Key takeaways

  • Your year-end credit card summary has a lot of useful information about your spending habits and debt accumulation from the past year.
  • By going through these reports, you can find trends in your spending and come up with a better way to save money and earn more rewards in 2024.
  • If you find that you’re carrying debt on your credit cards from month to month like many other Americans, consider checking out balance transfer credit cards and coming up with a payment plan to eliminate your debt.

Credit card issuers often send year-end summaries that compile all of your purchases with that card over the year. These reports typically arrive sometime in January, but you can often view that data ahead of time. I think these documents can be helpful financial planning tools in several ways. You can start by using them to do the following:

Review your budget

One good way to put these documents to use is for budgeting purposes. I like to put as much of my spending as possible on credit cards because it’s convenient and the rewards can really stack up. An added benefit is that, unlike cash, credit cards provide an easy way to track everything you bought.

Target unwanted subscriptions

Take this opportunity to revisit where your money went in 2023. Are you being charged for monthly subscriptions you’ve forgotten about or are no longer using much? Our research from a 2022 Bankrate survey shows that 51 percent of U.S. adults who have had a subscription or membership account incurred unwanted charges at some point. Free trials that turn into paid subscriptions without your knowledge are a particular pain point.

Reevaluate unnecessary spending

Can you uncover other potential money leaks, such as excessive takeout ordering, rideshares or impulse buys? Sometimes we spend mindlessly. If you find that you don’t value those expenses in particular, cutting back can yield big savings, especially with inflation not yet on target and interest rates still stubbornly high and forecasted to remain that way for now.

Adjust your debt payoff plan

As of late 2022, the American Bankers Association reported that 43 percent of active credit card accounts revolve debt from month to month. If this describes you, your interest rate should be your top priority. The average credit card rate these days is 20.75 percent, the highest since we started tracking these in 1985.

Let’s say that you’re carrying the current average credit card balance in the U.S. on your card, which was $6,088 in Q3 of 2023 according to TransUnion. If you pay $125 toward your credit card balance  at 20.75 percent, you’ll be in debt for 108 months (that’s nearly a decade!) and will owe a whopping $7,373 in interest according to Bankrate’s credit card payoff calculator. If you only make minimum payments, which are typically calculated as a small percentage of your balance, it’ll take much longer — possibly at least twice as long.

Consider a balance transfer credit card

My top tip for getting out of credit card debt is to sign up for a 0 percent APR balance transfer card. These allow you to pause the interest clock for up to 21 months. If you have credit card debt, forget about rewards for now. In fact, it may be best to use a debit card or cash for all of your spending for a while.

Transfer that high-cost credit card debt to a new card with a lengthy interest-free balance transfer period. Divide what you owe by the number of months in your 0 percent term and try to stick with that level payment plan. This could save you hundreds or even thousands of dollars in interest charges. You can do the math yourself with our balance transfer calculator.

Revamp your rewards strategy

If you can pay your credit card bills in full each month, it’s time for the fun stuff. Rewards are probably the best perk of using credit cards. Some people prefer to redeem for travel and others like cash back. Consider which is best for you and your budget and think about taking the following actions:

Pay attention to your top spending categories

You need to make sure that your cards are leaning into the right spending categories, and your year-end summary can help you in this quest. Since different cards prioritize different types of spending, make sure that your strategy is well-aligned. If you’re spending a lot at the grocery store, for example, are you using a card with strong grocery rewards? Ditto for dining, travel, gas and other key categories.

Check out new credit card offers

After reviewing your year-end summary, you might be surprised at how much you spend in some areas. Assuming those are things that you value and will continue buying in 2024, consider signing up for a new card that will fill a hole in your existing card strategy.

Make sure you can earn your new card’s welcome bonus

The new card can be doubly beneficial if it comes with a sign-up bonus offer. Remember that the best sign-up bonuses, also called welcome bonuses, generally require you to spend anywhere from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars within your first few months with the card, so make sure you’ll be able to hit the card’s minimum spending requirements with the money you would have spent anyway. I especially like signing up for a new card in tandem with a natural spending spike such as the holidays, a big trip or a home renovation. The sign-up bonus alone could put more than $1,000 back in your wallet.

The bottom line

As we move firmly into 2024, it’s a natural time for reflection. Your lifestyle will likely change at least a little, and the credit card market will, too. Take some time to sift through the year-end summaries provided by your credit card issuers and consider ways to further optimize your spending in the new year.

Have a question about credit cards? E-mail me at and I’d be happy to help.