How Many Credit Cards Should You Have?

    Credit cards are a useful tool so you should make sure you have one as long as you can handle credit effectively. If you want to max out your rewards earning potential, you’ll need to have more than one card.

    With so many credit cards out there, all offering different kinds of rewards and bonuses, a lot of people wonder how many credit cards they should have.

    There is no single answer that fits all people. The number of credit cards that you should have depends on your spending habits, personal preferences, and your goals.

    One thing to keep in mind is that you should not have a credit card if you have trouble with spending more than you can afford to. Credit cards charge incredibly high-interest rates, so carrying a balance will cost you a lot of money over time.

    You should only use a credit card if you’re able to stick to your budget.

    How Many Credit Cards Should Young People Have?

    Getting a credit card is an important part of your financial coming of age. Many lenders offer student credit cards designed to help high school and college students build credit. You only need to open one credit card to start building your credit.

    Your credit score is determined largely by your history of making payments on time, how long you’ve had access to credit, and the average age of your credit accounts. For a young person to start building their credit score they only need to open one credit card.

    If you cannot qualify for a student credit card you can also open a secured credit card. A secured credit card is like a normal credit card, except you need to provide a deposit with the bank that is offering the card. Your credit limit is determined by the size of your deposit. If you deposit $500, you’ll have a $500 credit limit.

    After you use your card responsibly and make on time payment for a while your credit will have improved enough to get an unsecured credit card.

    How Many Credit Cards Should You Have to Rebuild Credit?

    When your goal is to rebuild your credit, you also only need one credit card. If you already have multiple credit cards, you can keep them open, or you can close all the accounts except one, to reduce the temptation to overspend.

    When you’re rebuilding your credit and trying to open a new credit card account, you’ll probably have to apply for a secured credit card. The deposit you provide to the bank serves as collateral for the loan. If you don’t pay back the loan, the bank will take the deposit you provided to pay off the loan.

    Once you have a credit card to use to rebuild your credit, all you have to do is use the credit card responsibly and wait. Your credit history takes more than a decade of your past behavior into account, so it could take months or years for your credit score to reach its peak.

    How Many Credit Cards Do You Need to Maximize Rewards?

    If you’re the kind of person who wants to maximize the rewards you can earn from credit cards, you’ll definitely need more than one. How many credit cards is too many? The answer depends on your spending patterns.

    Rewards credit cards offer cash back or reward points for every dollar you spend. Some cards offer a flat number of points for every dollar spent. Other cards offer more or fewer rewards points for spending in different categories.

    One example is the American Express Blue Cash Preferred card. When you use the card you’ll earn $1 for every $100 spent. If you use the card at a gas station or at a qualifying department store you’ll earn $3 per $100 spent. Using the card at a grocery store will earn you $6 per $100 spent.

    Other cards have rotating categories. The Discover it card, for example, has bonus categories that change every quarter. Regular spending earns $1 per $100 spent but spending in that quarter’s bonus category will earn $5 per $100 spent. You’ll need to keep track of the categories as they change, but if you do you’ll be well rewarded.

    To figure out how many credit cards you’ll need to max out your rewards potential, you’ll need to track how you’re spending your money. After a month or two of tracking, you’ll know what categories make up the majority of your spending.

    If you spend most of your money on groceries and at, you would be well served with the American Blue Cash and Amazon store cards. If you shop at a wide variety of stores applying for a few rotating category cards is a good idea.

    No matter where you spend most of your money, you should try to get a credit card that gives a good flat rate of rewards, no matter where it is used. The Citi Double Cash card offers 2% cash back on any purchase, which is the best flat rewards rate available on a card that does not charge an annual fee.

    There’s no one answer when you ask yourself “how many credit cards should I have?” The answer depends on your goals and your ability to use credit responsibly.


    Photo credit: Creative Commons Images 

    About the Author

    TJ Porter graduated with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Business from Northeastern University in 2016. He has been sharing his financial expertise through his writing since 2014. He has in-depth experience in reviewing financial products such as savings accounts, credit cards, and brokerages, writing how-tos, and answering financial questions both simple and complicated. TJ has written for popular financial brands such as Credit Karma and My Bank Tracker. His aim is to provide actionable advice that can help readers better their financial lives. In his spare time, TJ enjoys esports, cooking, and board games.

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