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With credit card companies competing so fiercely to offer low rates, juicy rewards and flexible terms, you have tons of options.
If you're a savvy cardholder who works the system -- leveraging the rewards to get better offers, and transferring to 0% credit cards at every opportunity -- can you wind up with too many credit cards?
And just how many is too many, anyway? Here's how to find your right number.
You want a healthy amount of credit
Your credit profile should be balanced. This means it’s good to have multiple credit cards.
Numerous accounts give you lots of available credit. The ratio of your available credit to your overall debt plays a role in determining your credit score.
Having one maxed-out credit card can affect your credit score more negatively that the same balance spread over two cards.
Many experts say you should have at least two credit cards, but the paramount consideration is proper credit utilization. In other words, the number of cards is less significant than how you use the ones you have.
Adopting a 2-card strategy
Your two credit cards might be a cash-back credit card or other rewards card, and a low-interest credit card.
You'd use the rewards card for your daily spending: groceries, gas, paying bills. But you must pay off the balance each month. Otherwise, you’ll build unsustainable debt that will hurt your credit and take you down a road to insolvency.
Additionally, pay attention to the rewards terms. Some cards reward grocery purchases but not online transactions, while others will save the best rewards for your spending at the gas pump.
The low-interest card is good to have for major purchases you'll need to pay over time, such a new appliance or plane tickets for your vacation in Australia.
3rd card's a charm?
A third card can help if you are ever in a jam. Having a credit card that you don’t use, except for emergencies, can be a good strategy. The available, unused credit will look good on your record and will boost your credit score.
A recent survey by the credit bureau Experian found the average American has 3.1 credit cards, which is probably a reasonable number for most people.
Some consumers have a hard time stopping at three. The world record is held by Walter Cavanagh of Santa Clara, California, who has amassed 1,497 credit cards — all valid, according to Guinness.
Consider where you shop
While most retailers take all major plastic, some have limitations. Costco, for example, has accepted only Visa since 2016, so if you are a Costco shopper you’ll want to make sure one of your cards is a Visa.
Different cards offer rewards, cash back, low interest or no interest. Having various cards is a good way to maximize the perks and avoid heavy interest costs.
The optimal number of credit cards is a personal choice based on your credit profile and finances. Ultimately, having a single credit card requires responsible financial decisions, and the same applies to multiple cards.
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