Is There Such a Thing as Too Many Credit Cards?
While some people seem to have an astonishing number of credit cards, there is no “correct” number of credit cards to aim for. The average American has about four credit cards, according to Experian, but the right or optimal number for you will depend on a variety of factors. These include your credit history, financial situation, debt limit, spending habits, and personal preferences. Some people are comfortable with one or two cards, while others may need more.
Let’s consider some of the reasons people may open new credit cards:
- To increase their available credit
- To access a new rewards program or rewards category, such as cash back or airline miles
- For business purposes, to separate business expenses from personal expenses
- To get a big discount on a purchase by opening a store credit card (we’ve all heard that sales pitch at our local big-box store)
- To receive a special introductory offer, such as a 0% APR or cash bonus
Do You Have Too Many Cards?
One of the best ways to determine if you have too many cards is to ask yourself these questions:
- Are you in control of your spending?
- Are you comfortable with the amount of time it takes you to summarize monthly expenditures?
- Are you able to make payments of monthly credit card charges on time and in full?
If you can answer YES to all three questions, the number of credit cards you hold may very well suit your particular needs and goals.
But if the answer to any of these questions is NO, you may likely have too many credit cards and either be taking on more credit card debt than you should or spending an excessive amount of time getting a handle on your finances.
With credit card balances subject to high compound interest, your debt can quickly swell out of control. In this situation, look into getting help to manage your debt through a debt repayment plan or by working with a reputable credit counseling service or financial planner. You may also be able to consolidate your credit card balances using a single lower-interest card or personal loan.
When to Add Cards
Sometimes adding a credit card can make good sense. For example, let’s say you need to buy a dishwasher but will be unable to pay off the entire cost by your credit card due date. You bring your credit card with a 15% interest rate to pay for it. When you make your purchase, the salesperson might offer 0% financing for a limited time through their store credit card.
Signing up for that credit card could be a good move. Not only will you be able to pay for your new dishwasher without any interest, but you may also help improve your credit score by increasing your available credit, which can lower your credit utilization ratio (how much of your available credit you use each month).
Because the length of your credit history influences your credit score, keeping older credit cards open is a good way to support your credit. But if maintaining a particular credit card has negatives (like an annual fee or high APR), it may be worth closing that account. (Note that closing a credit card account can impact your credit score.)
In summary, there’s no specific number of credit cards that you should or shouldn’t have. Instead, it’s about your purpose in having them and how well you use and manage them that is most important.