Home > Credit Cards > How Many Credit Cards Is Too Many?

Comments 0 Comments

With so many tempting credit card offers out there, who wouldn’t want to take advantage of them and sign up? But some consumers may have reason to wonder if filling out all of those credit card applications may add up to something more concerning: a bad credit score. Is there ever such a thing as too many cards?

To find out, we turned to Rod Griffin, director of education for Experian, one of the three major credit reporting agencies. Here’s what he told us.

“It’s not the number of credit cards you have, it’s how you use the cards that you have,” he said via email. “You only need one or two credit cards to have good credit scores. Just what constitutes ‘too many’ depends on the person and their unique credit history.”

It’s important to know that credit scores today put a big emphasis on utilization, or how much credit you use weighed against how much is actually made available to you. This accounts for 30 to 35% of a consumer’s credit score, Griffin said, so “the number of credit cards you carry is less important than the balances you carry on the cards in your wallet.” (You can see where your own credit stands by viewing your free credit report summary, updated every 30 days, for free on Credit.com.)

The Risk of Hard Inquiries 

With these factors in mind, it’s probably not a good idea to apply for a lot of credit cards all at once since multiple inquiries can raise a red flag to lenders, Griffin said. “The underlying questions a lender may have are, ‘Why is the person suddenly applying for a lot of potential new debt? Are they going to charge more than they can afford and not be able to repay the debt?’ ”

Yet the risk associated with applying for multiple cards does vary by your credit standing. If your credit history is already in poor shape, “applying for just two or three cards in a short time might be ‘too many,’ ” Griffin warned. Conversely, a person with a good credit history may not feel much of a burn from submitting two or three credit card applications.

Remember to Swipe Wisely 

Whether you’re using an old credit card or a shiny new one, you’ll want to do your best to use it smartly. That means working to pay your balances off on time, and in full, every month, to help you maintain a low utilization rate, Griffin said. Likewise, avoid carrying a balance near the credit limit on even one card as this can “seriously impact credit scores,” he added. “If you have 10 credit cards, use them to make small purchases, and then pay the balances in full each month. You will have a low utilization rate, which will benefit scores.”

He added, “the right question isn’t really about how many cards is ‘too many.’ The right question is, ‘How do you use the cards you have available to you?'”

Note: It’s important to remember that interest rates, fees and terms for credit cards, loans and other financial products frequently change. As a result, rates, fees and terms for credit cards, loans and other financial products cited in these articles may have changed since the date of publication. Please be sure to verify current rates, fees and terms with credit card issuers, banks or other financial institutions directly.

Image: AndreyPopov

Comments on articles and responses to those comments are not provided or commissioned by a bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by a bank advertiser. It is not a bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

Please note that our comments are moderated, so it may take a little time before you see them on the page. Thanks for your patience.

Credit.com receives compensation for the financial products and services advertised on this site if our users apply for and sign up for any of them.

Hello, Reader!

Thanks for checking out Credit.com. We hope you find the site and the journalism we produce useful. We wanted to take some time to tell you a bit about ourselves.

Our People

The Credit.com editorial team is staffed by a team of editors and reporters, each with many years of financial reporting experience. We’ve worked for places like the New York Times, American Banker, Frontline, TheStreet.com, Business Insider, ABC News, NBC News, CNBC and many others. We also employ a few freelancers and more than 50 contributors (these are typically subject matter experts from the worlds of finance, academia, politics, business and elsewhere).

Our Reporting

We take great pains to ensure that the articles, video and graphics you see on Credit.com are thoroughly reported and fact-checked. Each story is read by two separate editors, and we adhere to the highest editorial standards. We’re not perfect, however, and if you see something that you think is wrong, please email us at editorial team [at] credit [dot] com,

The Credit.com editorial team is committed to providing our readers and viewers with sound, well-reported and understandable information designed to inform and empower. We won’t tell you what to do. We will, however, do our best to explain the consequences of various actions, thereby arming you with the information you need to make decisions that are in your best interests. We also write about things relating to money and finance we think are interesting and want to share.

In addition to appearing on Credit.com, our articles are syndicated to dozens of other news sites. We have more than 100 partners, including MSN, ABC News, CBS News, Yahoo, Marketwatch, Scripps, Money Magazine and many others. This network operates similarly to the Associated Press or Reuters, except we focus almost exclusively on issues relating to personal finance. These are not advertorial or paid placements, rather we provide these articles to our partners in most cases for free. These relationships create more awareness of Credit.com in general and they result in more traffic to us as well.

Our Business Model

Credit.com’s journalism is largely supported by an e-commerce business model. Rather than rely on revenue from display ad impressions, Credit.com maintains a financial marketplace separate from its editorial pages. When someone navigates to those pages, and applies for a credit card, for example, Credit.com will get paid what is essentially a finder’s fee if that person ends up getting the card. That doesn’t mean, however, that our editorial decisions are informed by the products available in our marketplace. The editorial team chooses what to write about and how to write about it independently of the decisions and priorities of the business side of the company. In fact, we maintain a strict and important firewall between the editorial and business departments. Our mission as journalists is to serve the reader, not the advertiser. In that sense, we are no different from any other news organization that is supported by ad revenue.

Visitors to Credit.com are also able to register for a free Credit.com account, which gives them access to a tool called The Credit Report Card. This tool provides users with two free credit scores and a breakdown of the information in their Experian credit report, updated twice monthly. Again, this tool is entirely free, and we mention that frequently in our articles, because we think that it’s a good thing for users to have access to data like this. Separate from its educational value, there is also a business angle to the Credit Report Card. Registered users can be matched with products and services for which they are most likely to qualify. In other words, if you register and you find that your credit is less than stellar, Credit.com won’t recommend a high-end platinum credit card that requires an excellent credit score You’d likely get rejected, and that’s no good for you or Credit.com. You’d be no closer to getting a product you need, there’d be a wasted inquiry on your credit report, and Credit.com wouldn’t get paid. These are essentially what are commonly referred to as "targeted ads" in the world of the Internet. Despite all of this, however, even if you never apply for any product, the Credit Report Card will remain free, and none of this will impact how the editorial team reports on credit and credit scores.

Your Stories

Lastly, much of what we do is informed by our own experiences as well as the experiences of our readers. We want to tell your stories if you’re interested in sharing them. Please email us at story ideas [at] credit [dot] com with ideas or visit us on Facebook or Twitter.

Thanks for stopping by.

- The Credit.com Editorial Team