I recently shared what’s in my wallet and I clearly use a lot of different cards for different purposes in different situations.
To be sure there are a few cards that are pretty darned good if you’re only going to get and use one card but that’s not how I strategically deploy my cards. And I lay out the strategy for my wife, too.
When we were still dating she first let me choose the one card she would use. Then she broadened that out but said she would only ever manage up to 3 cards at a time. Now she ‘gets’ that different cards serve very different purposes — and it’s part of how we’ve been able to travel so well together for so many years.
I’m occasionally asked how I manage what cards to use for which purposes, where I’m at earning a card’s initial bonus, and what to use for different spend categories?
One of my favorite suggestions came from commenter Acker:
I have so many darn cards – active and not. With the exception of the cards I’m working at any given time, I keep them semi-organized in a small zip lock (actually it’s a quart-sized bag).
I use a black sharpie and write right on the cards “2x gas” “50k w/ 10k spend” …I can only imagine what waiters and clerks think, but who cares?
When I cancel a card, I write a cancel sign on the front of the card with the date cancelled. I even thought of making a …Halloween costume out of the 50+ cards.
…Oh, I have a zip lock for my husband’s cards too.
Reader Bill C. points to an even greater problem, how do you make sure your spouse — who isn’t as attuned to these things as you are — uses the right card every time? And he explains, “A buddy of mine was getting…[very unhappy] his wife was always using the wrong card in the wrong situation…So he made a quarterback wristband with the “plays” for her to refer to.”
My own strategy was just time. I also had to learn patience. I needed to gradually bring my wife into the hobby that matters so much to me, I couldn’t expect her to absorb my plans all at once — and I had to remember to tell her when I was changing my thinking! Actually come to think of it, credit card strategy has probably improved the communication in my marriage.
So how do you do it?