When I first started collecting points and miles with rewards cards, I didn’t have a tracking system in place. But now I use a bunch of Google spreadsheets to stay on top of my points, accounts and travel information.
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Using credit cards to reap rewards for travel is an amazing way to earn a return on money you’d already be spending, but it can get complicated in a hurry.
My motto is to always keep it simple, so I try to keep my focus on a handful of cards that accomplish my goals of earning points to book flights on Southwest, earn the Southwest Companion Pass (which lets one person fly free with you for the life of the pass) and collect flexible points that I redeem for flights to Europe or to book hotels.
Even with that attempt at simplicity, there’s still a fair amount to monitor and track. When I first started this hobby of collecting miles and points through spending on travel credit cards to redeem for travel, I did not have a systematic method of keeping note of passwords, loyalty account numbers or airline bookings.
But it didn’t take long until I realized I needed some sort of system in order to truly keep this simple — and it’s pretty much turned into a bunch of Google spreadsheets. Here are the ones I created.
See related: 7 ways to track your rewards cards like a pro
I created a spreadsheet in Google early on where I could make note of any loyalty program I joined and all the pertinent information, such as the account number, login link, password and more.
Although I primarily use Southwest for domestic and Caribbean flights, Aer Lingus for Europe flights and Chase Ultimate Rewards for flexible points, I still have accounts with many of the major airlines.
Often there are opportunities to earn a few easy points with them through some promotion, which I take advantage of and thus need to open an account and keep track of it.
Airfare bookings and refunds
I frequently book my family on Southwest Airlines, and because it is the only airline I am aware of that allows you to rebook a flight if the price decreases with no penalty fee, it’s important for me to know how much I originally paid for a flight so I can rebook to get a lower price. I have a spreadsheet where I enter my bookings and the price paid specifically for Southwest flights.
I often check the prices at least weekly (if not daily) to see if they have decreased. Southwest makes it easy to go online and rebook the flight. If you paid in points, you are immediately credited the excess points back to your loyalty account.
However, if you paid in cash, you are issued a travel credit that expires in one year. In order to use that travel credit, you need to have the original confirmation number, the passenger’s name with which it is associated, the amount and the expiration date. This requires yet another spreadsheet!
See related: How to ‘KonMari’ your finances
I also keep a spreadsheet with all of the key information for everyone in my family. This includes the name we have on our passports (for example, I can never remember if I put my son’s full name or nickname and if I did or did not use each person’s middle name). If I can’t remember, it’s in the spreadsheet.
I also have everyone’s known traveler number, which allows us to go through TSA Precheck (and that we need to include it when booking a flight), passport numbers for international travel and their key loyalty program account numbers.
When you sign up for a new travel credit card, you are usually trying to hit a minimum spend on the card within a set amount of time in order to earn bonus points that can be redeemed for travel.
For those of you who sign up for new cards frequently, you want to be sure you are keeping track of where you are on the minimum spend, so you don’t overdo it or spend more quickly than you intended.
For example, for those who are trying to earn the Southwest Companion Pass and have been approved for a Southwest credit card, you need to time the minimum spend correctly so the points for the pass are credited in the correct year.
If you want a pass for 2020, for example, the points that help you earn the pass will need to credit in 2020, not 2019, as all 110,000 qualifying points must be earned in one calendar year. So if you signed up for a Southwest card in December 2019, you’ll want to be sure you don’t complete your minimum spend, and thus earn your bonus points, until January 2020.
See related: Keeping tabs on your rewards cards
Last but not least, I am an avid fan of using airline shopping portals to earn miles and points on everyday purchases. Better yet, if you make those purchases with a travel credit card, you earn points in addition to what the portal is offering.
I like to make note of my purchases and the amount of points I should earn so I that can ensure the points credit to my account, as I’ve had some that did not. Most points are supposed to show up within eight weeks. On my spreadsheet, I made a column that automatically calculates eight weeks from the purchase date. Then I can set a reminder on that date to ensure the points did indeed credit.
While I have a lot of spreadsheets, all of them really help me stay organized and enable my family to maximize the miles and points we are earning, so we can use them to travel as much as possible.
How do you stay organized with travel credit cards and loyalty points?