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If you've used credit cards at all, then you've probably also wondered how many credit cards you should have. It's one of the most common credit card questions and depending on who you ask, you can get a huge range of answers. Some people want nothing to do with credit cards, while others have dozens of them.
As you might expect, the answer usually lies somewhere in between those two extremes.
Most consumers should have one or two credit cards. There are a few reasons why you should have at least one credit card:
If you can manage two credit cards, then it makes sense to add a second card to your wallet. You'll have a backup credit card in case you lose one and need to wait for a replacement in the mail. You can earn more rewards by combining credit cards. And if you started with an American Express or a Discover card, you can add a Visa or a Mastercard, which are more widely accepted by merchants.
One or two credit cards isn't a lot, but most people are better off being conservative. The more credit cards that you have, the higher your risk is of missing a payment or overspending and going into credit card debt.
The right number of credit cards does also depend on your needs and your credit score. Here's how many credit cards you should have based on more specific financial situations.
When you're new to credit, stick to one credit card for at least a year. Your focus should be building your credit, and opening new cards can slow down that process, as each credit card application can lower your credit score by a small amount. Carrying multiple credit cards can also cause you to spend more than you should, especially when you don't have much experience managing credit.
There aren't any big advantages to opening multiple credit cards at this point, because you probably won't qualify for the most lucrative credit card offers yet.
Wait until you've been using a credit card for a year or two, or until you've achieved at least a good credit score, before you consider applying for a second card.
You should only have one credit card while you rebuild your credit. Since previous mistakes have damaged your credit score, you should also be cautious about opening any new cards, even after you've improved your credit. You don't want to fall into the same patterns and have the same problems.
That doesn't mean you need to go your whole life with a single credit card. But before you get another one, make sure you've been practicing smart credit habits for at least two to three years. That means you only charge what you can afford, you stick to a budget, and you always pay your credit card bill in full.
To maximize your credit card rewards, you should carry at least two to three credit cards. Here's why:
Once you've gotten an excellent credit score, you should strongly consider having at least two credit cards, and there's no firm upper limit on how many credit cards you should have.
Your credit is good enough to qualify for any of the best credit cards, so it makes sense to carry at least two strong cards that complement each other well. That could be two cards in the same rewards program with different bonus categories, a cash back card and a card with travel perks, or any other combination that suits your spending.
As long as you continue to manage your credit well, you don't need to worry about having too many credit cards. Some consumers have dozens of cards and get value from all of them. It's simply a matter of what works for you.
You should have at least one credit card when you're retired, and you can also have more if you want and you have good to excellent credit.
What's more important when you retire is to adjust your spending habits. You can keep all your credit cards open and apply for more if you'd like, but you should put together a budget that reflects your new income. Most people see their incomes decrease after retirement. If you don't adjust your spending accordingly, you could end up with credit card debt.
If you're in debt, you should have one credit card at most that you use regularly, and that should be for essential expenses only. You should avoid opening new credit cards, although there is one exception: You could get a card with a 0% intro APR on balance transfers to refinance credit card debt at a much lower interest rate.
You don't need to cancel any other credit cards you have. In fact, that may not be a good idea. Canceling credit cards will reduce your available credit, which can increase your credit utilization ratio and hurt your credit score. For that reason, it's better to store your unused cards somewhere and avoid using them.
There's no one-size-fits-all recommendation for how many credit cards you should have. A good rule of thumb is one or two credit cards, because you can take advantage of credit card benefits without having too many cards to manage.
It's also perfectly fine to get more cards than that, and plenty of consumers have done this successfully. The key is to take it slow and to follow smart spending habits no matter how many credit cards you have.
The typical consumer should have one or two credit cards. If you've been using credit for less than a year, then you should have one credit card. After at least a year of experience managing credit, you can think about adding a second credit card.
Once you have excellent credit, you can be more flexible about the number of credit cards you carry. You don't need to limit yourself to a certain number, although you should always be cautious about opening more cards than you can handle.
The average person has about three credit cards. According to The Ascent's 2019 survey on American credit card preferences, the average number of credit cards owned is three. That only included respondents who had at least one credit card, but Experian's 2019 State of Credit report had a similar average of 3.1 credit cards.
The number of credit cards you own doesn't directly affect your credit score because it's not a factor in how your credit score is calculated. There are, however, a few factors that can be influenced by your number of credit cards:
If you open new credit cards often, that can also have a minor negative effect on your credit score. That isn't a problem if you already have an excellent credit score, but it can hold you back if you're trying to improve your credit.
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