From Credit Card Novice to Rewards Master: My Journey to 15 Cards and a Free Dubai Trip (Almost!)

From Credit Card Novice to Rewards Master: My Journey to 15 Cards and a Free Dubai Trip (Almost!)

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed all of our lives in countless ways. In the wake of this global crisis, people have become more aware of the importance of health and hygiene. However, the pandemic's impact extends far beyond just our physical well-being; it has also transformed the way we live, work, and spend our money.

Like many others, I found my lifestyle and spending habits shifting dramatically post-pandemic. I started traveling more frequently and dining out more often. While discussing this with a friend, I discovered that he had managed to secure much better deals on hotels and activities than I had, despite us having similar experiences. His secret? The rewards and offers he earned through his credit cards. This revelation piqued my curiosity and prompted me to take a closer look at my own finances and learn more about credit cards.

Confessions of a Financial Newbie

Prior to this, I had been somewhat financially uneducated and wary of credit cards. I believed that there was no need to borrow money from a lender when I had sufficient funds in my own account. Oh, how wrong I was!

The Path to Financial Literacy

Determined to learn more, I began researching credit cards, their benefits, and personal finance in general. I subscribed to informative YouTube channels and joined forums dedicated to these topics. Although it took some time, I gradually gained a wealth of knowledge about banks, maintaining healthy financial relationships, the importance of cibil scores, and how to negotiate better deals on financial products. Armed with this newfound understanding, I started applying for credit cards that best suited my needs and spending habits.

Building My Credit Card Arsenal

At first, my lack of credit history made it challenging to secure approvals and the credit limits I desired. However, after a journey of approximately three years, I now proudly possess 15 credit cards, each carefully selected based on my top spending categories and the best rewards they offer.

Google Sheets to the Rescue

As my credit card collection grew, managing multiple accounts became increasingly overwhelming. To help me better understand my spending patterns and identify any unnecessary fees I was paying to banks and online services, I created a Google Sheet to track all my expenses. This meticulous tracking allowed me to save and earn rewards equivalent to a three-day trip to Dubai in the last fiscal year alone.

Sharing the Knowledge

Amazed by my savings, I shared my experience in a forum post, expressing my gratitude for the invaluable guidance provided by the forum members. To my surprise, many members found my post insightful and were impressed by my detailed analysis of personal finance. They encouraged me to share my methods for managing milestones, rewards, and credit card spending, which ultimately led me to write this blog post.

Get Your Free Google Sheet Template!

To help others on their own financial journeys, I've decided to share the Google Sheet I use for personal finance management. This sheet allows me to record all my spending, including the category, card used, transaction reason, quarterly and annual spending, and credit card bill payments.

How to Use

  1. Create New Tabs: Create a new tab for each month in your Google Sheet.
  2. Annual Spending Summary: The "Spent Summary" tab shows annual spending for all cards, UPI, and cash. This helps track rewards based on yearly or quarterly spending and monitor how much you need to spend to waive annual card fees.
  3. Monthly Spending Breakdown: At the bottom of each month's tab, find the total spent by category and payment method (card & UPI).

Column Explanations

While most columns are self-explanatory, here's a quick guide:

  1. Transaction Reason: Note the date and reason for each transaction (e.g., "01 Jan - Self Electricity Bill").
  2. Amount: Enter the transaction amount.
  3. For: Track expenses for yourself, your home (labeled as "ghar") or any other.
  4. Paid with: List all your credit cards. The total for this column is automatically calculated.
  5. Remark: Additional notes about the transaction.
  6. Store Type: Specify the store or platform where the transaction occurred (optional).
  7. Category: Edit categories to match your spending habits. Totals are calculated automatically.
  8. Online/Offline: Track online vs. offline purchases, useful for credit cards offering rewards for specific types of transactions.

Notes:

  • Fixed / Recurring Transactions: Track recurring expenses separately, though these are not included in spending calculations.
  • Ghar Ke Bills Section: For transactions related to your home, you can copy-paste information from other rows. This section is useful for quickly referencing home-related expenses.

Things to Remember

  • Credit cards are powerful tools, but use them responsibly. Pay your bills on time and in full to avoid interest charges.
  • Track your spending. This will help you identify areas for improvement and maximize your rewards potential.
  • Don't be afraid to learn. There are a wealth of resources available online and online communities like Reddit threads and various forums to help you build your financial knowledge.

With the right approach, credit cards can become your allies in achieving your financial goals, whether it's a dream vacation, a comfortable retirement, or simply a more secure financial future.

Happy spending (smartly)!

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