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How Many Credit Cards Should I Have? (Expert Recommendation)

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These days, some wallets are fat

Not with bills, but with credit cards.

The average American has three credit cards, and plenty of folks have more. 

Do they know something you don’t?

They might.

Because having multiple credit cards can help your finances.

By now, you’re probably asking: How many credit cards should I have

I’ll be honest; there’s no single answer to that question. It depends on all sorts of factors: your talent for budgeting, your financial goals, and even your personal habits. 

But there is an answer that’s right for you – and I can help you find it. 

How Many Credit Cards Should I Have?

There’s no specific number of credit cards that a person should have – but 2-3 is a common recommendation. 

Your personal ideal number of credit cards depends on several factors, including:

  • How responsible you are with your spending
  • How focused you are on increasing your credit score
  • How confident you are that you’ll be able to pay your bills

It usually makes sense to have at least one credit card.

After all, credit cards are convenient, they help you build credit, and you can use them in emergencies. 

There are also rewards to consider. Who doesn’t like receiving cash back or earning discounted flights?

But there are also downsides to having credit cards – and those downsides grow as you take out additional cards. 

With more cards and a higher credit limit, you’ll have more temptation to overspend. Plus, it can get tough to keep track of your personal finances with too many accounts at once. 

When you start losing track of statements or mixing up your balances, it’s easier to miss payments. 

And that’s what leads to debt, interest, and big-time financial troubles. 

Also, be sure you don’t apply for too many cards at once. Credit card companies conduct a “hard inquiry” into your credit history when you apply, which can cause a small dent in your credit score. 

One small dent isn’t an issue, but ten small dents can add up to a pretty big problem!

So, back to your question: How many credit cards should I have?

It depends. 

Try to gauge at what point the downsides of having too many cards would outweigh the benefits. 

Are you a habitual overspender? Then maybe 1 card is enough for now. 

Are you a personal budget hawk? Then 3-5 cards could be okay.

A person creating a budget on their laptop to answer the question, “How many credit cards should I have?”
If you never spend beyond your budget, you can probably handle multiple credit cards.
Source: Unsplash

Is It Good to Have Multiple Credit Cards?

Person holding up three credit cards in their hand.
Having at least two credit cards is always a good idea in case one is lost, stolen, or locked!

Having multiple credit cards is often good for your finances. Let me explain why.

For one thing, an additional card can serve as a backup. 

Imagine your first card is lost, stolen, or locked by the bank for suspected fraud. If you don’t have any other way to pay a necessary expense –  a late-night Uber home, for example – you could find yourself in a seriously sticky situation. 

Then there’s the boost that an additional card could give your credit score. 

Credit agencies create a score based on your history as a borrower, and they like to see that you’re managing several “accounts.” 

There are also rewards to consider. 

Credit cards can offer amazing perks like cash back on purchases, travel protection, and discounted airfare. You can take out multiple cards, then use them strategically to maximize rewards. 

But be careful! 

You can turn your personal finances into a hot mess if you prioritize earning rewards above all else. 

A new card here (because the travel points are fantastic!), another there (airport lounge access, wow!), and ten cards later, you’ll find yourself drowning in debt and totally confused by all your different balances.

So…don’t be afraid of taking out additional credit cards – but don’t overdo it, either! 

How Do Multiple Credit Cards Affect Your Credit Score?

Having multiple credit cards can impact your credit score, and usually for the better. 

In fact, improving your credit score is one of the main reasons to consider taking out additional cards.

There are two main ways that credit cards can boost your credit score:

1 – By Increasing Your Number of Credit Accounts. 

When credit agencies see that you have multiple credit accounts, they trust that you know how to meet your financial obligations. Credit cards are a type of account, so having several will improve your score.

2 – By Decreasing Your Credit Utilization Ratio. 

When creating your credit score, credit agencies consider how much of your available credit you’re using. 

Let’s say you’ve got a credit card with a $2,000 credit limit, and your balance is $1,000. That means your credit utilization ratio is 50%. 

But what if you were to take out a new card that also had a $2,000 credit limit? 

Now, you’ve got $4,000 of total credit, and you’re still only using $1,000. So your ratio goes down to 25%. 

That will bring your credit score up.

Of course, these positive effects will only work out if you use your credit cards responsibly. 

Let’s imagine a nightmare scenario: 

You take out three new cards to increase your number of credit accounts and decrease your credit utilization ratio, but then you overspend on all of them. Now, you can’t pay off your balances, and you’re even missing some minimum payments. The missed payments will hurt your credit score – and your whole plan will have backfired.

So the equation is simple:

More credit cards + responsible use = improved credit score

How Many Credit Cards Is Too Many?

There’s no exact point where an additional credit card causes problems. It’s just a matter of deciding how many cards you can realistically handle.

Are you a compulsive spender who worries about debt? 

Then maybe just one card is good for now since a second card could lead to poor decisions.

Can you imagine missing a payment here or there when life gets hectic, especially with lots of cards? 

Then maybe 2-3 cards is your sweet spot, and you can consider getting more when things settle down.

Is financial discipline your most notable trait, and is “organization” your middle name? 

Then you can probably handle a wallet full of credit cards. But be careful. There’s always the possibility of overdoing it.

So yeah, “How many credit cards should I have?” is a question that requires some serious introspection.

How To Choose The Right Credit Card(s) 

“How many credit cards should I have?” is only the first question. 

The next is, “Which ones should I apply for?”

I recommend getting at least one MasterCard or Visa card. These familiar names aren’t credit card providers but credit card networks – meaning they’re in charge of processing the payments. 

MasterCard and Visa are the biggest networks. Both are accepted in over 10 million locations in the U.S.

As a consumer, it makes sense to have a card that’s accepted in as many places as possible – both in the U.S. and around the world. 

Something else for travelers to keep in mind: Some, but not all, credit cards charge foreign transaction fees. 

If you’re a world traveler, see if your current credit cards charge for foreign transactions. If they do, then look for one that doesn’t. 

Lots of Capital One and Discover cards don’t have foreign transaction fees. 

Some specific options include:

  • Capital One Venture
  • Capital One Quicksilver Cash
  • Capital One Spark Cash Select
  • Discover IT
  • Alliant Cashback Visa
  • Chase Sapphire Preferred

It’s also smart to consider your personal habits when choosing between credit cards. 

Lots of cards have rewards, but can you find one that matches your lifestyle?

Let’s say you’re a frequent traveler, and your favorite airline is JetBlue. The JetBlue Plus Card gives you a free checked bag with every flight, plus all sorts of points and perks. That might not matter to everybody, but it’s oh-so-perfect for you!

View of passengers inside airplane after consumers used the airline points from travel credit card they got after researching how many credit cards should I have.
Frequent travelers should look for credit cards with travel-related rewards.
Source: Unsplash

Commonly Asked Questions About How Many Credit Cards to Have 

How Many Credit Cards Should a Person Normally Have? 

Experts generally recommend having 2-3 credit cards. Your “ideal” number could vary depending on your circumstances. If you don’t think you could reliably pay off the balances for multiple cards, then a single card (or no card) could be safer.

How To Use a Credit Card for Beginners? 

As a beginning credit card user, your first priority is to avoid overspending. This means making only purchases that you can actually afford. Your second priority is to pay off your entire balance each month, so you avoid falling into debt and paying interest. 

Is 3 Credit Cards Too Much? 

3 credit cards is not too much as long as you can keep track of the accounts and pay off your balances. In fact, 3 credit cards is often considered a perfect amount.

Is 7 Credit Cards Too Many? 

Having 7 credit cards isn’t necessarily a problem. Credit agencies won’t lower your credit score just for having many cards. But it’s worth considering whether you can responsibly use and pay off so many cards at once. There’s a reason the average American has 3 credit cards, not 7. 

Is It OK To Have 10 Credit Cards?

Juggling 10 credit cards could make it hard to manage your finances. The good news: Having an excessive number of credit cards won’t hurt your credit score on its own. The bad news: It’s easy to miss payments when you have so many accounts – and that will hurt your score. 

How Many Credit Cards Should I Have in My 20s? 

Whatever your age, having 2-3 credit cards is recommended. That said, it’s normal to slowly acquire new cards as you get older. Don’t panic if you’ve still only got a single card in your 20s, but consider adding to your “collection” when you can.

Is It Bad To Have A Lot of Credit Cards With Zero Balance?

No, it’s not a bad idea to keep credit cards with zero balances. Keep in mind though that many credit card issuers will close a credit card that you don’t use at all for 6 months. So to keep the card open, make any purchase of any amount every 6 months or so. This way you get to keep the credit limit which can lower your credit utilization ratio and this increase your credit score. Of course this makes the most sense with no annual fee credit cards!

How Many Credit Cards Should I Have to Build Credit?

Having 2-3 credit cards is good for building credit. You’ll have multiple accounts and – if you’re responsible – a lower credit utilization ratio. Of course, you could always get even more cards to further decrease that ratio, but you run the risk of overcomplicating your finances and missing payments.