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TPG staffers' personal strategies for tracking points, miles and credit cards

Sept. 18, 2022
12 min read
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I remember the feeling when I first got into the points and miles hobby — it felt like drinking from a fire hose. I was a bit overwhelmed with trying to track all of the new information. You may have experienced that same feeling.

Over time, I've developed a strategy that works for my wife and me for tracking our many credit cards, points programs, due dates and all of the other important information along the way.

However, no two people have the same strategy. Instead, the TPG staff wanted to share with you our various approaches to tracking credit cards, points and miles. Maybe you'll like something you see or will gain some inspiration to help you keep everything organized without feeling overwhelmed — and without it feeling like a second job.

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Related: TPG beginners guide: Everything you need to know about points, miles, airlines and credit cards

Emily Thompson, credit cards writer

I’m usually trying to meet a minimum spending requirement or actively build up a specific set of points or miles, so I typically focus my spending on one to three cards at any given moment. Every day, I check the balances on the cards I’m actively using and update my monthly budget, which I keep track of on a spreadsheet.

Once a month, I log in to all of my credit card accounts to check for any unusual activity and pay off all of my balances. On that day, I also review all of my automatic payments and saved payment methods to make sure I have everything set the way I need it for the month. For example, if I’m trying to meet the minimum spending requirement on a new card, I might switch my electric bill to charge the new card, rather than my usual U.S. Bank Cash+® Visa Signature® Card, which earns 5% cash back on utilities.

The information for the Cash+ Visa card has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

To keep up with my points and miles, I use the TPG app. I love that it keeps all of my balances in the same place, automatically calculates their value and gives me a heads-up when they're going to expire.

Katie Genter, senior points and miles writer

Playing in two-player mode, my husband and I use many strategies that are similar to those employed by my colleagues. For example, we have a spreadsheet for tracking our cards, including sign-up dates, most recent transaction dates and bonus details.

We maintain a shared Google Keep document with our best cards for each spending category and current credit card merchant offers for purchases in select categories. We also use AwardWallet to track our travel reservations, reward balances and reward expiration dates.

And we set up autopay on all our accounts to ensure we don't miss any credit card payments. My husband also manually audits most of our loyalty accounts about once a month to ensure our stays and flights are posted correctly.

JOHNNY JOHNSON/GETTY IMAGES

Finally, we don't carry all our credit cards while traveling as digital nomads. So, we take photos of the front and back of all our cards to have access to our card details while abroad. And when we get a new card, we have my husband's mom — who collects our mail while we're away — open the card and send us photos of the front and back. Then we can activate the card and begin using it for online purchases and mobile wallet purchases before getting the physical card.

Related: Earning points and miles as an expat: What you need to know

Kyle Olsen, points and miles reporter

With just a handful of credit cards, my strategy is nowhere near as sophisticated as those of my colleagues. In my phone's Notes app, I have a list of what each of my cards earns in each category. This helps me remember what card I should use in each spending category. I also have my finance apps organized on my iPhone in a special folder — Amex, Citi, Chase and Discover. I've enrolled in paperless bills on all of my credit card applications to routinely check transactions and pay off balances before the closing of a statement.

It's important to regularly audit your loyalty accounts to make sure that your travel is posting correctly. For example, when traveling on a partner air ticket, you should retain your boarding pass and e-ticket until the flight posts correctly.

Matt Moffitt, senior credit cards editor

When I get a new card, I usually need to meet a minimum spending requirement in the first three months. So I will put a reminder in my Google Calendar four weeks before the three months is up with something like, "Make sure to spend $4,000 on the Alaska Airlines Visa® Business card by Oct. 30."

When one of my cards is offering a quarterly bonus category, like 5% cash back (or 5 points per dollar spent) at Amazon on my Chase Freedom Flex, I set that card as my default payment in my Amazon account. Then I put a calendar reminder in for the first day after that quarter ends to switch it back to the regular card I use for Amazon purchases.

The card I use for Amazon purchases changes throughout the year. ADRIAN HANCU/GETTY IMAGES

Finally, I check my bank accounts every Monday. I have a folder in my bookmarks on Google Chrome that opens all of my active bank account portals. I also include Credit Karma in there so that I can keep an eye on my credit score weekly.

(A few years ago — on my birthday of all days — someone got hold of my credit information and opened a number of cards in my name. It took me hours and hours on the phone and submitting paperwork to fix this, so it is important for me to monitor my credit score frequently).

Ryan Smith, credit cards writer

I use five things to keep track of my cards and my points, which can sound like a lot, but it's quite simple for me at this point and requires about 30 minutes per month to track everything. I use a notepad, a simple spreadsheet in Google Sheets, Google Calendar, Travel Freely and the TPG app.

I use a digital notepad on my desktop with a list of spending goals. An example might be: "Oct. 31 — 10% back at restaurants, movie theaters and theaters on Citi® Double Cash Card. $250 spending limit, $50 spent as of Aug. 31." I delete items from the list once the spending is complete and the bonus points are received.

In Google Sheets, I have a simple list of card names and current balances on them. I update this manually twice a month just to have a picture of our outstanding balances across our many credit cards. This allows me to see all of our outstanding balances in one place. You can download a sample by clicking on "File" and choosing "Make a copy" or "Download."

GOOGLE.COM

I use Google Calendar for everything: doctor's appointments, days off work, plans with friends and even credit card payment due dates. You can create a separate calendar inside your main calendar for different items, and I have one called "Bills." You can read more about how to create a new calendar. On my calendar, I simply add an item such as "Due: $1,509.85 to Chase Freedom Flex" on its due date. You can (and should) set up automatic payments, but a reminder helps me make sure the payment occurs as planned.

For my credit card history, I like using Travel Freely. I can see my Chase 5/24 status, plus I receive email alerts about annual fee due dates that are coming up and bonus deadlines that are approaching (you can indicate "bonus received" to silence this alert). You'll need to enter your credit card information for each card regarding the opening date, bonus offer and other details manually, but this is simple and takes less than two minutes per card.

Lastly, the TPG app tracks my points and miles balances. This way, I know my current balances. The app can also help me when it's time to book award flights by telling me which are the cheapest programs from point A to point B for my intended flights.

You can also read about why I use two checking accounts for our bills here: How I treat credit cards like debit cards: The updated envelope system.

Senitra Horbrook, credit cards editor

I mostly use manual methods to keep track of my credit cards: one Google Sheet that helps me track my 5/24 status with Chase and another that tracks my monthly card due dates and statement close dates. Though I have 30 credit cards, I find these simple spreadsheets only take me a few minutes per month to update. And I don't use all 30 cards every month.

The spreadsheet that helps me keep track of my 5/24 status includes the date I opened the card, what the sign-up bonus was, any bonus spending categories, the annual fee and the date the card was closed if it's no longer open. On my other spreadsheet, every month I manually input each card's due date and statement closing date and then I notate when I've paid for the month.

KATIE GENTER/THE POINTS GUY

And because I may pay cards on varying dates from a couple of different checking accounts, I also prefer to pay manually rather than set up autopay. If you're prone to forget a due date, I do recommend autopay to at least be sure your minimum payment is submitted on time.

I tend to track my points and miles balances using the individual program's app or website. If I notice points, flights or stays haven't posted to my account in a timely manner, I'll reach out to the program to correct the issue.

Related: How TPG staffers with the most credit cards handle Chase’s 5/24 rule

Ashley Onadele, writer

I have about a dozen personal and business credit cards currently open, though I only use two or three, depending on what I'm purchasing. I prefer not to use apps because I like to keep it simple. I use a Google Sheet similar to Ryan's to keep track of my cards, including the card name, annual fee due date (if there is one), balances and due dates. Some cards that I don't use regularly still have some recurring charges, like my cellphone, so I'm sure to keep up with due dates even if I don't use that card every month.

ZACH GRIFF/THE POINTS GUY

I also make notes on my spreadsheet, such as which cards I want to close or change and which ones I'm considering opening to earn bonus points in another tab. In a final tab, I track all of my family's current points balances.

Since my kids are now too old to be lap infants, they have loyalty numbers for every airline we fly. This tab includes balances from loyalty accounts and credit card points. The sum of each points currency is at the bottom of the column and includes the total for all four of us within that currency. For example, I have 270,000 AAdvantage miles, my husband has 70,000 and my kids each have 15,000 so our family total is 370,000. I could theoretically transfer those miles around as needed to redeem for airline tickets.

Bottom line

As you can see, the ways the TPG staff tracks our credit cards, points and miles are not the same. What works for you may be similar or may be totally different.

What's important is that you find a system that works for you to stay organized so you can prevent your miles from expiring and so you don't miss a payment on one of your credit cards.

Feel free to mix and match anything you see here. Over time, you'll find what works for you and it will feel less cumbersome than it did at the beginning when you started in this hobby.

Featured image by KITZCORNER/SHUTTERSTOCK
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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Pros

  • Earns 3x points on restaurants, supermarkets, gas stations, air travel and hotels.
  • $100 annual hotel savings benefit (on single hotel stay bookings of $500 or more, excluding taxes and fees, booked through thankyou.com)
  • Points transfer to 16 airline programs, from JetBlue to Virgin Atlantic.
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Cons

  • $95 annual fee
  • Lacks travel protections that other travel rewards cards come with
  • For a limited time, earn 80,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Restaurants and Supermarkets
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Gas Stations, Air Travel and Hotels
  • Earn 1 Point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Annual Hotel Savings Benefit
  • 80,000 Points are redeemable for $800 in gift cards when redeemed at thankyou.com
  • No expiration and no limit to the amount of points you can earn with this card
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees on purchases
Best starter travel card
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards Rate

3XEarn 3 Points per $1 spent at Restaurants and Supermarkets
3XEarn 3 Points per $1 spent at Gas Stations, Air Travel and Hotels
1XEarn 1 Point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Intro Offer
    For a limited time, earn 80,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening

    Earn 80,000 ThankYou® points
    60,000 points
  • Annual Fee

    $95
  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    670-850
    Excellent, Good

Why We Chose It

The Citi Premier’s 3 points per dollar spent across a wide range of popular categories is one of the more lucrative offerings in the world of points and miles. The Citi Premier comes with a $95 annual fee and is currently offering a solid sign up bonus of 80,000 points after you spend $4,000 on purchases within the first three months. It also has some valuable transfer partners to make the most of your rewards. Add in access to Citi Entertainment plus a $100 hotel credit for any single-stay hotel booking that exceeds $500 or more, excluding taxes and fees, booked through the Citi travel website, there are few reasons why the Citi Premier should not be in every traveler’s wallet.

Pros

  • Earns 3x points on restaurants, supermarkets, gas stations, air travel and hotels.
  • $100 annual hotel savings benefit (on single hotel stay bookings of $500 or more, excluding taxes and fees, booked through thankyou.com)
  • Points transfer to 16 airline programs, from JetBlue to Virgin Atlantic.
  • World Elite Mastercard benefits, extended warranty, damage and theft protection.

Cons

  • $95 annual fee
  • Lacks travel protections that other travel rewards cards come with
  • For a limited time, earn 80,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Restaurants and Supermarkets
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Gas Stations, Air Travel and Hotels
  • Earn 1 Point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Annual Hotel Savings Benefit
  • 80,000 Points are redeemable for $800 in gift cards when redeemed at thankyou.com
  • No expiration and no limit to the amount of points you can earn with this card
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees on purchases