It helps to have some OCD tendencies when playing this game. It is absolutely imperative to stay organized and have some kind of system to keep track of things.
Let’s start with all your airline frequent flyer accounts and hotel and car rental loyalty programs. I use Award Wallet, which is awesome. It will keep track of all your accounts, and automatically update the balances. (except for Delta, Southwest and United, who do not participate in Award Wallet) It takes a few minutes to set up, but it is well worth it. I keep track of all my accounts, Hubby’s accounts and even my in-law’s accounts – all on the same screen.
Credit Card Applications
You need to keep up with what credit cards you apply for, how much you have to spend to get the bonus and when you have to complete that spending, and when it is time to cancel them. I keep track of this on a spreadsheet. I created a simple one with the categories I wanted to track. Here is a sample of my sheet. Some of the boxes have question marks because I applied for them many years before I started churning cards.
I use iBank to keep track of what I spend every day. When I had a PC I used Quicken. Both programs are essentially the same and I highly suggest getting one to keep track of your finances!
Hubby does not really understand my system, but I do and it works for me. I’m going to tell you what I do, but you don’t have to copy it. You can develop your own system as long as you are doing something to keep track of money going in and out and being posted to multiple cards.
In the accounts section of iBank, I list my checking and savings account just like anybody else would and I use it to balance my checkbook just like everybody else. But I also add every one of my active credit cards as an account. Every single purchase I make gets logged twice. I first log it into my checking account as a withdrawal. In the “payee” box I list a code name for whatever credit card I used like “executive” for the Citibank AA Executive card. This will deduct that amount from my checkbook. Then I go to the account I created for the Executive card and log the same purchase also as a withdrawal. In the payee section I list the actual name of the business where I made the purchase and I categorize the purchase as dining, groceries, gas or whatever. Hopefully you can see how this is balancing out.
Every time I make a purchase, I deduct that amount from my checkbook just like you would do if you used a Debit card to make the purchase. (at least, I hope you would do that) So when my checkbook balance starts getting low, I know how much money I have left to spend within my monthly budget.
When I get my credit card bill, I go into my Executive account I created in IBank and mark off each charge on the bill as “paid”. Then I click over to my checkbook and delete the withdrawal I entered when I made the purchase. I then make one entry into my checkbook to “Citibank Executive Card” as a withdrawal to show I paid that credit card bill in full for the month. Then in my iBank “Executive” account I add the amount of the bill I just paid in full as a Deposit and everything is even.
If this system makes no sense to you, don’t worry about it. I’m not saying you have to do it like this, but you do need to come up with some kind of system to keep track of your spending. You have to make sure you can pay off every credit card bill IN FULL every month. I cannot stress that enough. You cannot carry balances and you cannot pay interest on the credit cards.