“Too many” credit cards could be anywhere from 2 to 5 or more, depending on the individual. Everyone should have at least 1 credit card for credit-building purposes, even if they don’t use it to make purchases. But it’s hard to say exactly how many credit cards is too many because the number of cards you should have differs from person to person. It depends on how well you can manage 1 credit card, then 2, and so on.
So while 3 credit cards could be too many for one person, someone else might be able to comfortably manage 6. The average adult has 4 credit cards, according to a 2020 Experian report.
If you’re not sure how many credit cards is too many for you, there are a number of factors you can think about when making your decision. In particular, consider your recent spending and payment history. If you’re having trouble paying the full statement balance by the due date on each account you already have open, think twice about applying for another credit card account.
Here's how to determine how many credit cards is too many for you:
Look at your credit report and score. If you have a history of financial mistakes, such as missed payments, you probably don’t want to get more than one card until you prove yourself to be a responsible borrower. Besides, it may be hard to get more than one worthwhile cards with damaged credit, anyway.
Review your utilization and payment history. If you’re maxing out all the cards you have, credit card companies probably won’t want to give you more spending power. Plus, credit card debt can be very expensive, and you don’t want to rack up balances that exceed what you can repay comfortably.
What does the credit card company think? Some issuers have unofficial rules regarding how many credit cards is too many for an applicant to have. If you have too many cards – either overall, or with that specific card issuer – they may deny your application. There are lots of rumors floating around that Chase will deny a credit card application if you have too many credit cards, for example.
Determine how well you’re keeping track of your credit cards. Even if your credit is good and you’ve never forgotten to pay a bill, that doesn’t mean you never will. Having too many open accounts to keep track of can lead to forgotten due dates, interest charges from simply forgetting to pay a credit card in full, and other issues. If you have trouble listing your credit cards from memory, you’re likely to forget to pay one at some point.
There are benefits to having more than one credit card account. Having several credit cards can help you save money by allowing you to get the best collection of rates and rewards for your biggest transactions. For example, you could get a flat-rate cash back credit card for everyday expenses, a bonus rewards card for travel, and a balance transfer card to reduce the cost of existing debt. Having multiple cards can also help your credit score if you keep your utilization low and your payments on time.
What you should watch out for is applying for too many credit cards too quickly. It’s best to not apply for more than one or two per year, as each application puts a hard inquiry on your credit report and temporarily hurts your credit score.
The more data that’s at your disposal, the easier it will be to decide how many credit cards you should have. WalletHub can help with free daily credit score updates and personalized credit-improvement advice.