There isn’t an exact number that works for everyone — instead, the best number of credit card accounts to have depends on how you use them. And more importantly, it’s crucial that cardholders do not open more credit card accounts than they can manage responsibly. There may be such a thing as having too many credit cards.
The magic number for brand new credit card users
If you’re new to credit, it’s wise to start with a single card. The first few years of credit card use are the best time to learn about how these products are used and to develop the habit of making on-time payments. Multiple credit card accounts, each with their own statement and payment due dates, add unnecessary complexity to the learning curve. Finally, novice cardholders should also be extremely wary about incurring debt, and having multiple lines of credit can be seen by some lenders as a temptation to overspend.
Intermediate and advanced credit card users
Once cardholders have been using their cards responsibly for at least a year, they may wish to consider applying for an additional credit card. A second card may offer rewards for spending, a lower interest rate, or an interest-free promotional financing offer. In addition, some credit cards offer valuable travel insurance and purchase protection policies. Holding multiple accounts can also benefit cardholders by increasing their credit history and while reducing their debt to credit ratio, for a given amount of debt. Both of these factors are considered in calculating your credit score.
How many equals too many credit cards?
Credit card users should stop applying for new cards when they feel that they might not be able to manage all of their accounts responsibly. Responsible credit card usage means paying each bill on time, keeping spending under control, and not incurring too much debt. In addition, cardholders may have too many credit cards when they are paying costly annual fees for rewards or benefits that they may not be utilizing.
Yet for those who are constantly struggling with credit card debt, just one credit card may be too many. Taking a break from credit card use can allow some people to regain control of their finances by paying for what they need out of their available funds, not a line of credit. When cardholders find themselves struggling to make their minimum payments on time, that is another indication that it may time to reconsider credit card use in favor of other forms of payment. The existing debt will still have to be paid off, but using other forms of payment will prevent cardholders from incurring even more debt.
Credit cards are convenient methods of payment, and they are also powerful financial instruments. While many Americans find credit cards to be an indispensable part of their everyday lives, there is such a thing as having too many accounts. By limiting credit card usage to a number of accounts that you can comfortably manage, you can safely realize the benefits of your cards.