, it’s important to be sure your statements are successfully delivered to you.
Make sure the bank has your correct home address and/or email. Be sure to use an email address that you check frequently. Not receiving a statement is not a reason to pay late or miss a payment. Set aside time to open and review every statement if you don’t do it immediately. Make sure all charges are correct.
I find having the mobile app is especially handy for the banks where I have multiple credit cards. So even if I don’t review my statement right away, it’s easy to check the app and I can see the due dates for all of the cards I have with that bank.
Use a spreadsheet to keep organized
While there are plenty of free due date and payment tracking spreadsheet templates available online, I prefer to keep it simple. I maintain a very basic spreadsheet using Google Sheets. I have every card listed in the first column, and once or twice a month, I update my spreadsheet with payment due dates and statement close dates in the next two columns. Any time I make a payment, I use the fourth column to notate whether I made a partial payment or if I paid in full. Because I don’t always pay my balances due in one lump sum, having an app with my spreadsheet on my phone is helpful.
This may sound tedious or time consuming, but it really only takes 10 or 20 minutes to check my statements using the banks’ apps and update all of the due dates on my spreadsheet. And then it takes a quick minute or two to update when I make a payment.
Set up notifications
Though I have my handy spreadsheet, there are times when I find myself getting close to a due date and I don’t want to forget to pay. In that case, I’ll set up a reminder alert on my phone. I’ll try to set it up a few days in advance with daily repeats until the due date.
You can also set up alerts from card issuers, including Citi, Chase, American Express and Bank of America, to send you a text, email or push notification to your mobile device when a payment is due. For example, in the Chase app, there’s options to receive alerts for “My payment is due in 10 days” and “No payment was received for this account.”
Change your statement close dates
If having various cards with different statement close and due dates is a hassle to manage, you can call the banks at the number on the back of your card and request to change your statement close date, which will shift the due date. Having all of the due dates aligned can be helpful because it’s one less thing to keep up with. You can just pay them all on or near the same date and be finished for the month. But even still, it’s important to keep track of all cards in use, so you don’t forget to pay something.
I prefer having my statements close at different points of the month to align with my semimonthly paychecks. This means I can easily pay some cards with my mid-month paycheck and the others with my end-of-the-month check.
What about autopay?
Autopay is a great option for a lot of people. At the very least, you can ensure that you at least pay the minimum amount due on time and avoid a late fee. I prefer to pay manually because I keep my checking account fairly lean. I don’t have much of a buffer, or extra money; I keep just enough to pay the bills for the month.
I use the “pay yourself first” strategy of savings, meaning I send a set amount of money to my savings and retirement accounts and then live off the remaining amount. If there’s money leftover due to lower than usual discretionary expenses, I prefer to move it to a high-yield savings account, rather than let it sit in my checking account.
Oops, I paid late. Now what?
Even though I take these steps to prevent paying late, sometimes it still happens. Occasionally, I have forgotten to set up a reminder or have an annual fee come due on a card that’s “sock-drawered” or otherwise infrequently used.
I typically realize this has happened within a day or two after the due date. In these cases, I’ll make the payment, and wait for the late fee and interest to post. Then I’ll call the bank and nicely explain how I wasn’t paying attention to the calendar and ask if they will reverse the fee and interest as a one-time courtesy. Now, I don’t recommend doing this frequently, but generally if you have a good payment history, they’ll reverse the charges.
Being in this hobby of collecting travel rewards often means we’re spending on multiple credit cards. Making sure to pay your balances on time and in full can be a delicate balancing act. With a little organization and attention to detail, you can make sure to keep your credit history clean and that you don’t miss out on any rewards due to not paying on time.