The average American has 2.6 credit cards. However, more accurately, when you remove the 29% of Americans who don’t have a credit card at all, that figure generally rises to about 3.7.
It sounds like a lot, but it’s nothing compared to the Guinness World Record holder, Walter Cavanagh who has 1,497 credit cards. Who knows what he does with them all? Here’s the interesting thing, out of Walter’s 1,000+ credit cards, he only uses one. This begs to question, how many credit cards should you have?
It’s not an easy answer
For those who have found themselves knee-deep in debt, the answer to how many credit cards you should have is probably zero. However, for everyone else, the answer largely depends on a number of factors.
- Can owning multiple credit cards increase your credit score? Having more credit cards may help towards boosting your credit score. However, only if you pay them off every single month. In fact, people with the highest credit scores actually have an average of 10 credit cards. Multiple credit cards may also help you save on insurance rates and may even assist when applying for a job. Plus there are rewards that can increase with each offering.
- How do you spend your money? Understanding how you currently spend your money and how you want to spend your money should largely affect how many credit cards you have access to. If you’re not that great at paying things off in a timely manner, well then the fewer credit cards you have the better. It’s questionable whether you should have one at all. Some people also prefer to pay for small things in cash and larger expenses on the card. If this is the way you wish to do your finances, one card is probably sufficient.
- How do you want to manage your finances? If you prefer to keep things simple, having multiple credit cards can be tough to manage even with budgeting tools. Having only a couple of credit cards means there are fewer bills to go through each month and the fewer billing cycles you’ll have to keep track of. Remember, it’s highly unlikely that your credit card billing cycles will match up, so the more cards you have, the more you have to manage your money efficiently.
- Do you need or want one for emergencies? Ideally, you won’t need to rely on a credit card for emergencies, however, not everyone has an emergency fund set aside or enough money in their savings to cover urgent situations.
While there are opportunities to take out short-term or payday loans in this case, sometimes people would rather have access to one credit card that is only ever used in an emergency. Remember though, this card should be a low interest with no annual fee and a high credit limit.
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Key to remember when deciding how many credit cards to have is this: you must be able to pay every credit card in full, on time. If not, don’t take out the card.
Choosing what kind of card to apply for
Figuring out how many cards is too much is also about what kind of credit cards fill your wallet. Carrying multiple credit cards that serve different purposes may work for you.
Most credit cards will offer something in return for use, and many people will carry multiple cards around to ensure they’re getting the best bang for their buck, no matter where they shop. For example, some credit cards offer a percentage of cash back on groceries.
This means people will use that particular credit card when they shop at a grocery store. That is why a lot of department stores offer incentives for people to use credit cards in-store. So if you shop at a particular retailer more than others, the generous reward rates and exclusive offers may be best embraced here.
Taking advantages of benefits
If you’re a frequent flyer, a credit card that offers rewards points for spending may be a good option to have. Many of these frequent flyer cards will also offer discounts or points at particular hotel chains.
The key though is not to get sucked into introductory offers and sign-up bonuses. If the long-term benefits don’t work for you, don’t be lured into signing up for a card. Sometimes the bonuses and offers are worth it, but only if you intend to use that card efficiently in the long run.
Another thing to keep in mind is making sure your choice of a card is accepted – If your primary credit cards are American Express or Discover, you may face a problem, as these cards aren’t automatically accepted everywhere.
What is the key to balancing multiple credit cards?
There are many benefits to having multiple credit cards, from improving your credit score to utilizing each card for the best rewards. However, the success in having multiple cards lies in your ability to manage them correctly. Know which card offers which rewards, keep track of when each bill is due and what your credit limit is on each one.
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