If you want to understand where your money is going, you need to track your spending. Several major credit card issuers offer convenient tools for doing just that, and can help you make smart choices about budgeting, saving and long-term financial planning.
If you want to understand where your money is going, you need to track your spending.
You can look at every individual purchase in turn, but it’s a lot easier to use spending tracker tools to help you spot trends. Does the majority of your food budget go toward groceries or restaurants? Do you keep signing up for new streaming services, and is it time to cut back?
The more you know about the way you use money, the better prepared you are to make smart choices about budgeting, saving and long-term financial planning.
Some people use apps like Mint or You Need a Budget (YNAB) to keep tabs on their spending habits. Other people use the budgeting tools that come with their credit cards. The Apple Card, for example, offers color-coded spending summaries designed to help you spot trends – and several major credit card issuers, including American Express, Chase, Capital One and Citi, give cardholders similar spending trackers and tools.
How do each of these spending trackers stack up? What do major card issuers offer in terms of budgeting tools, and how can you use these charts, graphs and summaries to make savvy financial decisions? Let’s take a close look at how spend tracking tools can help you manage your money.
Why you should use spend tracking tools to keep an eye on your budget
How much did you spend on groceries last month? Was it more or less than you spent two months ago? A good spending tracker makes this question much easier to answer – and it also makes it easy to ask yourself whether you’re spending too much money on groceries, or whether it’s time to increase your grocery budget and decrease your takeout budget.
The best spend tracking tools also show you the way your spending habits change over time. If you’re trying to build your emergency fund or save up for a down payment, you’re probably going to want to create a budget and cut back on your expenses.
By tracking how much money you spend every month – especially if you can track your spending by category or by retailer – you’ll be able to see whether your purchases are consistent with your goals. If your total spending is going up every month instead of down, for example, you’re probably going to want to make some adjustments.
Use your credit card issuer’s spend tracker tool to get a better idea of what you buy and how often you buy it, and then ask yourself whether you’re satisfied with the way you’re spending your money.
American Express tracking tools
American Express offers a year-end spending summary that you can access by logging into your online account or opening the American Express app. To locate this summary online, click “Statements & Activity.” If you’re on the app, you can find your year-end summary by tapping “Statements” followed by “Transactions and Statements.”
From there, you can select the year-end option to view a summary of your total year spending by month and by spend category.
If you want to examine your purchasing habits in even more detail, American Express recently added a spending tracker tool called “Your Spending Report” that breaks out your spending by both category and store. This level of detail can help you understand not only what categories make up the bulk of your spending, but also which retailers claim the majority of your discretionary purchases. (Note, this view is only available on desktop – not the mobile app.)
Chase tracking tools
Chase offers multiple tools to help you review and track your spending, whether you log in through your online account or use the Chase Mobile app.
If you’re logging in online, you can access these tools by clicking “More” followed by “Spending Report.” If you’re using the mobile app, scroll down until you see your recent transactions, then tap “See All Transactions” followed by “Spending Summary.”
Once you’ve reached your spending summary, you can review your spending history by month or by year. If you’re logged into your online account, you can view a pie chart that summarizes your spending by category or a line graph that tracks your spending over a given time period.
The line graph is particularly useful because you can track both total spending and category spending. If you’re trying to cut back on a certain category of spending, such as “Food and Drink,” you’ll get a visual picture of your progress.
Unfortunately, the app’s spend tracking tools aren’t quite as robust as the desktop site. You can view the pie chart summary and break your spending down by category, but you don’t have the option to view the line graph that tracks your spending by month.
Capital One tracking tools
Capital One doesn’t offer a lot in the way of spend tracking tools. You can sort or filter your posted transactions by category, but it’s up to you to use that information to create a clear picture of where your money is going.
You do have the option to download a year-end spending summary, which you can access by logging into your online account, clicking “View Statements,” opening the drop-down menu that allows you to select a date and navigating back to the previous year.
This spending summary gives you the opportunity to review your annual spending by category, and includes multiple visual tools designed to help you see where your money went during a particular year.
Although Capital One’s spend tracking options are fairly bare-bones, you can still use them to gain a better understanding of how you’re spending your money. If you sort your posted transactions by category, it should be easy to tell which categories make up the majority of your spending – and whether it’s time to cut back on one of those categories.
Citi tracking tools
Citi offers spend tracking summaries through your online account and through the Citi Mobile app. These color-coded charts are easy to access. Simply scroll down the app until you see your spending summary, or click “Spend Summary” in your online dashboard. You can display spending data over a given month, statement, year or custom date range.
Once you’ve reviewed your spending summary, select any spending category to see a list of charges associated with that category. That way, you’ll be able to determine whether the majority of your “Merchandise” spending went toward grocery stores, clothing stores or Amazon purchases.
The more you know about your day-to-day spending habits, the easier it will be to decide whether you need to change the way you spend your money.
Alternatives for budget management
If your credit card issuer does not offer a spending tracker, there are still plenty of ways for you to manage your spending and your budget.
Popular budgeting apps like Mint and YNAB pull information from your credit cards, bank accounts and investment accounts to give you a big-picture overview of your finances. The Goodbudget app uses the tried-and-true envelope system to help you budget your money and track your spending. Some people even build their own budgets in spreadsheet programs like Excel or Google Sheets.
There are many different ways to make a budget and track your spending. A credit card spending tracker can give you an overview of where your money is going and help you adjust your spending habits. A budgeting app or spreadsheet can help you develop a detailed plan to cut back on your spending, pay off debt or save for your next vacation.
No matter what you choose, the simple act of opening and reviewing a financial management tool should make you more informed about how you’re spending your money right now – and how you might want to spend your money in the future.