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How Many Credit Cards Should You Have?

Learn the pros and cons of having multiple credit cards and determine how many are right for you.

by Navy Federal on May 15, 2018 | Tag(s): Credit Cards

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You’re probably familiar with the benefits of having a credit card: convenience, rewards, purchase protection, a way to build credit history—the list goes on. However, are there benefits to having more than one credit card? And, if so, how many should you have? Read on to learn the benefits and drawbacks of carrying multiple cards.

Benefits

There are plenty of reasons to have more than one credit card. With multiple cards, you can:

  • improve your credit score. More credit cards give you more credit to spend. And, if you have modest spending habits, you’ll in turn improve your credit utilization ratio, which is calculated by dividing what you owe by your overall credit limit. A good utilization ratio is a great boost for your credit score.
  • separate expense types by card. Do you run your own business? Carrying a second card for business expenses can make tax deductions a breeze—just keep your personal and business purchases on separate cards for easy itemization!
  • maximize your reward earnings. If you’re hoping to maximize your rewards earnings, then consider carrying multiple types of rewards cards. For example, you could fund your dinners with a card that earns extra points at restaurants and pay your way for other expenses with a general cash back card.
  • keep a backup card. Sometimes a vendor only accepts one type of card, and sometimes you accidentally leave your main credit card in your car or on your kitchen counter. In either case, having a spare card on hand can be a lifesaver.

Drawbacks

For all the benefits of having multiple cards, there are also some potential challenges. You could:

  • see a temporary drop in your credit score. When you apply for a credit card, a hard inquiry is made on your credit history, which can temporarily knock a few points off your credit score. Opening a new account also lowers the average age of your credit accounts, which can also impact your score. For this reason, you may want to avoid opening a new card if you’re planning on applying for a loan in the near future.
  • lose track of spending. Divvying your spending across multiple accounts can make it harder to keep track of how much money you’ve really spent. For example, three credit card statements with $400 balances each may give a different impression than a single $1,200 credit card statement. To avoid overspending, get in the habit of checking your account balances on a regular basis.
  • mix up due dates. Since different cards may have different payment due dates, you’ll need to keep track to make sure you don’t miss any payments. Fortunately, many issuers allow you to set up automatic payments, so you won’t have to worry about missing a due date. You can also contact your issuer to see if they’ll let you change your due date to keep your different cards on the same schedule.

So—How Many Cards?

The number of credit cards you should have is up to you. It’s certainly possible to have an excellent credit score with just one credit card, but having multiple cards may suit your spending habits better and enable you to maximize your rewards strategy. If you’re unsure whether you have too many cards to handle, you can request a copy of your credit report from annualcreditreport.com and see if you have a warning about having “too many open revolving accounts.”

If you’re ready to open an additional credit card, explore Navy Federal Credit Union’s credit card offerings to find one right for you.

This article is intended to provide general information and shouldn't be considered legal, tax or financial advice. It's always a good idea to consult a tax or financial advisor for specific information on how certain laws apply to your situation and about your individual financial situation.