Credit cards are an excellent credit tool. They can help you build credit, finance costlier items, and even save you money through lucrative rewards. Like everything else, however, too much can be a bad thing. So, what is the right number of credit cards to own – how many credit cards should you have?
The Ideal Number of Credit Cards
One of the more commonly asked questions about credit is “is there such a thing as having too many cards?” Simply put, there is no set answer to this question.
Opening one or two credit card accounts is a good way to control spending and build credit. Having multiple (or even dozens) of cards might be ideal for people who want to maximize their savings and earn impressive rewards points or miles.
The Average Number of Credit Cards in 2020
According to Experian, one of the three major consumer credit bureaus, the average American had 5.4 credit cards in 2020. This number breaks down to three credit cards and 2.4 closed-loop store cards. That three open-loop credit card tally is similar to another poll by Gallup, which found Americans hold approximately 3.7 credit cards.
Can You Have Too Many?
So, is there a number of credit cards you should aim for? Not really. Nor is there a set number that becomes too high for any one person. That said, there are important things to consider before adding – or dropping – a credit card from your wallet.
Average Age of Credit
If you think your wallet is a bit stuffed, closing extra accounts seems like a no-brainer. Unfortunately, this action can drop your credit score significantly.
Average age of credit is one of the factors that make up a person’s credit score. Credit history length consists of 15% of your FICO Score and 21% of VantageScore 3.0.
If there are cards you don’t use, your best course of action is to pay off the balance and keep the accounts open. Use these for small, one-time purchases. You can also put a subscription service charge on them. That way they’ll remain active without too much maintenance on your part. Just don’t forget to pay off your balance!
What Factors Impact Your Credit Score?
Keeping these accounts open will boost your average age of credit and lower your utilization ratio. Also called credit usage, it is the second-most significant impactor of a FICO Score, at 30%. This factor makes up an equally impressive 23% of a VantageScore number.
Keeping your utilization below 30% of your overall limit is key to raising – and maintaining – a good credit score. By keeping old accounts open and utilization as low as possible, you can significantly improve your financial profile with lenders.
So, in short, the answer is depends on you, your goals, and your needs.
Ideally, you should never have more payment cards than you can handle. They are financial tools and, as such, they require knowledge and discipline to use successfully.
If you are new to credit, stick with one or two cards and learn the ropes before venturing into lucrative rewards cards and expensive annual fees. If you are more experienced, feel free to open more accounts – just make sure to keep an eye on the annual fees, card balances, and your credit utilization.
Ultimately, the number of cards you hold is a personal preference. Just follow the basic finance rules: Don’t spend more than you can afford, and pay your bills on time each month.
Related Article: How to Build Your Credit Score to Buy Your First Home
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