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My 2021 credit card New Year’s resolutions

Jan. 11, 2021
8 min read
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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.

Paying before statement close

(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.

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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.

Updated on 4/27/22.

Featured image by (Photo by Olesya Kuznetsova/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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Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
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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.

Why We Chose It

Sometimes it's worth a large investment to reap the benefits of a great credit card. That's exactly the case with the Amex Platinum card. In exchange for the annual fee, you'll unlock access to the Amex Membership Rewards program that let you access airline and hotel transfer partners, along with new lifestyle and travel credits. This card is also incredibly rewarding for travel purchases, helping you rack up a ton of Membership Rewards points for your next award trip.

Pros

  • The current welcome offer on this card is quite lucrative. TPG values it at $1,600.
  • This card comes with a long list of benefits, including access to Centurion Lounges, complimentary elite status with Hilton and Marriott, at least $500 in assorted annual statement credits and so much more. (Enrollment required for select benefits.)
  • The Amex Platinum comes with access to a premium concierge service that can help you with everything from booking hard-to-get reservations to finding destination guides to help you plan out your next getaway.

Cons

  • The high annual fee is only worth it if you’re taking full advantage of the card’s benefits. Seldom travelers may not get enough value to warrant the cost.
  • Outside of the current welcome bonus, you’re only earning higher rewards on specific airfare and hotel purchases, so it’s not a great card for other spending categories.
  • The annual airline fee statement credit can be complicated to take advantage of compared to the broader travel credits offered by competing premium cards.
  • Earn 80,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $6,000 on purchases on your new Card in your first 6 months of Card Membership. Apply and select your preferred metal Card design: classic Platinum Card®, Platinum x Kehinde Wiley, or Platinum x Julie Mehretu.
  • Earn 5X Membership Rewards® Points for flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel up to $500,000 on these purchases per calendar year and earn 5X Membership Rewards® Points on prepaid hotels booked with American Express Travel.
  • Get $200 back in statement credits each year on prepaid Fine Hotels + Resorts® or The Hotel Collection bookings, which requires a minimum two-night stay, through American Express Travel when you pay with your Platinum Card®.
  • $240 Digital Entertainment Credit: Get up to $20 back each month on eligible purchases made with your Platinum Card® on one or more of the following: Audible, Disney+, The Disney Bundle, ESPN+, Hulu, Peacock, SiriusXM, and The New York Times. Enrollment required.
  • $155 Walmart+ Credit: Cover the cost of a $12.95 monthly Walmart+ membership with a statement credit after you pay for Walmart+ each month with your Platinum Card. Cost includes $12.95 plus applicable local sales tax. Plus Ups are excluded.
  • American Express has expanded The Centurion® Network to include 40+ Centurion Lounge and Studio locations worldwide. There are even more places your Platinum Card® can get you complimentary entry and exclusive perks.
  • $200 Airline Fee Credit: Get up to $200 in statement credits per calendar year in baggage fees and more at one select qualifying airline.
  • $200 Uber Cash: Enjoy Uber VIP status and up to $200 in Uber savings on rides or eats orders in the US annually. Uber Cash and Uber VIP status is available to Basic Card Member only.
  • Get up to $300 back per calendar year on the Equinox+ digital fitness app, or eligible Equinox club memberships when you pay with your Platinum Card. Enrollment required. Learn more.
  • Breeze through security with CLEAR® lanes available at 100+ airports, stadiums, and entertainment venues and get up to $189 back per calendar year on your membership when you use your Card. Learn more.
  • $695 annual fee.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees
Apply for The Platinum Card® from American Express
at American Express's secure site
Terms & restrictions apply. See rates & fees
Best luxury travel rewards 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

5XEarn 5X Membership Rewards® Points for flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel up to $500,000 on these purchases per calendar year.
5XEarn 5X Membership Rewards® Points on prepaid hotels booked with American Express Travel.
  • Intro Offer
    Earn 80,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $6,000 on purchases on your new Card in your first 6 months of Card Membership.

    Earn 80,000 Points
  • Annual Fee

    $695
  • 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

Sometimes it's worth a large investment to reap the benefits of a great credit card. That's exactly the case with the Amex Platinum card. In exchange for the annual fee, you'll unlock access to the Amex Membership Rewards program that let you access airline and hotel transfer partners, along with new lifestyle and travel credits. This card is also incredibly rewarding for travel purchases, helping you rack up a ton of Membership Rewards points for your next award trip.

Pros

  • The current welcome offer on this card is quite lucrative. TPG values it at $1,600.
  • This card comes with a long list of benefits, including access to Centurion Lounges, complimentary elite status with Hilton and Marriott, at least $500 in assorted annual statement credits and so much more. (Enrollment required for select benefits.)
  • The Amex Platinum comes with access to a premium concierge service that can help you with everything from booking hard-to-get reservations to finding destination guides to help you plan out your next getaway.

Cons

  • The high annual fee is only worth it if you’re taking full advantage of the card’s benefits. Seldom travelers may not get enough value to warrant the cost.
  • Outside of the current welcome bonus, you’re only earning higher rewards on specific airfare and hotel purchases, so it’s not a great card for other spending categories.
  • The annual airline fee statement credit can be complicated to take advantage of compared to the broader travel credits offered by competing premium cards.
  • Earn 80,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $6,000 on purchases on your new Card in your first 6 months of Card Membership. Apply and select your preferred metal Card design: classic Platinum Card®, Platinum x Kehinde Wiley, or Platinum x Julie Mehretu.
  • Earn 5X Membership Rewards® Points for flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel up to $500,000 on these purchases per calendar year and earn 5X Membership Rewards® Points on prepaid hotels booked with American Express Travel.
  • Get $200 back in statement credits each year on prepaid Fine Hotels + Resorts® or The Hotel Collection bookings, which requires a minimum two-night stay, through American Express Travel when you pay with your Platinum Card®.
  • $240 Digital Entertainment Credit: Get up to $20 back each month on eligible purchases made with your Platinum Card® on one or more of the following: Audible, Disney+, The Disney Bundle, ESPN+, Hulu, Peacock, SiriusXM, and The New York Times. Enrollment required.
  • $155 Walmart+ Credit: Cover the cost of a $12.95 monthly Walmart+ membership with a statement credit after you pay for Walmart+ each month with your Platinum Card. Cost includes $12.95 plus applicable local sales tax. Plus Ups are excluded.
  • American Express has expanded The Centurion® Network to include 40+ Centurion Lounge and Studio locations worldwide. There are even more places your Platinum Card® can get you complimentary entry and exclusive perks.
  • $200 Airline Fee Credit: Get up to $200 in statement credits per calendar year in baggage fees and more at one select qualifying airline.
  • $200 Uber Cash: Enjoy Uber VIP status and up to $200 in Uber savings on rides or eats orders in the US annually. Uber Cash and Uber VIP status is available to Basic Card Member only.
  • Get up to $300 back per calendar year on the Equinox+ digital fitness app, or eligible Equinox club memberships when you pay with your Platinum Card. Enrollment required. Learn more.
  • Breeze through security with CLEAR® lanes available at 100+ airports, stadiums, and entertainment venues and get up to $189 back per calendar year on your membership when you use your Card. Learn more.
  • $695 annual fee.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees