Managing multiples: the Chrome Switch Person capability rocks. Here’s why.


In a recent post, I shared strategies that help prevent brain explosions.  The basic idea is that if you try to take advantage of every deal and opportunity you read about, your brain will explode.  Not literally, of course.  But, you will likely suffer stress from the mental gymnastics required to keep so many balls in the air.

In that same post, I said that I reduce the mental cost of managing 7 REDbird (Target Prepaid REDcard) cards by establishing and sticking to a routine.  Details of the routine can be found in yet another post: Managing multiples: Bluebird, REDbird, Serve.  In that post, I mentioned that a good way to manage multiple accounts online is to use Google Chrome’s Switch Person capability.  At the time, I hadn’t yet fully taken advantage of that feature.  Now that I have, I can happily say it’s awesome.  If this can’t help save your brain from exploding when managing multiple people’s accounts online, I don’t know what will.


Let me back up a bit.  There are many great deals and opportunities that are limited in some way.  For example, you may be offered free money or points just for signing up for a new account of some sort.  Or, take the Amex reloadable prepaid cards, for example.  REDbird (The Target Prepaid REDcard), Bluebird, and Serve can each be loaded in-store with debit cards.  Many people earn credit card rewards by buying debit gift cards and using them to load their “bird”.

The opportunities described above are limited per person.  If you want to get more out of the deal, one way to do so is to “be” multiple people.  It is very common, for example, for a person to manage all of their own and their spouse’s rewards accounts.  By doing so, this person can effectively double their opportunities by signing up or participating in each deal twice: once for themselves and once for their spouse.

Some people, like me, take things even further and recruit family members and friends.  In exchange for them letting me manage their REDbird accounts (for example), I offer them free flights, hotel stays, etc.  It’s win-win.

One problem with juggling more than one or two accounts is the online complexity.  It is necessary to keep track of multiple email addresses, passwords, security hints and more.  And, if you log in and out of different accounts within the same browser, the browser’s cookies can hurt more than they can help.  For example, at one point in time, Bluebird bill payments were getting sent to the wrong billers when people did this.

Fortunately, Chrome has a fantastic feature that solves this problem.

Chrome Switch Person

When you use Google’s Chrome browser on your desktop, you should see your name in the top right of the screen if you’re logged into your Google account. It will look something like this:

Chrome Switch Person

See how my name (Greg) appears at the top, right?

Then, when you click your name, you’ll see additional options:

Chrome Switch Person

Once you’ve setup Chrome to know about multiple people, you can click the “Switch person” button above.  Or, right click on your name, instead, and jump right to another person via the drop-down Switch Person selector:

Chrome Switch Person Right Click

When you click on a name in the list, a new browser window opens with that name in the top right.  Now, any browser settings you change and any cookies stored will be specific to that person.  For example, if a website offers a checkbox to remember a user ID you input, that user ID will be remembered only when you’re browsing as that particular user.  Similarly, if Chrome asks if you’d like it to remember a password, you can say “yes”.  When you next visit that site, Chrome will fill in the password, but only when you are browsing as that person.

Creating multiple identities

There are two easy ways to add new identities to your browser:

1. Left click the name in the top right corner.  Click “Switch person,” then click “Add person” (found on the bottom left of the Switch Person window that pops up.  When Chrome asks you to sign into your Google account, you can do so if you have a gmail account for that user, or you can click “No thanks”.  If you skip signing in, the new identity will be named something like “Person 1”.  To change the name: Left click on the name “Person 1” in the top right of the browser, hover your mouse over the name, and click the pencil icon to rename “Person 1” to something more memorable.

Chrome Switch Person

2. A second option for adding a new person is to go to Chrome’s Setting screen and scroll down to the box labeled “People”.  Click “Add person…”

Auto load common websites

If you manage a particular account often, there are probably websites that you frequent.  For example, for each REDbird card I manage, I often log into the Target Prepaid REDcard management site.  It is also often useful to open an email session and sometimes a Twitter session as well.  You can easily setup Chrome to autoload these sites as separate tabs every time you Switch Person to a particular identity:

  1. Switch Person to whichever account you want to setup.
  2. Open each website of interest in a separate tab.
  3. Find Chrome’s menu (it looks like three horizontal lines) and click “Settings”.
  4. Look for “On startup” and select “Open a specific page or set of pages.” and click “Set pages”
  5. Click the button “Use current pages”

Why this is so awesome

Now that I’ve setup multiple Chrome “People,” managing multiple accounts has become much easier.  I let websites and/or Chrome remember user ids and passwords; and I setup Chrome to automatically open commonly uses sites.  As a result, tasks that used to take minutes, now take seconds.  Even better, the mental energy previously required to remember (or lookup) IDs, passwords, and security question responses is gone!

Hat Tip: Thanks to Yong for letting me know that it’s not necessary to maintain a user ID and password for each Chrome user.

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