How many credit cards do you really need? For most people, money expert Clark Howard says, you need at least two and maybe up to four credit cards.
Clark recommends two cards because he wants you to have a mix of credit, which is a key element of your credit score.
How Many Credit Cards Should You Have?
“If 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 choose to apply for additional cards.
U.S. News and World Report credit card expert and consumer finance analyst Beverly Harzog says she bases her choices on the rewards and what type of card she needs.
Beverly Harzog’s Credit Cards
|Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card||Travel|
|Gold Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card||Travel|
|Discover it® Credit Card||Cash back|
|Bank of America Credit Card||Low APR|
Beverly says she believes that four credit cards 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 are in agreement that rewards credit cards make sense only for those consumers who pay 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 about handling multiple cards: You have to use them, or you may lose them. Your card issuer may cancel your account for inactivity.
So make sure to use each of your cards at least once every six months or put a small recurring charge on every card.
Clark’s Key Takeaway
There’s clearly no single answer to the question of 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.”