- Personal Finance
How to Use a Simple Spreadsheet to Keep Track of Credit Cards
Many of us have more than one credit card to our names. It’s best to limit the number of credit cards that you use but that’s a story for another time. For now, let’s talk about how you can keep track of your credit cards when you’ve got half a dozen or more that you’re using. It may seem tough but you can actually use a really simple spreadsheet system to get everything all organized.
Why Organize Your Credit Cards
Before we look at how to create such a spreadsheet system, let’s look at some of the reasons that it is smart to put such a system in place. Those reasons include:
o It allows you to visually see exactly how many credit cards you have along with what your balances, interest rates and monthly payments are. This can assist you immensely in budgeting. It can also help you get a good overview of what your financial obligations are at the current time.
o It provides you with a single place where you can check to see what your credit options are. Have you ever had to make a big purchase and so you spent an hour calling up each of your credit card companies to see what cards had enough money available on them to make the purchase? An organized informational spreadsheet for your credit cards prevents you form ever having to waste your time on that again.
o It’s a great place to keep track of your passwords and PIN numbers. At the end of this article I’ll let you know how to password protect your Excel spreadsheet so that this important information remains safe and secure.
o It’s also a good place to store the phone numbers for all of your credit card companies. If your credit cards are ever stolen then you can refer to your spreadsheet to make sure that you contact all of your lenders so that they can freeze your accounts.
Creating the Spreadsheet
In a basic spreadsheet system like Excel, you will want to create the following informational columns:
o The name of the credit card including identifying information. (So don’t just put Mastercard, put “Capital One Mastercard”.
o Account number.
o Credit card expiration date.
o Total credit line.
o Total amount owed.
o Total available credit.
o Interest rate.
o Minimum monthly payment.
o Contact information for the card holder. You can find this information right on the back of the card in the form of a toll free number. The company’s website information should be there as well.
o Your password to access the website for that credit card. Many people get frustrated because they forget their account information and then can’t sign on to get real time information about their accounts.
o Your PIN number to utilize the credit card at ATMs.
Additional information that you might also like to include in columns on the spreadsheet:
o Information about rewards programs including the terms of the program and how many points you have
o Amount available for cash advance. On some cards this is the same as the total amount available but on other cards the amount differs. If you think that you may need to access cash then having this information can be helpful.
o Additional interest rates. The regular column would be your APR for purchases but you may want to include the rate for balance transfers and cash advances.
o Date when promotional periods are set to end. For example, if you accepted a balance transfer at 0% then make sure you note on your spreadsheet when that grace period is over and what the new rate will be at that time.
o Fees. If you know that you frequently have problems with overdraft fees or late fees then you’ll want to include what those charges are on your spreadsheet. Also make sure to note any annual fees and when those come due.
o When your bills are due each month. Some people find it helpful to know the exact date that their bills will be due in order to prevent late payments.
How to Password Protect your Spreadsheet
You are putting a lot of important financial information into one document so it is crucial that you protect that information. One way to do that is to add password protection to your spreadsheet.
This is the information if you want to Password Protect a file in Excel 2007. There are variations for different programs:
o Open the file. If your file is named something that makes it easy to see that it is financial information then you should re-name it something else so that you’ll remember what it is but nobody else will recognize as financial information. Think about it, would you be more interested in snooping in a document titled “academic research” or “my credit card information”. Think carefully about choosing a boring title that no one will recognize as a file filled with financial information.
o Go to the tab labeled review.
o Select the option that says “protect workbook”. (Note that you can also protect the specific worksheet that you’re working on but it’s best to protect the entire workbook).
o Create a password. You will want to create a unique and complex password that other people cannot guess. It should include symbols, numbers, capital letters and lowercase letters. Make sure that this password is not stored anywhere on your computer. Ideally, it should remain in your head only! Take precautions at all times to protect your credit card information so that you don’t become a victim of identity theft.
Using your Spreadsheet
Once you have all of this information safely stored on your computer, you can use it to keep track of your credit cards. Make sure that you update it monthly to reflect any changes to your accounts.