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How many credit cards should you have? One, two or twenty?

Whether you are a student, or you’re working or you have a family, experts say you should have at least two, one from each card network, one from each type of rewards, and no more than you can handle.

It can be very easy to fill up a wallet with just credit cards. A card to maximize airline miles.

Another targeted at your favorite hotel chain. A card that gives you money back on groceries.

Even a card that earns you points when you spend at NFL games.

So, where do you begin? And where do you end?

So, how many credit cards should you have?

You should have at least two credit cards – ideally each from a different network (Visa, Mastercard, American Express, Discover, etc.) and each offering you a different kind of rewards.

How many credit cards is too many?

That depends on you as an individual – you should never have more credit cards than you can handle.

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But there is no perfect answer to how many credit cards you should have.

What if you’re new to credit cards? How many should you have then?

Start with one then.

Notice how it works and the interests on it. Start with one card, a secured card if necessary, then add a second card when you can prove to yourself that you are making your payments on time and paying your bill off in full each month.

This is a learning period if you’re new to credit cards. And that’s why you should start with just one card first, to get adjusted to those good habits.

How many credit cards should you have it you want reward programs?

Cards that don’t offer rewards are a waste of your time.

Think about what rewards would benefit you the most, and whether you want to pay an annual fee to get them.

Cards that don’t charge an annual fee generally come with lower introductory bonuses than cards that do, and may not be as generous with rewards points on day-to-day spending.

But be careful that you don’t sign up for more rewards cards than you can manage to juggle.

How many credit cards should you have if you want to buy a new house or car?

Stick to the number of cards you already have, for now.

Don’t open even one new credit card within at least six months of applying for an installment loan. 

Opening a new card will lower your score by a few points due to the hard inquiry on your credit, “and you want it to be in the best shape possible when you go out to get that expensive loan,” Ulzheimer said.

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That said, he added, installment lenders will pay the most attention to whether you’ve had a mortgage or auto loan before, and paid it off on time, and whether you tend to pay off your bills in general on time. 

How many credit cards should you have if you want to improve your credit score?

This is not a reason to get a new credit card, Ulzheimer said. “Opening a new card can actually backfire,” he said, because it will, at least initially, lower your score.

Heard said she often sees clients denied loans not because of their credit scores, but because too much of their income is going to debt payments each month. Worry about a high debt-to-income ratio first, she advised. 

how many credit cards should you have

How many credit cards should you have if you are in too much debt?

If you are neck deep in debt, it is best to put whatever credit cards you have aside in favor of a debit card, or cash, Ulzheimer said.

If you need to close your credit cards to avoid using them, then do it, but know that every time you close a credit card, it can lower your score, he said – because it may reduce your available credit, thus increasing your aforementioned credit utilization ratio. 

How many credit cards should you have if you need a better interest rate to pay off existing credit card debt?

Balance transfer card introductory rates of 0 percent APR can be helpful to those who are carrying high-interest balances, pay their bills on time and never miss minimum payments, Ulzheimer said. But they’re only available to consumers who already have decent credit.

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Note, too, that balance transfer cards come with their own hazards, such as balance transfer fees – which typically run about 3 percent – and high-interest rates that kick in at the end of the introductory period, or even, in some cases, when the cardholder misses one payment.

Think of balance transfer cards as a tool, Ulzheimer said. “Use it properly and it will buy you some time to chew into the balance and eventually pay it off.”

How many credit cards should you have if You don’t want to carry around lots of credit cards in your wallet?

If your wallet is bulging from plastic and metal cards, follow Sachs’ example and stow some at home, Ulzheimer said. “I never advise people to close credit cards, because it can hurt that debt-to-credit limit ratio,” he said.

The one exception is if someone is going through a divorce, he said. Then it’s best to limit the amount of damage an angry spouse can do to your finances, and let both parties establish credit on their own.

Finally

So, whether you have two or 20 cards doesn’t really matter. What’s important is that your cards give you access to more than one network and offer you the rewards that best meet your needs.

How many credit cards do you have? What are they for? And are you looking to increase it’s number or reduce them? Let us know in the comment section below.

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