How Many Credit Cards Should Retirees Have?

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Here's what older people need to know about credit cards.

There are many benefits to using credit cards to make purchases. For one thing, you'll often get to capitalize on cash back or other rewards that pay you for the purchases you were already planning on making. And in some cases, credit cards give you added protection against theft, damaged goods, or other issues that can arise with the purchases you make.

That's why it pays to keep some credit cards on hand even after you've retired. But how many credit cards do retirees need? Well, there's no single answer, as that depends on an individual's situation. But if you're retired, here are some specific types of credit card it pays to consider opening or hanging on to.

1. A card that rewards you for everyday purchases

Seniors often need to live on a tight budget, so it pays to have a credit card that gives you a nice amount of cash back for everyday purchases like gas and groceries. That extra cash could be handy when paying your bills. Or it could buy you the flexibility to spend more on leisure -- an important thing once your career wraps up and you no longer have to spend the bulk of your waking hours at the office.

2. A travel rewards card

Some retirees end up being big travelers. When you don't have a job occupying your time, that makes sense. As such, it could pay to have a travel rewards card. This type of card not only makes it easy to rack up hotel points or air miles, but it can offer you money-saving perks on your travels.

Some travel cards, for example, offer free checked baggage on airlines. If you take a flight every two or three months, that savings can really add up.

3. A card you've had for a very long time

It may be the case that one of your credit cards doesn't offer the best rewards, but you've had it for several decades. That's a card worth hanging on to. One big factor that goes into calculating your credit score is the length of your credit history. And keeping the same credit card account open for many years can help your score stay strong.

To be clear, it's important to have a good credit score during retirement, just as it's important to have one when you're younger. Even if you don't plan to do much borrowing, you never know when the need might arise, and a strong credit score will buy you more options.

There's no reason to dump credit cards just because you're retired. Quite the contrary -- you may find that the right set of credit cards helps you manage your expenses and carve out more money for the things you want to do with your newfound free time. And you shouldn't hesitate to apply for a new credit card as a retiree if your current cards aren't working well for you, or if there's a better offer out there.

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