Staying Organized Amongst the “Points” Madness

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Part 8 Featured Staying Organized

Once you have your strategy in place, staying organized becomes the most important thing.

  • You need to know how many points you have in which programs and how you can use these points for either a redemption or a transfer.
  • You need to know what cards you have and how much you need to spend to earn your sign-up bonuses.
  • You need to know what your credit score is so you don’t apply for a card and get rejected, as well as what your overall finances look like.
  • …and so on!

This can all seem overwhelming, but don’t be alarmed. There are programs out there already that will help you track all your points. And of course, Upgraded Points is here to help you figure out how to earn and use your points!

Manually, you’ll still need to track your sign-up bonus spending, personal finances, and credit score. Most cards these days provide your credit score, so at least that’s becoming easier!

Keeping Your Points and Programs Organized

Tracking Your Points Balances and Spending

Possibly the most popular tracking program is AwardWallet. It’s a simple and free program that works very well. You can track awards programs from hotels, airlines, and credit card portals all in one spot.

It requires you to enter your username (or account number) and password for each account, then it tracks them in a nice organized list, telling you how many points you have and when they expire.

We suggest keeping all your usernames and passwords in one place, so you’ve got them handy when you need to enter them all into this site.

AwardWallet
Example of an Award Wallet summary screen. You can see all of your different loyalty account balances in one place!

Track Your Cards and Sign-Up Bonuses

Each time you sign up for a card, you’ll need to ensure that you know how much you need to spend to earn the sign-up bonus. As we’ve discussed, make sure you can meet the minimum spend before signing up for the card! Otherwise, that card is probably not worth getting.

Make a simple spreadsheet to show which card requires what level of spending, the date you opened the card, and the time frame to make your minimum spending (almost always 3 months).

Then, keep track of what you spend (using Mint.com makes this really easy!) and make sure you hit it by the end.

Credit_Card_Tracker
Example spreadsheet tracking cards opened, required spending and dates. Note that this may not reflect current offer data.

Managing Your Finances and Credit Score

The next thing you want to do is keep track of your credit score and finances.

Tracking your credit score is becoming easier and easier! Luckily, most cards have started offering your FICO score for free, and so does Mint.com.

This started as a competitive advantage feature that soon was picked up by many cards, and the result is free credit scores for all!

If you don’t have access to a graph that tracks your score over time, be sure to create your own spreadsheet to do so. This is important to see how your activity affects your score.

Also, be sure to note when you opened up cards and keep track of all the other measurements as described in the credit score section of this guide. That way, you can make the best decision on when to open your next card.

It’s just as important to have your bank accounts organized and a budget managed.

Again, Mint.com can do all these things for you, but you may want some other resources to help you decide how to do this. Many personal finance blogs can help you; here are a few of the most popular:

We won’t get into details here since we’re not a personal finance site, nor are we affiliated with any of these blogs. We just promote good personal finance habits in order to continue earning travel rewards.

Managing Your Card Earnings and Benefits

You’ll also want to keep track of what cards you have and which categories of spending they work best with. Having a quick cheat sheet allows you to easily figure out which card works best in a certain situation.

Organized_Cards_4
Example cheat sheet made in Excel to track credit cards and categories. Note that this may not reflect current offer data.

Let’s not forget about the other card benefits, which can often be more valuable than the card’s points earning. Your list may look something like this so you can remember all the extras:

Card_Organization_of_Benefits_5
Example organized spreadsheet on card benefits. Note that this may not reflect current offer data.

Trust us when we say it is much easier to do this up front than to go back and log in each time you want to remember something! You can get other updates about new cards here at Upgraded Points.

Tools To Help You Stay Organized

We’ll be coming up with some spreadsheet templates and other tools you can use to keep organized very soon! Organizing isn’t always fun, so it can help to get a jump start by utilizing something that someone else has created.

Part 9: Signing Up for Your First Credit Cards: Additional Tips >>

Photo Credits/Credit/Copyright Attribution:
Organizer Featured Image: Frannyanne/Shutterstock
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
  • Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $625 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • Named Best Credit Card for Flexible Travel Redemption - Kiplinger's Personal Finance, July 2016
  • 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
  • Earn 5,000 bonus points after you add the first authorized user and make a purchase in the first 3 months from account opening
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 50,000 points are worth $625 toward travel
  • No blackout dates or travel restrictions - as long as there's a seat on the flight, you can book it through Chase Ultimate Rewards
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Frequently Asked Questions

What are some organization tips for credit cards and points?
To properly manage your points strategy, you'll need to track your actual cards, sign-up bonuses, spending, general finances, and credit score. You'll also want to keep track of all the benefits and how much you're earning on each card.

Some organization ideas include keeping a spreadsheet with all this information manually entered, using online finance software, using online points tracking software, creating a document with information about benefits, or keeping a good old fashioned paper filing system.

You want to make sure you can access your account information as easily as possible. This includes usernames, passwords, total points, specific earning categories, and so forth.

The easier you make organizing at the start, the easier it will be and the more time you'll have for traveling!

Visit our Must See Resources page for more information.

How can I track my credit card points?
Tracking your points can be done in a few different ways. You could manually check your points each month and input them into a spreadsheet. Each of your cards will also have their own online portal that tells you how many points you have.

Credit card tracking in this way can become tedious, so we recommend using an app for tracking mileage and points. These include AwardWallet, TripIt, and Points.com.

What are some good ways to manage money and personal finances?
While we are not a personal finance site, we can say a few words about this with regards to credit card points.

Organizing your finances requires reviewing them regularly (whether that is weekly or monthly), and means you should smartly manage your spending versus earning.

If you don't know how much you're bringing home in pay and are just putting things blindly onto credit cards, please stop now! Make sure you can pay them off each month before trying to earn points; otherwise using cards won't be worth it.

Finally, if you are organized in your own finances, you will probably be more organized in your points tracking.

The good news is organization is a skill that can be developed! If you are not an organized person in general, pick up some books or read some blogs on the topic to work on it.

Can you give any financial planning advice regarding credit cards?
Credit cards are a tool that makes spending easier. You can go most places in America without cash and purchase anything online with a credit card.

The only way to safely utilize credit cards in your financial plan is to know how much you are spending versus how much you are earning, and sticking to a budget.

Otherwise, you can quickly get out of control since you're merely swiping a card instead of trading physical cash.

Any tips on how to organize business finances for credit card points?
If you are a small business utilizing credit cards that earn points, you can track your credit cards using the same tools we suggest in our article above, i.e. spreadsheets and points tracking websites.

Because points are not considered taxable income, you can use them however you wish. We suggest utilizing them for personal travel since you can save money on taxes when you purchase things through your business!

Can you recommend a budgeting software?
A good budget tracking software makes your life easier when tracking your finances. While we are not a personal finance site, we personally like Mint.com. A few others include Quicken, You Need a Budget (YNAB), and AceMoney.

See this Forbes article for more ideas. Note there are both desktop and online personal finance software versions.

I am a disorganized person; how do I get organized?
Getting organized is a process, not a one-day event. You must dedicate yourself to learning organization strategies. If you're disorganized, getting a hold of your finances is a good place to start.

Follow our tips above, use our tools, and you'll soon find you are more organized than you've ever been!

Once you organize one area, you can organize your life in general. You just need to take things one by one, and when you start to see a "snowball effect" it will become easier and easier to stay organized.

You'll soon find yourself breezing through the information here at Upgraded Points and making fun trips!