Are you eyeing a new credit card in 2022 but are concerned you might already have too much plastic in your wallet?
We often get questions about how many credit cards are too many for one person to have.
It’s a good, financially responsible question to ask. But you may be surprised by the answer.
In this article, we’ll get the advice of money expert Clark Howard and credit card expert Jason Steele to help you understand how the number of credit cards you have affects your credit score and financial life.
Clark Howard Fields the Question: How Many Credit Cards Is Too Many?
On a recent episode of The Clark Howard Podcast, listener Matt from Ohio said he was interested in adding the Target RedCard to his wallet. But he had concerns since he already has a Citi Double Cash, Costco Anywhere Visa, Amazon Prime Rewards Visa and another co-branded store credit card.
He asked Clark: “How many credit cards is too many?”
Clark’s response could be applicable to Matt’s dilemma and your personal financial situation.
“There’s no such a thing as ‘too many’ cards unless and until you’re applying for a mortgage,” Clark says. “That’s the one kind of underwriter who freaks out about the number of cards you have even if your credit score is great.”
Clark points to credit card experts who sometimes carry as many as 40 or 50 open credit card accounts so that they can analyze the cards. As long as you have a strong credit score, the pure volume of cards is not a ding on your credit if you use the cards properly.
I also spoke with Jason Steele on this topic. He is the founder and producer of CardCon, which is The Conference for Credit and Credit Card Media.
His message to prospective credit card applicants was similar to Clark’s:
“The right amount of credit cards to have is no more than you can manage responsibly,” Jason says. “For some, that’s zero, but for others that could be many. As far as your credit score is concerned, having five is ideal, but there’s no benefit to having more than that.”
You can listen to Clark’s full answer and explanation from the podcast here:
Clark Says Worry About This Instead
Instead of worrying about having too many credit cards in your life, Clark says it’s actually more important to make sure you don’t have too few.
“The big potential problem with credit cards is having too few,” Clark says. “There are lots of potential danger spots with that.”
We recently explored this topic with both Clark and Jason in a different article that you should read for more information, but here is a quick rundown on why “too few” is more of a concern than “too many”:
- Your credit score is impacted by things like credit mix, credit utilization and payment history. Not having a credit card to properly jump through those hoops could adversely impact your score.
- If you have just one credit card, you run the risk of an issuer deciding to reduce or eliminate your access to credit, which could really put you in a bind if you need the money. Also, losing that card will throw your credit utilization ratio out of whack. Card issuers can do this without warning or necessary justification, so it’s better to be safe than sorry.
- To remedy this, Clark calls on a “Noah’s Ark system” to ensure that you have at least two credit cards from two separate issuers (e.g., Chase, Citi, Capital One, Discover, American Express).
Clark personally carries six credit cards in his wallet. He carries a combination of cards that give him a steady cash back reward on everyday purchases alongside cards from businesses he frequents including Costco and Southwest Airlines.
It’s important to “know yourself” when it comes to adding credit cards to your wallet.
Successfully managing at least two credit cards (from separate issuers) will protect your access to credit and ensure that you’re positively impacting your credit score with low utilization and on-time payments. After that, you should be intentional about adding other cards.
What cards provide a net benefit in your financial life? And does adding them to your wallet help or hurt your ability to make smart purchasing decisions that are paid on time?
There’s no set limit to how many credit cards you can have, but there may be a limit to how many you should carry.
How many credit cards do you carry? We’d love to hear more about your strategy in the Clark.com Community!
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