Step-by-Step Guide: Printable Checklist

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  Credit Card Step-by-Step Guides


Before you get started

  • Register for Credit Karma, and possibly some other credit-monitoring tools.
  • Make sure you understand the impact of the Chase 5/24 and other similar rules.
  • Sign up for Award Wallet and download the app.

Before you apply for the card

  • Check your credit rating to make sure everything is still okay.
  • Only apply for one card at a time.
  • Check to see if there is a promotional offer listed on our credit card guides. Double-check via the US Credit Card Guide and/or the signup offers on [Frequent Miler.
  • Take advantage of a referral link (if you can). Try to always use one when you apply for American Express cards
  • If you are applying for an airline or hotel card, try making a "fake reservation".
  • Don't add an authorized user during the application process unless you are offered a bonus.

If you aren’t immediately approved

  • Don’t worry.
  • If you wind up getting denied, call the reconsideration line.

After you get the card

  • Activate the card and make sure it can be accessed via its online account.
  • Set up automatic payments for the full balance amount.
  • Set up any card-specific benefits, especially enrolling for Amex credits.
  • Add an appointment to your phone’s calendar to help make sure you meet the Initial spending requirement.
  • Add an additional appointment to remember to cancel, downgrade, or get a retention bonus at the end of the first year.
  • (optional) Add the card to your credit card spreadsheet.
  • (optional) Register the card for any dining or shopping program you participate with.
  • Switch bill payments and your Amazon account to your new card
  • Shift all your spending to your new card, until you’ve met the initial spending requirement. Use other cards for purchases that might eventually get refunded.
  • Track the spending on the card, so you know when to stop.
  • Make sure to use each card at least a few times per year.

Before you cancel

  • Consider product changing the card instead of cancelling it.
  • Make sure you don’t lose out on use-it-or-lose it annual benefits, like travel credits
  • If you are cancelling a card that earns cash back or fixed-value points, make sure to cash-out any "points".
  • Before cancelling a card that earns credit card company points, take steps to keep your points or transfer them out to a partner.
  • Avoid cancelling cards you’ve had for a very long time.
  • Never cancel a credit card in the first few months, and don't cancel an Amex card until a full year is past (you can still get a refund of the annual fee in the first month afterwards).
  • Consider calling in to cancel (or downgrade) and see what retention offer you can get.
  • Add the cancellation date to your spreadsheet.
  • If you were using the card for automatic bill payments, switch them to another card.


Credit Cards 101
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