How Many Credit Cards Should I Have?
The short answer to this question is: it depends. How many credit cards you should have depends on your financial situation, your budget, and your specific needs.
There can be a lot of benefits to having multiple credit cards. You can get more flexibility and reward options.
If you’re not in a solid financial place in your life, having multiple cards can also be extremely risky. If you can’t handle the responsibility of multiple payments and balances, it’s probably not a smart decision.
Before you think about applying for additional cards, consider where you are in your financial journey. Make sure you’re confident you can handle the debt load.
Benefits of multiple credit cards
If your finances are healthy and you feel you can handle the responsibility of having more than one credit card, here are some of the benefits.
- Specific shopping card. You could have a dedicated card for specific purchases. You could use one exclusively for online shopping or for groceries. This could help you keep track of your spending and make sure you don’t go over budget.
- Backup card. If one of your credit cards is lost or stolen, it’s helpful to have a backup, especially if you use your card for important things like groceries or utility bills.
- Travel card. Some cards may not be accepted if you travel outside of the country. Or they might charge foreign transaction fees. You could get a card that’s accepted everywhere and doesn’t charge those fees.
- Balance transfers. If you qualify for a card with a lower APR or a promotional rate, you could save money by transferring your balance from a card that has a higher rate.
- Rewards benefits. Different cards offer different rewards. So, you might benefit from using certain cards on certain things. Maybe one card gives more cash back on, say, dining. And another offers travel rewards on all purchases. You could potentially get more rewards with some strategic spending.
Managing multiple credit cards
If you already have multiple credit cards, or are thinking about applying for a new card, there are some things you’ll want to keep in mind.
- Build your credit history. Even when you have a new card with a lower APR, you might not want to close the older cards. Keeping these open gives you a longer credit history, which is good for your credit score.
- Use your cards periodically. It is important to use each one of your cards periodically. Inactive cards could affect your credit. as well. Make sure to talk to the card issuer to see what constitutes inactivity.
- Monitor your balances. Multiple cards will accrue multiple balances and multiple sources of debt. It’s much easier for debt to get out of control with five cards than it is with just one. If you opened a card for the purpose of , make sure you only use it for that purpose.
- Time your applications. Applying for several credit cards in a short period of time can hurt your credit score. Think about when you applied for a card and wait a while before your next application.
Make sure you’re in control
There can be some benefits to having multiple credit cards. But they can also get out of hand if you’re not careful.
Here are some tips for managing multiple credit cards:
- Pay on time. Making your payments on time each month is a big factor in your credit score. If you have a solid budget in place and are sticking to it, consider setting up automatic payments each month to each card.
- Spend wisely. Just because you now have more available credit, you don’t have to use all of it. In fact, it’s best to only use up to 30% of your available credit.
- Make sure you’re ready. If you’re new to credit cards, make sure you can handle the responsibility. Get your first card and see how you do. If it gets out of control, you shouldn’t apply for another one.
Having multiple credit cards is not uncommon. But it’s not for everybody either. Whether or not it’s right for you depends on your financial situation, your lifestyle, and your specific needs.
Before you apply for more than one credit card, it’s so important to make sure you can handle the responsibility.
If you’re experiencing financial difficulties or need help managing credit card debt, we offer free, confidential financial counseling to help get you back on track.