The Age Old Question: How Many Credit Cards Should I Have?

Oh how many times have I seen or been asked this one, and I always give the same answer, it depends. I hate giving you the same old song and dance you’ve always heard, so I’ll add on some other VERY beneficial questions you should know the answer to when asking this question…

1. What are you wanting the cards for?

If your answer to this question is to have credit at shopping malls/outlets, let me tell you now that you’re barking up the wrong tree. Consumer cards are usually the worst cards you can get involved with. The fees are usually ridiculous, and they bait you in with 3 months no interest, no finance; and then hammer you with the fees later. Yes, the clothes probably look very good on you, but they don’t look good on your credit score or balance sheet.

2. Should I buy home appliances on credit?

If you’re considering using the cards to open a line of credit for your appliances at home, it may be worth it. Mine was. I bought ALL my furniture/appliances/TV on credit for as long of a loan as I could stretch out (2 years). Why did I do this? Well, I had just moved into my house and knew I wouldn’t need to have a good score for anytime in the IMMEDIATE future, and I didn’t have anything for my house. Seriously, I didn’t own a thing from renting with friends to moving in with wife and 1st child.

Was it a good decision? I think so, I mapped out EXACTLY what I could afford for monthly payments on each of them, and the allocated that money from my paycheck to go towards them EACH MONTH direct deposit from my bank. DO NOT WAIT TILL THE LAST MINUTE TO PAY IT ALL OFF! That is how they get you, they tell you not to worry about it for 12 months with their “no interest no payments” tricks. But that is just what it is, a trick. Pay it monthly like I did, and it hurts a lot less. I paid my final payment on my TV in Oct 2007. It felt great.

3. How does opening another credit card affect my credit score?

Yes, you should have more than 1 card but this is an important question to consider when opening it. The way FICO balances your score says that 10% of the score is based on “new credit”.

New credit is defined as:

  • Number of recently opened accounts, and proportion of accounts that are recently opened, by type of account
  • Number of recent credit inquiries
  • Time since recent account opening(s), by type of account
  • Time since credit inquiry(s)
  • Re-establishment of positive credit history following past payment problems


So how many cards SHOULD you have open? Well, the answer hasn’t changed. It is dependent on several things, but a few big ones to note, if you own your house, and own your car, then there aren’t that many other places you’re going to be hurt by a bad credit score. Contrary to popular belief, you don’t need a good credit score to start a business.

So if you’re not seeing a need to apply for credit for big life purchases like a house or car, you’re not going to be hurt (credit score-wise) by opening up another card or 2, just be sure you’re paying it off monthly and not waiting till the last day…

Photos by: Ingorrr and gaetanlee

Filed Under: adviceCredit CardsDebtfinancial education

  • I guess 2 is enough for personal use

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  • I read that it’s a good idea to have your debt ratio less than 50% across all your cards. Creditors don’t want to see almost maxed out cards.

    As long as you are responsible with your cards, no number is unreasonable.

    I have several cards but I only use 2 at a time. Chase Freedom and my Shell Citibank card.

  • @Paul – it varies from what people have said, I got my information from my mortgage broker when trying to get the best deal for my house. But we agree on the fact that creditors certainly don’t wan to see maxed out cards… 😉

  • I think the fewer the better. It is probably best to keep one just for online purchases with a low credit limit as you are most likley to get fraudulant activity on that one. Then one for general use. I think if you have more you are just asking for trouble – there is always the temptation to use them you see!

  • “most likely to get fraudulent activity” are you serious?

    Where are people shopping?

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  • KG

    It is hard to find any rules about how many credit cards you should have. Usually you will find you should have more than one and you should not have 12. A “healthy mix” of credit will help your credit score, but that includes installment loans, auto loans, and a mortgage not just credit cards.

    My FICO puts it best by saying if you don’t need the account don’t add it. It will not improve your credit standing so there is no point. Their tip is to only add accounts if needed.

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