Credit cards are easy enough to get. But just because you can get one, doesn’t mean you should. Use the wrong credit card, and it could cost you thousands more than you intended. Use the right one, and it could earn you thousands more than you ever imagined.
That’s why, every year you should take a look at the cards in your wallet, and re-calibrate your “portfolio”. Get rid of the cards that aren’t performing and replace them with cards that better match your spending or borrowing habits. The impact of doing so could cut your rates by more than half, or earn you a free flight faster than you ever expected.
To give you an idea of how much you can gain by optimizing your credit card portfolio annually, with the exact same spend, we know of one cash back card that will earn you $456 in cash back EVERY year. Using a sub optimal card, you would only receive $99 cash back. That’s a $357 difference per year.
Alternatively, you could be paying 20% interest on thousands of dollars in credit card debt. Why not get a balance transfer card and pay 0% for the next 12 months? Doing so can save you $1,420 in 1 year of interest payments alone!
Here are 4 strategies to optimize your credit card portfolio.
1. Determine What Type of Credit Card User You Are
Generally, users fall into one of 3 categories. You either pay off your credit card every month, always maintain a balance, or occasionally maintain a balance. If you pay off the entire balance of your credit card at the end of every month religiously, you’re going to want a rewards card. If you always maintain a balance, or frequently only pay the minimum payment, you’ll want a low interest credit card option. If you’re somewhere in the middle, you may want both!
2. Compare The Market
Now that you know what type of credit card user you are, scour the market for the best credit cards that match your needs. If you pay down your balance every month, just look at rewards credit cards. Interest rates will have no impact on you. Look for sizable welcome bonuses, annual fee waivers (so you can try before you buy), and rewards programs that suite your preferences (cash-back, rewards, miles, retailer). Find a card that maximizes your rewards given your spending habits.
If you maintain a balance, get a low interest credit card. There are two considerations here. If you already have a credit card balance, look for a balance transfer card with a 0% rate for the longest promotional period possible and the lowest balance transfer fee possible. Don’t get fooled by a low rate, with a high transfer fee in the small print.
If you know you’re going to carry a balance in the future, look at one of the many low interest credit cards for new purchases. You’ll want to look for a low rate credit card that has no annual fee and a low fixed interest rate that won’t fluctuate over time. Don’t get fooled by promo rates. Get a credit card you can keep in your wallet over the course of the year for any purchases you know you’re not going to be able to pay down right away.
3. Add New Credit Cards
Now that you’ve done your research, apply for the cards that optimize your credit card usage. Don’t apply for 5 cards at once, you’ll blow your credit score. Depending on your current credit score, adding a credit card every few months will be just fine. There’s no limit to how many credit cards you can have. There’s only a limit to how many you can apply for in a very short period of time.
4. Purge Your Wallet
Now that you’ve added the credit cards you want, it’s time to get rid of the cards you no longer need. The first priority will be to get rid of any credit cards with an annual fee that aren’t giving you optimal value. Don’t worry about the impact of closing accounts on your credit score. Any minor bump will be temporary, especially if you replaced an existing card with a new one. Regardless, despite what your current credit card company will tell you, it makes no sense to pay $120 a year in annual fees, if you’re not using a credit card and it provides you with no value.
Don’t just do this once and forget about it. You should be adding and purging credit cards from your wallet constantly. There are new credit card offers and products on the market all the time. Credit card issuers tend to give their richest deals to new customers, don’t be afraid to take advantage. Loyalty definitely doesn’t pay.