Mommy Points received an email last week asking if she uses a spreadsheet to track credit card sign-up bonus rewards.  We’ve done this for our personal finances for years, tracking all but the smallest expenses to determine if we’re putting more (or less) toward savings at the end of the month.  Maintaining a comfortable minimum balance in our checking account is our main goal, however, as bills never exactly coincide with income, and, without monitoring it closely, it’s possible that the total sum of bills can eclipse the total sum of income.  Surprising for non-variably compensated incomes, but that’s life.

We started using a spreadsheet for rewards reminders and card recommendations.  It is in its fledgling infancy, and I’ve modified it to share with the MP community.  Some disclaimers:

  • Requires Excel 2007 or newer.
  • No personal information is included.  Of course, if or when you add your personal info to it, make sure to not accidentally share your personal version with anyone.
  • Level of difficulty is moderate to advanced.  If you’ve never used Excel before, it may not make a lot of sense, or even be worth your time to download.
  • Free to use (at your own risk).  If a cell value is incorrect, and you don’t notice an expiration date as a result, caveat emptor.
  • Rudimentary, at best.  The goal is to give a starting point to someone who wants to personalize and expand on a framework.
  • Not the prettiest.  I’ve never been one to format for format’s sake, so if it isn’t aesthetically pleasing, blame me, not Mommy Points.

There are instructions included, but essentially, copy the credit card template worksheet, fill it out, make a few changes to the dashboard, and start tracking your spending and award receipt dates.  Ultimately, I’m interested to see if this is along the lines of what others have developed.  I would be more than happy to work with other developers to build a free, web-based solution for the community.  The pay is lousy (as in none), the work is long and hard, and in the end, the reward is getting to trouble-shoot and work on bug-fixes and feature requests for newer versions.

I’m certain there are alternatives out there, and if anyone is happily using them, please let us know.  I’m by no means trying to recreate AwardWallet or its kin, but rather, a reminder service that notifies through text, social media, or email that an expected award is delinquent or inaccurate.  Additionally, a recommendation on which card to use in any given circumstance would be helpful, weighing potential bonus multipliers versus the time remaining to reach the minimum spend requirement for a bonus.

Use this link to download the file.  When you click the link, your browser may give you the option to “Open With…” or “Save” the file.  Save it locally to preserve any changes you might make.

Let me know your thoughts.

 

– The Man

 

Posted by mommypoints | 11 Comments

11 Responses to “A draft of a “Rewards Reminder” tracking spreadsheet from The Man”

  1. HeatherC says:

    I thought I was a spreadsheet nerd, but you have me beat by a mile! I’m not sure if I need that level of detail to track my 3-5 new credit cards a year, but I’ll give it a try.

  2. bluto says:

    Spreadsheet nerds shall inherit the earth. I like this.

    Some suggestions:

    I would import this into a Google Docs Spreadsheet file. You can make it publicly shareable but retain sole editing privileges. This will allow you to edit and share in real-time, instead of revising an Excel file and re-releasing every now and then.

    I’d change Number of Months to Hit Minimum Spend to Number of Days to Hit Minimum Spend because it’s more precise. For example, Chase told me 93 days for the Sapphire spending even though it’s advertised as 3 months. You arrive at different deadlines depending on whether you add 3 months in the spreadsheet or add 93 days.

    On the Dashboard, I would include a column for Days Left to Hit Spending. This is a key output of the spreadsheet, and a useful reminder. Someone might not realize they’re almost out of time but if they see “3 DAYS LEFT” they can re-direct spend.

    Do all issuers start the clock on the Approval Date? If some start on the application date or the date of the first billing cycle then I might change the description of the “Approval Date” cell to something like “Start Date”.

    In my experience, I’ve been able to cancel my cards after the annual fee has posted to my statement and they don’t hold me liable for it (assuming that they don’t waive the fee in the first place to retain me). They typically give you 30-60 days after the annual fee has hit your statement as a cancellation grace period. So, you might not need to track the Date to Cancel data so closely.

    A worksheet that computes historical average daily spend could be useful. This will allow you to compare it to your Avg Daily Spend Required, and give you an idea of whether you’re going to comfortably meet your min spend requirements. If you’re going to meet your min spend requirements, then you can start using some of your other cards which have category bonuses (like 3x travel for the Amex PRG) or which have special promos (Continental Mastercard has a targeted 50% bonus for spend over $500 for the next two months). If you’re not projected to meet your min spend requirements, then you can forget about dabbling with your other cards, because the sign-up bonuses that these cards offer are way more valuable than any category bonuses.

    The calculation that I am most interested in, which might be beyond the scope of this spreadsheet, is a comparison of rebate rate (excluding sign-up bonuses) of all of these cards. The universe of cards is expanding, and it is increasingly difficult to know which cards are the best for what. For example, it’s not as clear as before what the best card for dining is. There’s the SPG, the Sapphire with 2.14 pts/$1, the Fidelity Amex with 2 pts/$1, the new Amex Mercedes non-Platinum which earns 2 Membership Rewards pts/$1, and there are some cash-back cards out there. Plus there are some legacy cards like the Travelocity Amex that are competitive. Add in the fact that some cards like the Amex PRG and the Continental Mastercard have yearly bonuses for hitting annual spend threshholds, and it makes me want to ask the waiter to hang on while I open up my spreadsheet before deciding which credit card to hand over.

  3. deltaGOLDflyer says:

    We are all about saving money. Why give money to Microsoft. Why not use:

    http://www.openoffice.org

    Works fine and does not cost $100+

    “-)

  4. Nguyen says:

    That is one impressive Excel spreadsheet! Thanks for sharing.

  5. mommypoints says:

    @Heather – I agree. For a few cards, the effort wouldn’t be worth it. But it’s still nice to have a reminder for certain events. I know just enough about Excel to be dangerous, and it shows.
    @bluto – Right on, man. You’re thinking exactly the same way that I am. I’ll make some of the changes you’ve recommended, but ultimately this needs to be an iPhone or Android app, which, through geolocation, not only recommends a specific card, but gives added incentive for certain merchants (i.e., double points, discounts on items, etc).
    @dGf – MP, as many others, would be hesitant to use a non-Microsoft product, despite my incessant urging. I’ll port it over and offer that in a link as well.
    @Nguyen – Thanks! It’s a start, and I think everyone’s contributions will make it even better.

    –The Man

  6. EricT says:

    I’m a spreadsheet junkie. I use a similar approach, but consolidate the tracking of my spend a little bit, and don’t get caught up into avg day spend. I have one tab called “Apply and Expire” which gives me the dates applied, when to cancel, points earned, cards I have applied for and been rejected, dates I’ve tried to add additional promos onto cards, screen shots of my applications and the promos, and it is all highlighted to show which cards are done with, active, successful, etc… On another tab I track “Award Info” where I document every time I should get bonuses for shopping/dining/promos etc… This is the hardest to stay on top of due to the lag in posting bonus points and sometimes not even being sure if I did a qualifying by (I’m talking to you Hawaiian Airlines 2x Amazon purchases…where are you?). My 3rd tab is “Credit Scores” where I track the trend of that for my wife and I via creditsesame and creditkarma and our yearly free reports, and my last tab is a wallet sized listing of my current credit card numbers, exp dates, and phone numbers on the back of the cards…all coded for only my knowledge. I’m sure I’ll refine all this as I go along. I also need to incorporate which cards are best to use at which of my preferred establishments (for bonuses, I think my wife is getting tired of me saying “hold on, don’t buy that at target yet until I figure out which card to use for maximum points), and start tracking a good way to utilize my points in the near future for maximum value (ie…moving membership rewards to amex to british airways for an AA flight). There is just so much info flying around for someone new to it all that some of it sticks and some of it I forget, but know I will need to know down the road.

  7. EricT says:

    One other thing…love the site and the articles, but would be nice if there was an option to subscribe to comment thread updated posts. I quickly forget to check for future posts/replies.

  8. Very nice spreadsheet! I track a lot things in Excel, but I don’t actually track my spend requirements on a spreadsheet! I just keep track of it mentally (not the most sophisticated way, I know!)

    But I do track when I apply for a card, the bonus, and when I cancel the card.

    I see that The Man has some mad excel skills.

  9. Murtuza says:

    Some more things you could add:
    1. Frequent Flyer Number
    2. Added benefits not been used on the specific Credit Card and when they expire. For e.g. discount coupons, lounge pass etc.

  10. mommypoints says:

    @EricT – Great input. MP will make the request to Boarding Area to have thread notification enabled.
    @Daraius – Thanks. It’s easy to become burdened by too many spreadsheets to track at once, so anything you can successfully do in your head is awesome. I have a memory like a sieve, so it’s good that MP encourages these tracking tools…
    @Murtuza – Great suggestions! Thanks for reading.

    –The Man

  11. Gordon says:

    One additional thing to consider is tracking how soon in the future after you cancel the card, you can re-apply for this or a similar card offering bonus miles without being rejected by the issuing bank, (i.e. 18 months, 24 months) because the card is only for first time applicants. In other words, how soon will your information fall off from the issuing banks “radar”.

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