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How Many Credit Cards Is Too Many?

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How Many Credit Cards Is Too Many

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If you’ve ever ordered your free annual credit reports, you may have been surprised by some of the accounts listed there. You may find that credit card you opened to get a 10% discount when you bought a new set of tires. Or the account from the home improvement store taken out the year you remodeled the bathroom. And that first credit card you opened years ago and have barely used since. They may all be there. The question is, at what point does having all those accounts listed on your credit reports hurt your credit scores? In other words, how many credit cards is too many? The short answer: Credit scoring models care more about how you’re using your credit cards and less about how many you have on file. So there’s really no tipping point or sweet spot when it comes to how much plastic is in your wallet. In fact, having a lot of credit cards can boost your credit score — so long as you’re making all of your payments and keeping your balances low.

Can You Have Too Many Credit Cards?

That’s not to say there’s no such thing as having too many cards. Scoring models aside, if you have so many credit cards that you’re missing payments or you’re bumping up against all of your credit limits, there’s a good chance you’ve overextended yourself, which will be reflected in your scores. Plus, applying for too many credit cards in a short period of time can hurt your credit. That’s because each application can generate a hard inquiry on your credit report, which can ding your scores. Moreover, lenders often view too many new credit accounts in a short period of time as a sign of financial woes to come and could wind up denying your latest application.

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    Of course, the best way to learn how your credit cards impact your credit score is to check one of your scores. You can get a two of your credit scores at You’ll also get a helpful breakdown of the factors impacting your score and an action plan for your credit.

    Can Multiple Credit Cards Help My Score?

    As we mentioned earlier, when used responsibly, multiple credit cards may have a positive impact on your credit scores. Old credit card accounts, for instance, can bolster the age of your accounts, even if you’re not regularly using them. And credit cards with zero balances can help your credit utilization, which involves how much debt you’re carrying versus your total credit limit(s). Here’s more on how those factors work.

    How Can Multiple Credit Cards Help the Age of My Accounts?

    One of the factors affecting your credit scores is the age of your accounts. Here, most scoring models will look at factors such as the age of the oldest account, the average age of your accounts and how recently you’ve opened a new account. This is one case when older is definitely better. You can earn more points for a long-established credit history, and those accounts you opened many years ago can help, even if you aren’t using them anymore.

    Beware, though: An account may be deleted from your credit reports after it has been closed or after a period of inactivity. Experian, for example, deletes closed accounts after 10 years. For that reason, you may want to consider using your oldest credit card from time to time to keep it active and open. That’s especially true if you don’t have a lot of older accounts and losing that reference would significantly shorten the age of your credit history.

    Conversely, opening up too many new accounts in a short time period can also lower the average age of your accounts, so it pays to be mindful of how many cards you’re adding to your arsenal.

    How Can Multiple Credit Cards Affect my Credit Utilization?

    Most scoring models compare your available limits on your revolving accounts, such as credit cards, with the balances you carry on them. This is called “utilization.” If you are using more than roughly 10% to 30% of your available credit on each of your credit cards – or all of them in total – you may not score as well for this factor as you would if your balances were lower. If you don’t carry balances on all or any of your cards, then the available credit helps your utilization because it gives you more available credit.

    At the same time, however, having a lot of accounts with balances may hurt your credit scores. So if you are juggling a lot of high credit card balances, try to find a way to pay down your debt. If you do, you’ll save money on interest and you may see your credit scores go up as well.

    Is it Bad to Have a Credit Card With a Zero Balance?

    No, as we indicated earlier, if anything, having low-to-no balance is a good thing. One of the biggest misconceptions regarding credit scores is that you have to carry a balance on your credit cards to score big points. In actuality, you’re generally best served paying off purchases by the end of the month. That way, you’re debt levels remain low — and you don’t wind up paying interest.

    Is Having Multiple Credit Cards the Best Way to Boost My Score?

    Remember, having multiple credit cards can boost your score, but it can also hurt you, if you forget to make a payment or all that available credit leads you to spend more than you can actually afford. As such, again, it’s a good idea to be smart about fattening your wallet.

    Something else to consider: Credit scores reward folks who demonstrate they’re able to responsibly manage different kinds of accounts. In other words, someone who already has a lot of revolving credit accounts (like a credit card) would benefit from having an installment loan, like an auto loan or mortgage, on the books. That’s not to say you should add that type of financing when you don’t actually need it. It’s just to point out: The best way to build credit is to add a mix of credit accounts organically over-time — and to manage all of those accounts responsibly.

    Again, there is no specific number of cards that is too many. If you focus on paying your cards on time and keeping balances low, you should be fine.

    Jeanine Skowronski contributed to the reporting of this article.

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      • Retired

        I found in my experience that at least one credit agency did hold small credit level cards do have an impact on your credit score. I had a jc penny card from years ago. Because of lack of use they reduced the available credit to $174. That amount was then averaged with my other cards causing the average credit available to plummet. They then applied the total credit used against this averaged balance and determined I was carrying too large of a balance even though my balance was paid in full every month.
        So I had an available credit of under $10,000 even though most of my cards were well above that amount. I had between $4000-5000 in credit used monthly, causing me to be using 30-50% of the available average credit.
        I decided to revise my credit cards and keep only the cards that would offer me a credit line of $20,000. 3 cards agreed, discover, American express, and visa. Other cards refused,ie chase mc, SAMS discover, penny’s,Sears to name a few. Once this was corrected, my average credit utilized, the $4000-5000 now became 20-25%.
        So based on what I experienced, I would saw that the amount of credit on each card is very important. So the discount for taking the credit offered by a Sears, etc, can wind up costing you more than the discount you receive.

        • Credit Experts

          Thanks for sharing. The amount on the card can indeed influence your score. However, if you bring the ratio down by paying it off, the fact that it had been higher earlier won’t hurt your score. But if you are about to apply for a mortgage, etc., it could have a negative effect at exactly the wrong time.

      • Wes

        Credit cards are not for everyone obviously. If you are on top of your credit cards and have a good amount in your checking account to pay off all your bills in full. If you really can have a few grand in your checking account each month or more than I highly suggest you have all your credit cards and other bills that you know are going to be around the same every month on auto pay. Auto pay will make sure you pay on time in full or a set amount. That definitely isn’t for everyone but it’s easier and paying in full or more than the min. for years will drastically increase your credit rating. It’s probably not for most people, I have been doing it for a few years now and never have a problem. If i want to dispute a charge no problem. It’s all about moderation. Being pro active and thinking twice before you make a big purchase and watch your checking account once a week or more depending on how much activity you have going on. AGAIN, this is me and for most people they don’t like the idea. Also, once a year I suggest asking for a credit line increase on every card. Once a year is safe. Nothing more. Credit pulls (hard inquires) are not good. So keep that low.

        • Credit Experts

          Some good ideas. Thanks for sharing.

      • al-in-chgo

        I can’t help but notice that the title of this article poses a question that isn’t answered.

        • tom-in-detroit

          6 SIX tom-in-detroit

        • Warbucks

          The answer is that there isn’t really a set number of how many credit cards you can have. I wouldn’t say that you should have 14 in your wallet, but as long as your able to make your payments on time than it shouldn’t be a problem.

          The 3 main ways that your credit will come from is from 1. on-time payments 2. the history of your oldest credit account (this shows your loyalty) and 3. the amount of your total credit being used. An example would be is that you have 7 credit cards each with a maximum of 1000$. Your total CL is 7000$ say one of your cards you have a 700$ balance. On that very card your using 70% of your maximum credit, however based on all your cards, you’re really using only 10% which implies you as being manageable with your finances.

          Some will think one is enough, others may have more because of specific benefits or rewards. I have 3. One that i use to just build credit (capital one). one is for common rewards (freedom) and another when ever i happen to travel (sapphire). Im only 24 so I don’t have too many hard finances but eventually when finances pile on like if i were to get a house, i would like to replace my Capital One card for Chase (slate).

          The number of Credit cards that happens to be too many is depending what your needs are.(because i do a lot of dining all of my sapphire purchases give me double points) (20% off travel to see family) (Freedom card for any purchase and categories help).

          If you feel having 14 credit cards isn’t going to overwhelm you, then go for it. just make sure you don’t have a lot of Inquiries (applying for cards or requesting increase of credit line) otherwise you will be viewed as a liability which will then more likely reject you.

      • Ryan

        I churn credit cards for a hobby to get the signup bonuses. In the past year, I have opened about 5 credit cards. I use them a bunch, get the bonus, then apply for a new card. My FICO credit score is around 730. My Vantage score is around 650. It all depends on your payment history.

      • John Engeman

        I recently had a gasoline credit card from Shell, closed by them, for inactivity. It had a low limit, $300.00 and I never used it since I have another Shell card. My question is, will this hurt my credit score?

        • Credit Experts

          It’s very unlikely. It might hurt it if that were your oldest card, but even then, the age of your credit is a fairly minor factor in your credit score. Here’s how to monitor your credit score for free.

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