For those like me that love to collect credit card rewards and travel everywhere for free, keeping track can become difficult and cumbersome. Among the bonus requirements, reward structures, annual fees, and application deadlines, there are many things to pay attention to. At any given time, I have about 15-20 active credit cards for just myself. Each year, I will open 5-10 new cards and subsequently also cancel 5-10 credit cards since I do not want to pay the annual fee. This practice is called “churning” and can become stressful and difficult to manage. I’ve created a spreadsheet in Excel that will solve all your problems!
This post is part of my comprehensive guide to travel hacking and credit cards which explains everything you ever needed to know about how to use credit cards to maximize traveling.
- Also, check out my travel itinerary planning spreadsheet which is perfect for organizing and planning your trip!
Why use a spreadsheet to track Credit Cards?
Unless you have a legitimate business, most of us don’t have enough regular day to day spend to acquire any meaningful amount of bonuses.
Even with a lucrative card like the Chase Sapphire where you earn 3x on dining and travel, to get $1,000 worth of rewards, you’d have to spend $25,000. That’s a lot of money for the average person. However, the sign on bonus is a cool 100,000 points which is worth $1,500. The requirement to get these points is to spend only $4,000 within 3 months. A much better return on your money! Of course the Sapphire Reserve has a ton of other benefits as well but for the most part, I sign up for a credit card and will usually discard after I’ve collected the bonus.
The above example is just 1 credit card. I’m always applying for new credit cards to get the bonus and therefore, my spreadsheet tracks everything from credit limits, credit score impact variables, time to next annual fee, and more.
Credit Card Rewards and churning Excel spreadsheet
The spreadsheet I created focuses specifically on credit card bonuses and churning. As I’ve written before, it’s not about spending money on the credit card, as much as it is about pocketing the sign on bonuses.
It’s simple, yet effective. It will help you avoid paying excessive annual fees, remind you when your bonus period expires, and track canceled cards. There’s numerous columns in this spreadsheet that captures everything you need to know about the card you just signed up for. To download it, click the button below!
The spreadsheet is in Google Sheets because if I update it in the future, it will be easy to access. It’s easy to download it and use with Microsoft Excel as well.
To download offline, click the red button above, then click file > download as > Microsoft Excel
Using the Credit Card churning spreadsheet
As someone that works with spreadsheets regularly, I’ve included some functionality like conditional formatting and formulas that an Excel novice might not understand. I will explain everything necessary for those wanting to get the full use out of the spreadsheet. For the most part, anyone with any excel experience should just follow my inventory and copy/delete rows accordingly to populate your inventory accordingly.
- Bank: The credit card provider
- Card Name: The name of the credit card
- Type: Whether it is a personal or business card. Business cards do not affect your personal credit report
- Card Type: Visa, Mastercard, American Express, Discover etc.
- Opened: Date card was first opened
- Credit Limit: Credit limit you were approved for. This factors heavily into your total credit limit.
- Inquiry?: Credit inquiries stay on your credit report for two years. This affects your credit score, and business cards are not included
- Uses the Opened Column
- Age: How long you’ve had the credit card for and factors into your credit score’s average age of credit calculation
- Uses the Opened Column
- Annual Fee: The annual fee associated with the credit card. Put $0 if there is no fee
- First year waived?: Many cards waive their first year’s fee but some do not (Chase Sapphire Reserve, Delta AMEX Platinum, Chase Hyatt etc.)
- Next fee date: Uses formulas to calculate when your next fee date is
- Uses the Opened and Annual Fee column
- Days until next fee date: Uses formulas to calculate how many days are left until your next fee
- Uses the Next fee date and Annual Fee columns
- Rewards Name: Name of the card’s rewards network
- Bonus: Sign-on bonus of the card you applied for
- Minimum Spend: How much you must spend to get the bonus above
- Time Frame: How long you have to spend the minimum amount required (in days)
- Estimated Value: This is just an estimated rewards amount I calculated based on how I would use the rewards. Feel free to change
- Days Until Bonus Expires: Uses formulas to computer how many days are left for you to hit your minimum spend
- Uses the bonus and time frame columns
- Bonus Received: When you received your bonus. There is conditional formatting here that will turn the cell green when you input a date.
- FX Fees: Whether the card charges fees when making foreign transactions.
- Rewards Detail: Details of the rewards structure (excluding the bonus)
- Best way to redeem: The most ideal way of using the rewards earned.
- Keep card past 1y: For the credit card churners, this column is a placeholder for you to decide if you want to keep the card after 1y. This is based on whether you think an annual card is worth keeping.
Do NOT edit the cells in gray so to preserve the formula integrity.
What do the other worksheets do?
The main sheet is named “Current Inventory” which is your active inventory of credit cards. I also added a few more worksheets.
Anything I plan on getting in the foreseeable future. All fields are the same as the ones in the main sheet.
It’s important to track canceled cards. Not only will this be a good gauge for my credit score, but many credit card bonuses reset after 24 months. That means, I will know when in the future, I can re-apply for the same card and get the bonus again.
A way for me to track the points and dollar value of all my points and miles within all the different reward programs
Straight forward. Track your credit score by using the credit score tools that every bank now provides for free.
A list of all active credit cards out there courtesy of the wonderful people at Reddit.
Track your Chase 5/24 status
To track your Chase 5/24 status and whether you are under the forever problematic Chase rule, simply change the date in cell B1 to a date in the future until the “Total Inquiries for Chase 5/24” cell in column G turns green.
Anti Churning Rules
Different banks have different rules when it comes to opening their credit cards. Chase is by far the most stringiest with their 5/24 rule but AMEX, Citi, Capital One, all have their own set of rules too. I’ve created a box on the “Current Inventory” tab that tracks the most common and concrete rules when it comes to churning. These are all done with formulas and conditional formatting. If something highlights in red, this is something to be cognizant of.
I hope this helps you out as you work your way to endless rewards and free travel! If you have any questions about the spreadsheet, please leave a comment below!