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I’ve been writing about credit and credit cards for over 11 years. So as you might imagine, I have a lot of credit cards.
And as I’ve written dozens of times, the most important thing that you can do with your credit cards is to manage them responsibly. That means paying all of your bills on-time and carrying very little debt. In fact, I make it a habit to avoid interest on my 18 cards by always paying my entire statement balances in full.
But managing your credit cards responsibly is often easier said than done, especially when you have a lot of active accounts. Here’s how I’ve learned to manage all of my cards:
Plan A: Paper statements
For most of my adult life, I managed my credit cards by using paper statements. I simply waited for the paper statements to arrive in the mail, put them in a pile, and went through them every few days.
I’d review the charges, look for mistakes or fraudulent charges, and then schedule payment through my bank. I’d always pay the full statement balance by the due date, to avoid interest charges. And if the due date fell on a weekend or holiday, I make sure to make my payment by the last business day before the due date. After I paid the statement, I’d place it in a different pile.
The advantage of this system is that it’s simple and convenient. But it had several downsides. First, I had to remember to go through the pile every few days. Also, the system broke down when I was traveling for more than a week or so if I wasn’t at home to receive and pay for my statements. It was also a chaotic system to manage, as I had due dates scattered throughout the month at random times.
Plan B: Electronic statements with coordinated due dates
After struggling to maintain the paper system, I finally broke down a few years ago and decided to become more organized. First, I went through all of my accounts and synchronized their due dates by card issuer. This is easy to do, as nearly every credit card issuers will allow you to change your due date to any day of the month that you choose.
For example, I have five American Express accounts including a consumer AmEx Platinum and business Platinum card, an Amex Everyday card, a Blue Business Plus card and a Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card. All of these cards now have due dates on the 10th of each month.
Likewise I have 11 accounts with Chase, and they’re all due on the 20th of each month. On the consumer site, these cards are the Chase Sapphire Reserve, the Chase Freedom, the Chase Freedom Unlimited, The World of Hyatt Credit Card, the Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus and the no-fee United MileagePlus card.
On the small business side, I have the Ink Business Preferred Credit Card, the Chase Ink Bold (which has since been discontinued), United Explorer Business Card, Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Business Credit Card, and two Ink Business Plus accounts.
I also have a Discover it® Miles card and a Wyndham Rewards card from Barclays. I set these up to be due on the 10th of each month, along with my American Express cards.
My most frequently used personal cards are my Chase Sapphire Reserve and Freedom Unlimited cards. I also use my AmEx Platinum for its benefits and rewards for airline purchases. For business expenses, I’m most likely to use my Blue Business Plus AmEx for general expenses, and my Ink Plus or Ink Bold cards for office supplies and telecommunications services, where they offer 5x rewards.
As a result of this new system, there’s only two times per month that I need to go through statements and pay my bills. I also have no paper statements floating around, and can management cards from my home, my office or from a hotel room on the other side of the world, if necessary.
Paying your bills on-time is critical to maintaining a great credit history and a high credit score And while there’s no one way that works best for everyone, my system has evolved to work for me.