Open the wallet or purse of any American adult, and you’ll find an average of five to ten credit cards in there. It’s difficult for people to imagine their lives without credit cards now, just as it would be difficult to imagine life without the conveniences of cellular phones and email. They’ve become part of our culture, and there are many things you would have difficulty doing if you didn’t have at least one credit card – including booking flights or reserving hotel rooms.
Having multiple credit cards is a challenge, though, especially when you’re dealing with five to ten separate credit card bills with five to ten different due dates (on top of all your other bills!) As many people unfortunately have discovered first-hand; missing a credit card payment or paying it after the due date will result in a $39 late payment fee and sometimes even an interest rate hike on all of your credit card accounts due to that egregious “Universal Default” policy that some card issuers still maintain.
If you are like so many of us ”average” Americans with far too many credit cards, use the following 5 tips to keep it simple and make sure you aren’t paying unnecessary late fees or spending a lot of time managing your finances:
1. Change Your Due Dates: With five or more credit cards all due on different dates of the month, it’s easy to see how someone could miss a payment or skip one because they thought they already paid it (when in fact, they paid one of their other bills twice or something!) Most credit card companies will allow you to change the due date either online or by phone, so take a few minutes to line up your cards so they’re due at the same time each month.
2. Pay Online: Writing and mailing checks is a multiple step process that can be time consuming when you’re talking about five to ten different checks to write each month! Sign up for online payments and you can sit down once a month and pay all of your credit card bills with one click. You might also decide to do this automatically….
3. Pay Automatically: If your payments don’t increase (or you just pay a set amount each month which is higher than the amount due at all times) it may make sense to set your credit card payments to pay automatically from your checking account.
4. Use Automatic Reminders: If paying automatically scares you (you’re afraid you won’t have enough money in your account at some point and end up with overdraft fees; or your credit card bill fluctuates from month to month) consider signing up for automatic reminders. You can receive an email reminder, or in some cases, a text message on your cell phone when your payment is about to be due. Just be careful when signing up for this that you aren’t switching to “paperless billing” without being aware. Paperless billing is a nice feature if you spend a ton of time on your computer (you’ll receive credit card statements by email rather than in the mail) but for many people it makes it much easier to overlook the payment is due and completely defeats the purpose of all the other steps in this post.
5. Use Your Browser to Bookmark: If you switch to making payments online, whether automatically or manually – you’ll want to bookmark the websites for each of your credit card companies to make it quick and easy to access each of your accounts. Just go to the website, and “add to bookmarks” or “favorites”. Make a folder called “credit cards” and store each of your links in one place. (Hint: you can do this for your other bills too, if you pay them online). When it comes time to make a payment or view your statements, simply go to your bookmarks and log in.