In general, there’s no “right” number of credit cards to have. Some might suggest having at least two credit cards, preferably from different networks — say, a Visa and an American Express, or a Mastercard and a Discover card — and strategically choosing them for the best combination of rewards. Others will recommend making this determination based on how many credit cards you can effectively handle, or how many is optimal for your credit score.
At the end of the day, the ideal number of credit cards depends on your personal financial situation. We’ll help you figure out how many credit cards you should have, and whether it will be good for you to have multiple credit cards.
How Many Credit Cards Does the Average Person Have?
Cardholders in the U.S. have an average of 3.84 credit card accounts, according to a review of national credit card data by the credit bureau Experian.
The data also found that the number of credit cards someone has tends to increase the older they get. For instance, baby boomers (ages 56-74 as of 2020), held an average of 4.81 credit cards, whereas millennials (ages 24-39 as of 2020) had just 3.18 credit cards on average.
How Many Credit Cards Are Too Many?
There isn’t a set number of credit cards that tips you over into the territory of having “too many.” As long as you can stay on top of all of your accounts and manage them responsibly, having a number of credit cards won’t negatively affect your credit.
That being said, even just two credit cards could be too many if it becomes challenging for you to remember to make on-time payments on both accounts or you’re overspending. The more credit cards you have, the more credit card terms you’ll have to keep track of, which can get complicated. You may also run into paying multiple annual fees, and costs can add up quickly there — especially if you’re not using a credit card enough to justify the cost.
Even if you do think you can manage having multiple credit cards, you’ll want to watch out for applying for too many new cards within a short window of time. Doing so can lower your credit score temporarily, and it can also raise a red flag for lenders. Issuers have even begun to introduce rules to prevent cardholders from attempting credit card churning, which is when you repeatedly open and close credit cards to earn welcome bonuses.
Does Having Too Many Credit Cards Affect Your Credit Score?
Having multiple credit cards can either help or hurt your credit score, depending on how responsibly you use your cards and how well you understand how credit cards work. However, if you’re in a situation where you’re starting to feel like you have too many credit cards, this could lead to negative effects on your credit score.
Multiple credit cards mean multiple due dates to juggle, which can make it easier to miss payments or make them late. Because payment history accounts for 35% of your FICO score, this can have big implications for your credit.
Secondly, opening a number of new accounts can lower the average age of your credit, which matters since credit history length accounts for 15% of your score. Applying for a credit card also requires a hard inquiry, which can temporarily ding your score.
On the flipside, having multiple credit cards does offer you more access to credit. If you don’t increase your current outstanding balances, this could positively impact your credit utilization rate, which compares your outstanding balances to your total credit limit. Further, a new credit card means an addition to your credit mix, which comprises 10% of your FICO score.
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Potential Reasons to Apply for Another Credit Card
Trying to figure out what is a good amount of credit cards to have? Here are some potential reasons you might consider applying for an additional card.
Potentially Raise Your Credit Score
If you’re wondering, ‘is it good to have multiple credit cards?,’ know that sometimes getting an additional card can benefit your credit. This might be the case if your newly opened card increases your overall credit limit. If you keep your total credit card balances the same, your higher limit will lower your credit utilization rate, which is one of the factors that affect your credit score.
Other ways that getting another credit card can help your credit is if the new card adds to your existing credit mix and if you consistently make on-time payments. Both of these also contribute to your credit score, so improvements there could positively impact your score.
Perhaps the top reason that people open multiple credit cards is to maximize the rewards they can earn. For instance, another card might be worth adding to your arsenal if it optimizes rewards in a category in which you don’t currently earn much. Or, for example, you might pair a basic cash-back rewards credit card for your everyday spending with a travel rewards card that can help you cover the cost of flights and enjoy perks while traveling.
Ensure You Can Pay If One Card Is Stolen
Having more than one credit card in your wallet can also act as an insurance policy of sorts. Say one of your cards gets stolen or is unexpectedly frozen due to fraudulent activity. That can leave you in a lurch at checkout if you don’t have any cash on you. By applying for an additional credit card, you’ll ensure that you always have a backup in case anything were to happen.
Pay Off a High-Interest Card with a Balance Transfer
You also might opt for an additional credit card if you have debt to pay off and qualify for a 0% APR introductory offer. These promotional offers allow you to move over a balance and pay it off interest-free within a certain period of time.
Just keep in mind that you’ll usually need solid credit to qualify for these offers, and a balance transfer fee will apply. Other pros and cons of no-interest credit cards include the fact that you’ll need to ensure you can pay off your debt before the promo offer ends — and a higher interest rate kicks in.
Secure a Higher Overall Credit Limit
Another possible benefit of opening an additional credit card account is that doing so can increase your available credit limit. Especially if your credit score has improved significantly since you last applied for a credit card, you could get approved for a higher limit.
Even if this card’s credit limit isn’t that different from those of your other cards, adding another card can help you keep your credit utilization rate from getting too high, as your overall credit limit will go up.
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Potential Drawbacks of Getting Another Credit Card
As mentioned, opening multiple credit cards within a short period of time can lower your credit score. But even if you don’t do that, there are possible issues that can arise when you have multiple cards — in other words, it isn’t always better to have more credit cards.
Potential to Lower Credit Score
Perhaps the biggest potential issue of having multiple credit cards is the possibility of harming your credit score. If you’re missing payments because you’re finding it hard to juggle multiple due dates, or are overspending and driving up your credit utilization ratio, your credit score will suffer.
Plus, even if you’ve paid off your accounts, having a large number of credit cards open can make you look risky to lenders, possibly lowering your score.
Another possible downside to having a number of credit cards is the fees you could face. Depending on the credit cards you have, you could end up paying multiple annual fees. These could become harder to offset with your credit card usage if your spending is spread across multiple cards.
Further, you might have a harder time keeping track of which cards charge which fees. This can make it more challenging to dodge unnecessary fees.
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Harder To Keep Track Of
It’s likely that all of your credit cards could start off with a different due date, which can make it that much easier for a payment to slip through the cracks. Plus, you’ll have multiple different websites or mobile apps to check in on and visit in order to make your payment.
To make it easier on yourself, consider automating your payments or changing your due dates so they all fall on the same day. This can make it easier to adhere to one of the cardinal credit card rules of always making on-time payments.
Could Get Into a Cycle of Debt
When you have an array of credit cards in your wallet to choose from, it can feel easy to keep swiping. Plus, by using a number of different cards, you’ll be spreading your charges out, which can make it more challenging to track how much you’re actually spending in total.
To keep your spending in check, don’t spend more on your credit cards than you can actually afford to pay off in cash. Ideally, you’ll be able to pay off all of your credit card balances in full each month. Otherwise, interest charges can add up quickly, which is one of the reasons why credit card debt is hard to pay off.
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More Difficult to Spot Fraudulent Activity
When you have just one credit card, checking your credit card balance regularly is pretty easy to do. But once you start growing your number of cards, it will take more legwork and effort to stay on top of your statements and check for any suspicious charges. This can make it harder to spot any potentially fraudulent activity and report it in a timely manner.
Determining How Many Credit Cards to Have
Now that you know the potential upsides and drawbacks to having multiple credit cards, you’re left with the question: How many credit accounts should I have? As mentioned before, the ideal number of credit cards varies from person to person. Here’s what to consider as you make this determination for yourself:
• Do you have a history of responsible spending? If you think that applying for another credit card will lead to spending beyond your means, you might be better off skipping an additional card.
• What’s your reason for getting another card? As mentioned, opening up another card can help you maximize rewards, increase your purchasing power, or even assist in building credit. However, if you’re seeking another card because you’re low on funds and want to be able to fund more purchases, that could lead to a cycle of debt.
• Are you confident you’ll be able to pay off your balances in full each month? Credit card interest can add up quickly if you’re not paying off your balances in full on a monthly basis (just check out our credit card interest calculator for proof). Before taking on an additional credit card, ensure you’re in a good financial position to pay off your balances regularly and in full.
• Has your credit score improved since you last applied? A better credit score generally translates to better rates and rewards and higher credit limits. To make applying for a new card worth your while, it generally helps if you’ve done work to improve your credit since you last applied.
• Do you have any other upcoming loan applications? If you know you’ll need to apply for a loan — whether that’s a car loan, a personal loan, or a mortgage — consider whether a credit card application is necessary right now. Applying results in a hard inquiry, which temporarily dings your score, making you a potentially less competitive applicant for the other loan you need.
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The answer to the question, ‘How many credit cards should I have?,’ largely depends on your personal financial situation and how many credit cards you feel you can responsibly manage. In the big scheme of things, how you use your credit cards may be more important than how many you have. To determine the ideal number of credit cards for you, you’ll want to weigh the pros and cons of adding another card to your wallet.
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