Published in: Credit Cards | May 21, 2019
Can You Have Too Many Credit Cards?
By: Christy Bieber
Is it possible you could end up with too many credit cards in your wallet? Check out some signs that might suggest you may have too much plastic.
Credit cards have become the preferred method of making purchases, and with good reason. Credit cards provide fraud protection, they’re a lot easier to carry around than a bunch of cash, and you can just get another one if your card is lost or stolen. Plus, if you pick the right credit card you can even earn rewards for everyday spending.
While it’s a good idea to have at least one or two credit cards in your wallet, is it possible to have too many? The answer to this question will depend on your situation -- but there are definitely some circumstances where having too many cards could lead to some serious problems.
In fact, if you spot any of these red flags, chances are very good the number of cards you have has gotten out of control.
You can’t keep track of your payments
When you have dozens of credit cards and you use all of them, it can be very difficult to keep track of how much you’ve charged and when payments are due.
This makes it challenging to ensure you have the cash to pay off each card in full when the statement is due to avoid paying interest. It also increases the likelihood of a missed payment, which can do devastating damage to your credit score.
As soon as you find you can’t remember all your credit card due dates or have no idea how much you’ve charged on multiple cards, this is a sign the number of cards you have has grown too big.
Your credit score is suffering because you keep applying for cards
Each time you apply for a new credit card, you shorten the average length of your credit history and you get an inquiry on your credit report that will stay on the report for two years. Both of these things can hurt your credit score. The more inquiries you have and the more new accounts you’ll open, the more damage you’ll do.
If you notice your credit score is falling, it’s definitely time to stop applying for new cards. And even if you haven’t yet seen a drop in your score, you’ll still want to pace yourself when opening new accounts. For example, you may want to wait until the inquiry from your most recent card has dropped off before opening another one.
You find yourself maxing out the cards you have
If you find yourself maxing out every credit card you have, even one card can be too many.
Having access to credit is a responsibility you should take very seriously. Getting yourself deep into credit card debt could leave you paying off bills for years to come, which could seriously damage your financial stability. Unless and until you’ve got your spending under control, don’t open any more new cards and consider closing the ones you’ve already got.
You’re paying a bunch of different annual fees
Many credit cards have annual fees, some of which could run you as much as several hundred dollars annually. There are times when paying a fee can pay off, such as when you get really generous rewards, statement credits for travel incidentals, or access to great perks such as upgraded hotel rooms or entry to airport lounges.
But if you aren’t using the perks or if you have a bunch of credit cards you’re paying for that offer similar benefits, you’re wasting a fortune. You may need to get rid of some of those cards rather than continuing to make credit card companies richer.
You can’t keep track of all of the different rewards programs
Many people open new credit cards to try to take advantage of rewards programs. But every credit card works differently when it comes to earning bonus rewards.
If you have a wallet full of cards and it takes you 10 minutes with a flowchart to figure out which one to use to pay for groceries or gas in order to maximize your points, cash back or miles, you’ve made your life needlessly complicated.
Instead of trying to wring every dollar out of rewards programs and driving yourself crazy in the process, find one or two good cards that best reward the spending you do most and skip the rest.
What to do if you have too many credit cards
If you have too many credit cards, your options for rectifying the problem will depend on your specific situation.
If most or none of your cards are charging you high annual fees, you could just opt to stop using all but one or two. Pay off the remaining balance on the cards you don’t want to actively manage anymore, then stick them out of reach in the back of a drawer. If you don’t use them all, you won’t have to keep track of differing rewards programs or remember to make payments. If you’re worried about the cards getting cancelled due to inactivity, use each one to make a purchase once a year, pay it off right away, then put it away again.
If your cards are charging you big fees, call your creditors and see if you can downgrade to a free card without losing the account’s credit history. Some creditors let you do this. If it isn’t an option, it may still make sense to close the card even if it causes a short-term hit to your credit score. Otherwise you could get stuck paying an annual fee for the rest of your life just to keep the card active.
If you’re struggling not to max out the cards you have, closing as many of them as possible also makes sense to eliminate temptation. You’ll have to pay off the balances, but if you want to close the accounts out right away and stop worrying about them, consider consolidating the debt on multiple cards using a balance transfer or personal loan. Then close the cards you’ve paid off with your new loan.
Don’t get stuck with too many credit cards
To avoid getting stuck with too many credit cards, resist the temptation to open a bunch of new ones just to get sign-up bonuses. While it’s OK to do this occasionally if you see a really awesome perk for new account holders, don’t be tempted by every offer you see. If you already have too many cards, consider implementing some of the suggestions in this article so the plastic in your wallet stops weighing you down.
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