My 2021 credit card New Year’s resolutions

Jan 11, 2021

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The new year is a great time to take a look at things to do differently or better in every aspect of life. In 2020, I only opened two new cards: the Alaska Airlines Visa® Business card and The Platinum Card® from American Express. That’s the fewest number of new cards in a year since I began opening travel rewards cards almost a decade ago.

I’ve thought about a few things I’d like to do in 2021 when it comes to my credit cards. Hopefully, this will help get you thinking about ways you can improve things in your credit card life, even if your resolutions may be different from mine.

In This Post

Paying before statement close

African American woman laying in bed online shopping with laptop.
(Photo by JGI/Jamie Grill/Getty Images)

Credit cards have a due date and a statement close date. Paying at least the minimum amount due by the due date means avoiding late fees and potentially negative remarks to the credit bureaus. Paying in full by the due date means also avoiding interest charges. For me, paying in full by the due date has been the status quo.

Related: TPG’s 10 commandments of rewards credit cards

The benefit of paying before the statement closes is so that balances won’t report to credit bureaus, which will help increase my credit score because it will lower my debt-to-credit ratio. I’ll admit this always seemed crazy to me, because paying the balance off monthly means I have no credit card debt. But the bureaus only know what the banks report as of statement close or the end of the month.

I used to be better about paying before the statement close date, but the more credit cards I opened and used monthly, the more difficult it got to keep up with both the statement close and actual due date.

Another wrench is that I have at least one card that reports balances to the credit bureaus at the end of the month instead of at statement close. So I could have no balance on the due date or statement close, but if I have a balance on the last day of the month then it shows up on my credit report.

In 2021, I’d like to do a better job of paying my balances before my statements close.

Stop procrastinating on perks

Without fail, I seem to wind up in the last week of the year with credit card benefits still needing to be used. The last week of 2020 I redeemed the airline credit on both my Amex Platinum and Gold cards, and I also purchased $50 worth of goodies from Saks Fifth Avenue in order to receive the Saks credit. Enrollment required for select benefits.

Related: How our cruise writer got $4,456 in value from his Amex Platinum in a year — even during the pandemic

In my defense, my Platinum card was opened in November, so it’s not as though I let an entire year go by. But I have had the Amex Gold since February, which means I did have many months to use the credit on that card. I have a second Platinum (the Schwab version) and unfortunately, I procrastinated using the January-June Saks credit and the purchase didn’t post to my account until July, meaning I missed out on $50 for the first part of the year.

Make sure you use your monthly dining credits on the Amex Platinum and Amex Gold cards. (Photo by Chris Dong/The Points Guy)

And there have been months where I waited until late in the month to use the up to $15 monthly Uber (or Uber Eats) credit from the Platinum (up to $20 in December; for use in the U.S.) or the $10 monthly dining credit from the Gold card. These benefits didn’t go unused in 2020, but in 2021 I’d ideally use them early in the month to not risk scrambling to find a good time to use them or forgetting about them altogether.

The same goes with Amex Offers and Chase Offers. I’m pretty good about adding them to my accounts, but sometimes the follow-through isn’t great — or there at all. Back in mid-2020, Amex had a Shop Small promotion where you could receive a $5 credit for spending $10, and it could be used up to 10 times. I only used it nine times and the last few uses were in the last week of the promo. D’oh!

In 2021, I aspire to not wait until the last minute to use perks or let them go unused.

Make more retention calls

(Photo courtesy of Shutterstock)

Most of my credit cards have an annual fee. I’ve had a lot of the cards that waive the annual fee for the first year, and then I either cancel them or keep them, if I deem the benefits as being worthy of the fee.

The retention call is a well-known way to hopefully bypass paying an annual fee through a statement credit, or at least maybe receive some bonus points for keeping the card and paying the fee. Calling in to talk to a customer service rep isn’t my idea of fun, but I know a 10-minute call could save me hundreds of dollars.

However, sometimes I just pay the annual fee without even trying to see if there are any offers to waive it or get bonus points. Blame it on busyness, laziness or a combination of two, but I’d definitely like to do better at calling for fee waivers.

Get under Chase’s 5/24

I began opening travel rewards cards prior to Chase instituting the 5/24 rule (no more than five new cards in 24 months). So when they created the rule for Ultimate Rewards cards and then later expanded it to include all cobranded cards, I was pretty much disqualified from more Chase cards unless I wanted to stop applying for other banks’ cards for a time.

Since I had four personal and two business Chase cards, I never worked too hard to get under 5/24. I felt I still had plenty of options with Amex, Citi, Bank of America, Barclays, Synchrony and Discover.

And it was true. So what changed? As earlier stated, in 2020 I only opened two new cards — and one was a business card, which won’t appear on my personal report, and the other was an Amex, which has a history of not necessarily doing a hard pull for current customers, meaning no new inquiry on my report for that account.

During the first part of the year, I wanted to wait on applying for new cards because I was refinancing my mortgage and didn’t want new inquiries to lower my credit score, as I wanted the lowest mortgage interest rate I could get. As the months went on, staying home more due to the pandemic meant I wasn’t spending as much and it would be tougher to meet too many minimum spends.

So as of January 2021, this puts me at 7/24. In June, I’ll be at 4/24. So there may be a Chase card or two (business/personal) in my future for the first time since 2017.

Of course, if some amazing, never-seen-before, 200,000-point bonus offer came up for a travel card, I probably wouldn’t pass up that type of opportunity, even if it means extending my wait to be under 5/24. But otherwise, I think it’s an actual possibility for me.

Bottom line

Every resolution doesn’t have to be a major, life-changing one. None of these resolutions are going to change my life, but sometimes a small resolution can make a big impact. The goals I have listed are reasonable with results that I can appreciate. Here’s to achievable credit card goals for 2021.

Featured photo by Olesya Kuznetsova/Shutterstock.

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Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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