How Many Credit Cards Is Too Many? | Bankrate (2024)

Key takeaways

  • There is no right number of credit cards — it depends on how many you can manage.
  • Having multiple credit cards helps reduce your utilization rate and provides lenders with more information to better gauge your creditworthiness.
  • If you apply for several credit cards within a short period, it could negatively impact your credit score.
  • Most people should have at least two credit cards in case of emergencies or fraud.
  • Keeping a high number of cards allows you to maximize rewards and increase your credit score over time, but there’s a larger risk of mistakes and problems.

When you begin exploring credit cards, you’ll quickly notice the best credit cards come with widely varying offers. From travel rewards to cash back and 0 percent introductory annual percentage rates (APRs), it can be challenging to narrow your choices.

The number of credit cards you should have varies by your unique financial needs and preferences. In some cases, carrying several credit cards in your wallet every day makes sense. In others, you’re probably better off with a single primary credit card that meets all your needs.

Here’s what you need to know about having multiple credit cards and tips for how to most effectively pair them to maximize your rewards.

Is there such a thing as too many credit cards or too few?

No, there is not a strict universal limit on the number of credit cards that is considered to be “too many” or “too few.” Your credit score won’t tank once you hit a certain number. For most people, having too many credit cards likely means you’re losing money on annual fees or having trouble keeping up with bills — and that varies from person to person.

If you are well organized, you may be able to handle 10 or more credit cards and keep track of their benefits, fees and payments without any problem. If you’re a frequent traveler and want to maximize travel credit cards like it’s your part-time job, then having an array of credit cards with different perks could even be incredibly lucrative. Some power users may have 20, 30 or more cards in their household.

Ryan Flanigan, a credit cards expert and writer at Bankrate who has enough credit cards to fill a binder, fits this category. When it comes to how many cards he thinks is too many, he says, “There’s no such thing for me. I’ll get as many cards as I can as long as they provide outsized value to me…I’m at a place where my only limiting factor is how many cards can I get from each issuer and how does that affect my application strategy.”

But not everyone is willing to put in the time or energy to become a power user, and it’s easy to become overwhelmed with different credit card earning rates, rewards programs, fees and payment due dates. It’s fine to keep things simple with just a few cards. You may also realize you’ve reached your limit when you begin getting your cards and payments confused or can no longer keep track of the perks each one offers.

However, having a thin credit file can make it difficult for lenders to determine what kind of borrower you are. Lenders typically view this as a risk. Plus, your credit behavior can have a larger effect on your score when you only have a few accounts. Think of it this way: It’s much easier to use up most of your overall credit limit when you have just a few cards, and doing so can harm your credit score because it means that your credit utilization will be high.

See where your credit utilization stands

Bankrate's credit utilization calculator can help you figure out your own ratio. For a good credit score, we recommend keeping your usage below 30 percent.

How many credit cards should you have?

Your ideal number of credit cards is something you’ll have to determine on your own. For reference, the average American is reported to have between three and four credit cards. Where you fall compared to that baseline should depend on the following factors:

  • Your ability to manage payment due dates and pay off your credit card balances monthly
  • How comfortable you are paying credit card annual fees (and if you’re getting significant value in return)
  • The number of cards you can reasonably use for purchases regularly
  • The perks you can get with each one (without paying for redundant benefits)
  • The type of rewards you want to earn and whether you want to earn more than one type of rewards currency

Are you a minimalist, a moderate or a rewards aficionado?

Our card user breakdown might help you categorize your spending habits and decide how many cards you need to reach your financial goals:

The minimalist: 1-2 credit cards

One or two well-chosen credit cards should be a good fit for those who like to keep it simple. If you only have one credit card or want a starter card, we recommend choosing a no-annual-feeflat-rate cash back card. You’ll earn a little cash back on every purchase and won’t need to keep track of bonus categories or annual fees.

If you feel like you’ve got the hang of that, you might consider adding another card to your wallet. With a new card, you can increase your available credit, earn more rewards and maybe even score a nice sign-up bonus. If you already have a good flat-rate card, we suggest acard with bonus categories that match your spending habits — whether that’s travel, groceries, dining out or something else.

Bankrate’s take:For most people, having at least two credit cards is a good idea. If you only have a single card and fall victim to fraud, lose your card or encounter other common problems, having a second card as a backup is helpful.

The moderate: 3-5 credit cards

Most people fall within this category. At this point, you can probably earn rewards in all of your major spending categories. Ideally, you’d have an excellent flat-rate card (rewarding at least 2 percent cash back or 1.5 points or miles on all purchases) and two to four othertypes of cards that reward your most frequent purchases.

The rewards aficionado: 6+ credit cards

At this point, earning credit card rewards often becomes something like a hobby — a lucrative one for many. Some people’s credit card portfolios are well into the double digits. Take Luke Thomas, for example, a public relations manager who opened24 credit cards in eight years to build excellent credit and fund his world travels.

But you won’t be able to handle two dozen credit cards unless you get organized. As soon as card details become difficult to keep straight in your head, create a spreadsheet or find an app to help track annual fees and payment due dates (ifautopay isn’t an option). You might also note bonus categories, sign-up bonus deadlines and any other perks. After all, manypremium credit cards are only worth their annual fees if you actually use the benefits.

If you’re looking for your first card (or looking to add another to your wallet), use Bankrate’s spender type tool to figure out which ones might match up best with your spending habits and lifestyle.

Does the number of credit cards you have impact your credit score?

All credit accounts impact your credit score, including credit cards. While the number of credit cards isn’t a specific credit score factor, getting a new card will impact your score in both the short term and long term.

How it can hurt your credit score

Applying for new credit cards can hurt your credit score in the following ways:

  • New cards cause hard inquiries: When you apply for a credit card, ahard inquiry is placed on your credit report, and you may see a temporary drop in your credit score. However, that should typically last for only around six months to a year, assuming you keep your balances low and pay on time. Hard inquiries remain on your credit report for two years.
  • You could have too many applications in a short time: “New credit” makes up 10 percent of your FICO credit score, meaning that several new accounts and recent inquiries will cause your score to decrease. For the best approval odds and credit score, you shouldwait 3 to 6 months between credit card applications.

How it can help your credit score

Getting new credit cards can also help your score, however. Here’s how:

  • You can lower your credit utilization: The amount of debt you owe in relation to your credit limits is known ascredit utilization, and it’s the second most important factor for your credit score (behind payment history). Lower is better for this number, and opening a new credit card can help. Here’s why: Let’s say you currently have two credit cards and their combined credit limit is $10,000. If you typically spend $1,000 between the two credit cards monthly, your credit utilization is 10 percent (1,000 / 10,000 = 0.10). If you get a new card with a $2,000 limit and continue spending the same amount between the three cards, your ratio drops to about 8 percent (1,000 / 12,000 = 0.08.3).
  • You can avoid a thin credit file: If credit scoring models have more input about your credit usage from multiple cards, they can better assess your creditworthiness.
  • The length of your credit history will improve over time: This is another factor that goes into your credit score. It includes the average age of your credit accounts, as well as the age of your oldest account. Having more than one credit card can improve thelength of your credit history over time.

For Flanigan, accumulating credit cards has definitely helped his credit score over the years. “My credit score is the highest it’s ever been,” he says. “The initial hit goes away quickly.”

However, these positive effects can only happen if you use your credit cards responsibly, are careful about the timing of your applications and have good credit-building habits. “I’ve never missed a payment in my life,” says Flanigan, “and just because I have a ton of cards doesn’t mean I’ll carry debt unless it’s with an intro APR offer.”

When multiple credit cards make sense

There are many situations where you can benefit from more than one credit card, especially for rewards enthusiasts willing to get multiple credit cards from the same card issuer.

Instances where it can make sense to have multiple credit cards include the following:

Reasons to have multiple credit cardsAdvantages
You want to earn different types of rewards.Having a diversecombination of credit cards lets you rack up different types of rewards (cash back, travel rewards, etc.) that you can’t always earn with just one card.
You love credit card sign-up bonuses.Multiple cards yield multiple welcome offers, which can be worth hundreds of dollars each.
You want to lower your credit utilization.Havingmultiple credit cards increases your overall credit line, which can lower your credit utilization rate if you keep your spending consistent.
You want a diverse set of perks.Having several credit cards can give you varied perks like automatic elite status at hotels, airport lounge access,Global Entry orTSA PreCheck credits, annual travel credits and more.
You want to pair multiple cards within a single rewards program.Getting multiple cards that earn the same type of rewards can help you leverage each card’s unique earning rate and bonus categories.
You’re a business owner.Small business owners should have a separatebusiness credit card for all their business-related spending and bills.

All these reasons aside, it’s important to note that multiple credit cards only make sense for people whose finances are already organized and those who pay their credit card balances in full each month. If you carry a balance and pay interest, those costs often outweigh the value of rewards and benefits.

Keep in mind:Juggling a few credit cards can also mean juggling multiple annual fees. In theory, there's nothing wrong with that, but you should ensure you are getting enough value in terms of credit card perks and rewards.

When having one credit card makes sense

If you find yourself stressed at the thought of carrying more than one credit card, you’re certainly not alone. After all, many consumers prefer the simplicity of having one credit card and one bill to deal with — especially when one card meets a variety of needs and additional cards would just make life more complicated than it needs to be.

Here are some situations where you might want just one credit card:

Reasons to have one credit cardAdvantages
You are averse to annual fees.Having one credit card with no annual fee lets you avoid paying for the privilege of having a more perk-laden credit card.
You want to keep your finances simple.One credit card means one credit card bill and simpler finance management.
You are happy with one card’s specific benefits.If you’re looking for a card that offers a0 percent intro APR, or you only care aboutearning cash back or miles, picking one card in line with your goals could be a reasonable choice.

For those that fall into the above categories, Flanigan offers this advice: “If you just want one card, make sure it gives you a solid base rate and has bonus categories. A sign-up bonus or intro APR offer wouldn’t hurt either.”

Choosing a card with one of the best sign-up bonuses on the market, plus rewards that match your spending habits, will allow you to get the most out of your credit card while still keeping your finances simplified.

The bottom line

Only you can decide whether you have too many credit cards, too few or just the right amount. That may mean experimenting a bit to find the ideal number and combination for your needs.

Start with one or two credit cards and don’t be afraid to branch out. Make sure you’re ready to put on the brakes, however, when you feel you’ve hit your max. At the end of the day, the right number of cards allows you tomaximize rewards and perks without overcomplicating your finances.

FAQs

  • There is no right number of credit cards to own, and owning multiple cards gives you access to different rewards programs that various cards offer. Owning five cards, for example, would give you a bigger total line of credit and lower your credit utilization ratio. If you can manage five cards at once, it’s not too many for you.

  • If you’re worried that you have too many credit cards, take a look at your budget and spending habits and see whether the cards you have are helping or hindering you each month. It might be worth setting some aside, downgrading them to cards without annual fees or canceling them outright. Canceling a card will impact your credit history and therefore your credit score, however, so be careful about your timing if you decide to cancel a card.

  • When you own multiple credit cards, you have to keep track of all their bills and any annual fees. You must stay organized enough to manage all of these cards. Also, if you apply for a number of credit cards within a brief period of time, it could negatively impact your credit score since lenders will make hard inquiries into your credit.

  • Having a single credit card means your total line of credit will be lower than with multiple cards, which could increase your credit utilization rate. Additionally, you won’t be able to tap into multiple rewards programs offered by different cards. You will also have a thinner credit file and the length of your credit history may be less robust than if you had multiple cards.

How Many Credit Cards Is Too Many? | Bankrate (2024)

FAQs

How Many Credit Cards Is Too Many? | Bankrate? ›

There is no right number of credit cards to own, and owning multiple cards gives you access to different rewards programs that various cards offer. Owning five cards, for example, would give you a bigger total line of credit and lower your credit utilization ratio.

How many credit cards are considered too many? ›

There's no magic number of credit cards you should have. Know your spending habits and focus on paying on time.

Is 12 credit cards too many? ›

So, while there is no absolute number that is considered too many, it's best to only apply for and carry the cards that you need and can justify using based on your credit score, ability to pay balances, and rewards aspirations.

What is the 5 24 rule? ›

What is the 5/24 rule? Many card issuers have criteria for who can qualify for new accounts, but Chase is perhaps the most strict. Chase's 5/24 rule means that you can't be approved for most Chase cards if you've opened five or more personal credit cards (from any card issuer) within the past 24 months.

How many hard inquiries are too many? ›

Since hard inquiries affect your credit score and what is found may even affect approval, you might be wondering: How many inquiries is too many? The answer differs from lender to lender, but most consider six total inquiries on a report at one time to be too many to gain approval for an additional credit card or loan.

Is 10 credit cards too many? ›

There's no definitive answer to this, but 10 credit cards may often be too overwhelming for the average person to maintain. Having two to three credit cards is much more manageable and can go a long way toward keeping your credit utilization low.

Is having 10 credit cards bad? ›

If you are well organized, you may be able to handle 10 or more credit cards and keep track of their benefits, fees and payments without any problem.

What is the 3 12 rule for credit cards? ›

Bank of America's 3/12 or 7/12 rule

If you do NOT have a deposit account with Bank of America, your credit card application will be denied if you have opened three new cards in the past 12 months, based on what's visible on your credit report.

Is it OK to have 15 credit cards? ›

If you pay on time and keep track of your balances, having a lot of cards doesn't mean your credit has to suffer. Smart card management is key when you have 15+ cards. Autopay, calendar reminders, and a good spreadsheet go a long way toward ensuring I stay on top of my credit cards.

Is it bad to have 11 credit cards? ›

There's no such thing as a bad number of credit cards to have, but having more cards than you can successfully manage may do more harm than good. On the positive side, having different cards can prevent you from overspending on a single card—and help you save money, earn rewards, and lower your credit utilization.

What is the golden rule of credit cards? ›

Pay Off Your Balance

The golden rule of credit card usage is to do everything you can to pay off your entire balance each month. If you can do this, you won't be charged any interest.

Does closing old credit cards hurt your score? ›

While your scores may decrease initially after closing a credit card, they typically rebound in a few months if you continue to make your payments on time,” Griffin says. The primary reason your score may decrease is through losing a credit limit and increasing your utilization rate.

Is 4 credit cards too many? ›

Owning more than two or three credit cards can become unmanageable for many people. However, your credit needs and financial situation are unique, so there's no hard and fast rule about how many credit cards are too many. The important thing is to make sure that you use your credit cards responsibly.

What is the secret way to remove hard inquiries? ›

The easiest way is to file a dispute directly with the creditor. If the creditor cooperates, the inquiry may be removed after sending a single dispute letter.

Is 7 hard inquiries too many? ›

However, multiple hard inquiries can deplete your score by as much as 10 points each time they happen. People with six or more recent hard inquiries are eight times as likely to file for bankruptcy than those with none. That's way more inquiries than most of us need to find a good deal on a car loan or credit card.

Is 7 hard inquiries bad? ›

Each hard inquiry can cause your credit score to drop by a few points. There's no such thing as “too many” hard inquiries, but multiple credit inquiries within a short window of time can suggest that you might be a risky borrower.

Is 5 credit cards too many? ›

Are 5 credit cards too many? Five credit cards may be too many for you, but it may not. You might find it easy to manage multiple cards and track everything that comes with them: benefits, due dates, balances, annual fees, etc.

How many credit cards will hurt your credit score? ›

Credit scores factor in the average length of time you've had credit — not the age of your oldest account. Therefore, every new credit card you open decreases the average length of your credit history. While new card accounts often lower your credit score about five points, it typically rebounds in a few months.

Is it bad to have a lot of credit cards with zero balance? ›

However, multiple accounts may be difficult to track, resulting in missed payments that lower your credit score. You must decide what you can manage and what will make you appear most desirable. Having too many cards with a zero balance will not improve your credit score. In fact, it can actually hurt it.

How many credit cards do the average person have? ›

How many credit cards does the average person have? According to the latest figures from Experian, the average American has 3.84 credit cards with an average credit limit of $30,365.

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