How many credit cards do you really need? For most people, money expert Clark Howard says the answer to that question is at least two and maybe up to four credit cards.
Clark recommends two cards because he wants you to have a mix of credit, a key element of your credit score.
How many credit cards should you have?
“If we hit a recession and credit card companies decide they don’t want you and one of them dumps you, you still have the other card. And if one of them cuts back your limit, you still have the other card,” Clark says.
Just remember the Noah’s Ark rule:
Always have two credit cards. Never one and never two from the same issuer.
Why you may want more than 2 credit cards
Once you have two credit cards from different issuers (Citi, Chase, etc.), you may decide to apply for additional cards — even from the same issuer. Clark has four personal credit cards: two for travel and two for cash back rewards.
U.S. News and World Report credit card expert and consumer finance analyst Beverly Harzog has the same number.
|Clark Howard’s 4 credit cards||Beverly Harzog’s 4 credit cards|
Beverly says she decides which cards to have based on the rewards and what type she needs, but she also thinks four can be better than two for your credit score.
“I think it’s better because of the credit limit opportunities there,” Beverly says. “I’m always mindful of what my balances are, what my limits are. And by having four cards with high limits, it helps me keep my score up.”
Learn more about credit limits in Beverly’s article about the 5 sneaky ways to improve your credit score.
Clark and Beverly agree that rewards credit cards only make sense for consumers who pay off their balances in full every month. Otherwise, interest charges will eat away the rewards that you earn.
For people who don’t use credit cards responsibly, forget about this strategic approach and step away from credit cards.
One final warning if you have four or more credit cards is that your issuer may cancel your account for inactivity. You don’t want to take out more credit cards than you can handle.
Clark’s key takeaway
There’s clearly no single answer to the question about how many credit cards you should have. You need to find what works in your life. But Clark says the Noah’s Ark rule is a good place to start.
“Follow that initial rule that I gave you: two cards from two different issuers. But maybe twice that many might be the perfect answer rather than two cards.”