How Many Credit Cards Should I have?


If you’ve used credit cards at all, then you’ve probably also asked yourself “how many credit cards should I 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.

How many credit cards should I have?

Most consumers should have one or two credit cards. There are a few reasons why you should have at least one credit card:

  • It’s the most secure payment method. A credit card isn’t connected to your bank account, making it a more secure way to pay than debit cards or cash. No one could use a credit card to drain your bank account in the way they could with a debit card.
  • It can help you build credit. By paying your credit card bill on time and not using more than 30% of your credit limit, you can attain a high credit score.
  • You can earn rewards on your purchases. Rewards credit cards earn cash back or travel rewards points on every purchase, allowing you to get something back from the money you spend.

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.

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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.

How many credit cards should I have if I’m new to using credit?

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 a new credit card 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.

How many credit cards should I have if I’m rebuilding credit?

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 getting a new credit card, 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 open another credit card account, 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.

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How many credit cards should I have if I want to maximize rewards?

To maximize your credit card rewards, you should carry at least two to three credit cards. Here’s why:

  • To earn more purchase rewards: With multiple credit cards, you can choose the card that will earn you the most back on every purchase. For example, you could use a card that earns 3% on dining when you go out to eat, one that earns 2% at gas stations when you fill up your car, and a card that earns a flat rate of 1.5% for all your other purchases.
  • To get more bonuses: The fastest way to earn rewards is through sign-up bonuses. By opening more cards, you’ll have more bonus opportunities.

How many credit cards should I have if I have excellent credit?

Once you’ve gotten anexcellent credit score, you should strongly consider having at least two credit cards. There’s also no firm upper limit on how many credit cards you should have.

Your credit is good enough to qualify for the best credit cards from any card issuer, 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. Just make sure that if a card has an annual fee, its benefits are worth more than what you’re paying for it.

How many credit cards should I have if I’m retired?

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.

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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.

How many credit cards should I have if I’m in 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. It’s best to 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. Note that to qualify for a balance transfer card, you will likely need good to excellent credit.

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, because you lose the credit limit of each card you cancel. This 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.

The magic number of credit cards

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.

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