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5 Easy Ways to Track Credit Card Spending

by Barbara Marquand

Instead of letting credit cards lure you into overspending, use your accounts to help you stay within your budget. Here are 5 easy ways to do it:

1. Get Credit Card Transaction Alerts

Most credit card companies let you sign up for transaction alerts, which send you an e-mail or cell phone text message whenever there's unusual activity on your account. The alerts are designed to help you detect fraud quickly, but they also help track spending. Sign up to for an alert, for instance, whenever your monthly credit card balance gets to a certain threshold--an early warning that spending is reaching critical levels.

2. Use Text Message Banking

A growing number of credit card companies offer text banking. Citibank's service, for instance, lets Citi credit card customers get on-demand account updates by simply texting a short command to MYCITI (692-484). Within seconds they get a text message with the requested account information, such as a balance total.

3. Monitor Credit Card Account Online

Don't wait until your credit card bill arrives to see how much you charged. Log on to your credit card account online frequently to track spending and monitor your credit card balance. This also helps you catch unauthorized purchases in case of fraud or errors and report them to your credit card company that much faster.

4. Break Down Credit Card Spending by Category

Your credit card statement contains a lot of meaty information to help you budget. For one thing, it breaks purchases down by category so you see exactly where your hard-earned money goes. It's amazing how little expenditures add up over the course of a month. That might serve as a wake-up call to cut back in areas like entertainment or help you plan your budget to set aside enough money for essentials, such as gasoline.

5. Check Your Credit Card Debt Snapshot

Under new federal credit card regulations, issuers must provide a snapshot of your credit card debt burden in each monthly statement. The information must include a projection of how long it would take to pay off your credit card bill if you paid only the monthly minimum due and how much you would need to pay each month to pay off your current debt in three years.

Getting credit card spending under control starts with awareness. Use these tools to help you get a handle on your charging habits and prevent accumulating a burdensome credit card debt load.

Published 05/31/11


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