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Rewards Credit Cards

How to Manage Multiple Rewards Cards

You probably have at least one credit card—and if you're lucky, you have one that gives you rewards for every dollar you spend. But it doesn't have to stop there. Carrying multiple rewards credit cards is not unusual, and if you know how to manage them, you may be surprised by the savings and rewards possibilities.

If you're thinking of adding a rewards card to your wallet or already have several and want to maximize their value, check out these five tips that may help you organize your cards and make sure you're squeezing them for their full value.

1. Take Inventory of Your Credit Card Purchases

One of the main reasons to have multiple rewards credit cards is to earn rewards for various types of spending. Most rewards cards offer points for different purchases—like travel, restaurants, gas and more—and knowing what you spend most on is important in managing all of your cards and maximizing their rewards.

Take inventory of your top spending categories: These might include travel, restaurants, grocery stores or something else. Once you know what you spend most on, make sure you have cards that offer rewards for those types of purchases. This will help you begin to maximize your reward earnings.

2. Decide Which Card You'll Use for What

If you know what you spend on, and have multiple cards that offer rewards across several categories, you'll want to create a plan for which card you will use for which purchases.

Use this scenario as an example: You have three rewards credit cards—two offer rewards for travel purchases and one offers rewards for spending at restaurants. When spending on travel, use the card that offers the most rewards or pick the card that earns the most valuable points. But when you go out to eat, make sure you have your restaurant rewards card on hand so you can earn the extra points for that spending.

Another thing to be aware of is how each card issuer and card "codes" or defines certain types of spending. For example, The Platinum Card® from American Express offers lucrative travel rewards of 5 points per dollar spent—but that applies only to flights booked directly with airlines or hotel and airline bookings made through the Amex travel portal. The Chase Sapphire Reserve® card, on the other hand, offers travel rewards of 3 points per dollar spent on all types of travel, including transportation options from Uber and public transit to air travel.

The difference in how each of these cards code purchases could dictate how you use them, so if you have multiple rewards cards, make sure you read the fine print of your card agreement so you can plan ahead to use the right card for the right purchases.

3. Understand and Remember Important Dates

When it comes to important credit card dates, there are a few big ones to remember. First, some of your card benefits will renew at different times of the year, and if you don't know when they renew, you may be leaving valuable benefits on the table. Second, make sure you know when your annual fees hit each year (more on this below).

Benefit renewal dates will change from card to card, but generally they revolve around the calendar year or your cardmember anniversary date. Some of the cards' other perks may also be bound by a range of dates, and knowing ahead of time will help you make sure you get all the rewards the card has to offer.

When you have two or three rewards cards, remembering all these dates can be tricky, so consider writing them down or adding calendar alerts to make sure you don't miss out on any important ones.

4. Track All Your Cards

Whether it's tracking your annual fees, monitoring your rewards or just knowing how many cards you have, consider creating a spreadsheet or other file to store all these important details so you can easily monitor and check in on your accounts. Having all this information in one place will help you stay on top of your accounts and will allow you to make more informed and responsible decisions—which should translate into more rewards.

Depending on the cards you have and the amount of detail you want to include, your spreadsheet may contain different things. If you have cards that offer cardholder perks you want to track—like travel credits, airport lounge access or shopping discounts—include these in your spreadsheet and consider tracking your redemptions.

Whatever tracking system you choose, make sure you can update it throughout the year. Having a central location where you track these things is just another way to protect yourself from losing some of the valuable benefits your cards offer.

5. Don't Forget About the Annual Fees

If you have multiple rewards cards, you probably have multiple annual fees. The good news is if you maximize your spending, these fees could easily pay for themselves.

First, make sure you know when these fees hit each year so you can plan for the extra payment amount on your monthly bill. It's also helpful to be aware of these dates in case you ever want to downgrade a card to one with no annual fee or close your account. Remember, closing accounts can have a negative impact on your credit score, so always look into downgrading a card before deciding to close an account altogether.

Depending on how many rewards cards you have—and especially if you have a card with an annual fee in excess of $400—you're going to want to have a system in place to make sure you aren't paying too much for too little. The rewards earned by most cards make paying the annual fee worth it, but if you have cards you hardly use or that offer measly reward options, you may consider downgrading or changing that card for something else to avoid having to pay for something that isn't returning the value.

Looking for Another Rewards Card? Consider Checking Your Credit First

If you're thinking about adding another rewards credit card to your wallet, consider getting a free credit report and credit score from Experian so you know what lenders will see when considering your application. To learn more about some popular rewards credit cards, check out Experian CreditMatchTM, which will pair you with specialized card offers based on your credit file.

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