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  • Oriana Skylar Mastro

Managing Credit Card Accounts

Credit cards are awesome in that they greatly reduce the amount of hassle to buy things. But, they can be expensive if we don’t keep tabs on what’s what.

Whether you just got a new card, are moving, or doing an annual admin review, managing your credit card accounts is an important admin activity. You never want to pay outrageous interest rates if you can avoid it, and you also want to take full advantage of all the benefits on your card. Using one credit card company for all your needs will significantly reduce the admin (vs. having an AMEX, Visa, and Mastercard, for example). Here’s a checklist for how to do that. (Note: researching which credit cards are best for you is a whole other thing.)

Pay the setup costs. This category is heavy on the setup costs. You want to:

1) Get your card and activate it for yourself and any other account holders

2) Set up the card to use to make payments easily with you your phone and internet browsers

3) Set up your online account, which includes making sure all your contact details are correct, setting up automatic bill pay, choosing your marketing preferences (to avoid getting tons of emails), and selecting paperless correspondence (to reduce mail admin). Take the time to play with the website if you want to do other things like select the order your cards are listed or nickname your accounts.

4) Download the credit card company app to your phone.

Put it together. I like to have notes about my accounts, when the annual fees are due and how much (if I want to cancel the card), and the main benefits I need to use up (like cash back, travel funds, concierge services, etc.). You leave a lot of money on the table by not knowing your benefits (sometimes you have to 'activate' them). For example, I spent a lot of time getting a new card because I wanted to use the concierge service to reduce my admin load, only to find that one of my cards already had that benefit. I also note if there are any foreign transaction fees since I travel quite a bit.

Also, there are usually bonuses when you first open an account. Make sure you know what you need to do to get that bonus (usually spending a certain amount within the first few months) and follow up to make sure you get it.

Reminders. I set up automatic bill pay just so I don’t have to worry about that reminder. But I do set up reminders for 1) the annual fee payment date (to cancel before that if I want to), 2) any benefits I'm waiting for, and 3) to set a travel notification for when I travel.

Performance Notes. Here I note the best ways to get a hold of customer service (some phone numbers I've had to wait for others, others go right through) and how the process went for using some of the benefits like luggage delay and car rental insurance. Also, you can put your credit card research here so that if your circumstances change, you can quickly see if you should change credit cards.

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