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Depending on how you use them, credit cards can help you build your credit and manage your finances, or leave you with expensive long-term debt. You’ll need to balance your credit card usage wisely, including having the right number of cards for you, to get the most out of your cards.
While no one can tell you for sure how many cards you should or shouldn’t have, here are some tips for finding the right number for you.
How many credit cards should you have?
The answer is different for everyone. And the right number of cards for you can change throughout your life.
For example, when you’re a student or young professional, you might want to avoid cards from retailers – which may have higher interest rates – and stick to just one major credit card. As you progress in your career, it may be a good idea to have a second card that you use for business expenses.
When determining how many credit cards are ideal for you, consider these factors.
- Your spending habits – If you have a budget and stick to it, multiple credit cards can be a good thing. But if you are more of a spender than a saver, it can cause you to overspend.
- Your income – You will need to pay off all of your credit cards each month to avoid interest charges and debt. Determine if you have enough income to do this while paying all of your other bills, like your mortgage and car loan.
- Your current credit status – If you have a good credit rating, you are more likely to lock in great rates on a new credit card and you won’t have to pay that much to use it. On the other hand, if you have fair or poor credit, you can be stuck with higher rates which make using credit cards more expensive.
- Your financial goals – Ask yourself why you want more than one credit card. Since multiple cards give you access to a larger credit limit, you can build credit if you keep spending the same. If you want to maximize rewards and perks like cash backs, airline miles, and gift cards, multiple credit cards can come in handy as well.
Credible makes it easy to compare multiple cards at the same time.
When is it a good idea to have more than one credit card?
In some scenarios, having a certain number of cards is a good idea. If you’re already in a healthy financial situation with little to no debt, multiple credit cards can open the door to a better credit score and better rewards.
Having more than one credit card is also a great option if you want to track and separate your spending. You can use one card to pay for certain types of expenses like groceries and gas, and another to pay everyday bills like utilities and car insurance.
When is it a bad idea to have multiple credit cards?
Sometimes having multiple credit cards can do more harm than good. If you’re tempted to overspend, going this route can lead to significant debt. Plus, if you intend to use one card to pay other credit card bills, multiple cards can cause even more financial problems.
If you know you’ll have a hard time tracking and making multiple payments, you should probably stick with just one card. Finally, if you plan to claim the rewards you earn with a card and never use it again, multiple cards may not be the best choice for you.
How does having more than one credit card affect credit?
Several credit cards can affect your credit report and your credit score both positively and negatively. Since payment history is the most important factor in determining your FICO score, on-time payments can help your score. Late or missed payments will do the opposite and lower your credit score.
Another crucial factor in your score is your credit usage rate, or the amount of available credit you are using. Every time you open a credit card you are given a new limit and increase your available credit. As long as you maintain the same level of spending as before opening the card, you can improve your credit utilization rate.
Your credit score also takes into account the average length of your credit. When you open a new credit card, you reduce the average age of your credit accounts. While new credit card accounts can lower your score by a few points for a short period of time, it could bounce back in a few months. But if you open new credit cards too often, the negative impact on your credit score will last longer.
What are the advantages of multiple credit cards?
Here are some advantages of having multiple credit cards.
- More credit card rewards – If you open multiple credit cards, you can take advantage of a variety of rewards programs. You can use a card that offers the most cash back on restaurant meals, and the card with the best travel benefits on airline tickets or hotel purchases.
- Credit can improve – By paying off your card balances on time and in full each month, you can build and improve your credit. Better credit can lead to lower interest rates and more favorable terms in the future.
- Backups – If one of your credit cards is lost or stolen, it will probably take a few days to get a replacement card. With multiple credit cards, you will have backups to use in these situations.
What are the disadvantages of having more than one credit card?
Having more than one credit card can also have some drawbacks.
- Risk of indebtedness – If you are already in credit card debt or tend to overspend often, multiple cards can be risky. They can help you live beyond your means and get into debt.
- Credit can suffer – Late or missed payments on your credit cards can have serious consequences on your credit. Credit problems can limit the types of loans and other financial products you are approved for and cost you additional interest.
- Annual fees may add up – Many credit cards charge an annual fee. If you have multiple cards, the cost of the annual fee can get high.
What you need to know about applying for a credit card
Applying for a credit card is usually quick and easy. Most credit card issuers allow you to apply online and get a decision quickly. You can expect them to check your credit and income to make sure you can afford the card. Remember that every credit card you get will affect your credit. Many factors, including your payment history, will determine whether your card is helping or hurting your credit.
Some credit cards to consider
If you’re looking for more than one credit card, here are some credible partners to consider.
American Express Blue Cash EverydayÂ® Card
- Annual subscription : $ 0
- Notable advantage: 3% cashback in American supermarkets (up to $ 6,000 per year in purchases, then 1%)
- May be good for: Those who use their cards for groceries, gasoline and in department stores
The American Express Platinum CardÂ®
- Annual subscription : $ 695
- Notable advantage: Spend $ 6,000 on purchases in the first six months and earn 100,000 Membership RewardsÂ® points
- May be good for: Powerful travelers who can quickly and easily accumulate enough points to balance annual fees
Citi Custom Cash Cardâ
- Annual subscription : $ 0
- Notable advantage: Earn 5% cashback on purchases in your highest qualifying spend category each billing cycle, up to $ 500 (then 1% cashback thereafter)
- May be good for: People with good to excellent credit who want a no annual fee rewards card
CitiÂ® Diamond PreferredÂ® Card
- Annual subscription : $ 0
- Notable advantage: 0% introductory APR for 18 months on purchases from the date the account is opened and 0% introductory APR for 18 months on balance transfers from the date of the first transfer
- May be good for: Those who want to pay off a lot of debt and reduce their monthly payments
With so many options, it’s a good idea to compare multiple cards. Credible can help you find a credit card that’s right for you.
The most important things to know about credit cards
Credit cards are neither good nor bad by nature. Whether they are good for you depends entirely on how you use them. If you use them, make sure you make your payments on time and in full each month to avoid interest charges. Do your best to avoid going into credit card debt – it’s expensive and growing fast.