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How many credit cards should I have to improve my credit score

how many credit cards should i have to improve my credit score

You generally only need one credit card to improve your credit score. In order to boost your creditworthiness, it’s important to pay bills on time, avoid reaching your credit limit, and avoid applying for too many new credit cards within a short period of time. 

According to a 2021 report from Experian, the average consumer had less than four credit cards. If you already have a credit card, you may not need to apply for another to improve your current FICO score

Keep reading to learn how many credit cards you should have and how you can use them to get good credit.  

The Basics of How Credit Cards Impact Your Scores

If you are uncertain about how credit cards impact your scores, you should learn more to better understand whether adding additional credit cards will be helpful or not. 

Here are a few of the ways that a credit card can impact your credit scores:

FactorDescriptionImpact on Credit Score
Credit Utilization RatioMeasures debt against available credit. Higher utilization can negatively impact the score.30%
Credit MixVariety of credit types (e.g., loans, credit cards). A diverse mix can be beneficial.10%
Payment HistoryHistory of timely or late payments. Late payments have a negative effect.35%
Credit InquiriesNumber of hard inquiries from applying for new credit. Multiple inquiries can lower the score.10%
Credit History LengthThe length and diversity of credit history. Over-reliance on credit cards can be harmful.15% 

Your Credit Utilization Ratio

Your credit utilization ratio measures the amount of debt you have in comparison to the amount of available credit you have. When you add a revolving credit account like a credit card, then it will increase the amount of available credit you have, which can be good! However, if you use your credit cards or reach your credit limit, then it can negatively impact your credit score because you’ll be increasing your debt. In general, it’s good to avoid using more than 30% of your credit limit. 

Your Credit Mix

Your credit mix is another important factor that impacts your credit scores. When you take out a credit card, or multiple credit cards, that action will become a part of your credit history and credit reports. Adding credit cards will impact your credit score. 

If you have different kinds of accounts like installment loans, payday loans, car loans, mortgages, etc., then credit cards could diversify your credit. However, if the majority of your financial history is through existing credit cards, adding more may harm your credit score. So really consider how many credit cards you already have and your credit mix before choosing to move forward with another one.

How You Make Your Credit Card Payments

Your payment history will be the largest factor that impacts your credit scores. And every late payment will remain on your credit report for up to seven years. If you do take out a credit card or multiple, how you make your payments will impact your credit. On-time payments with your credit card accounts will help your scores, while late payments will greatly hurt them. 

The Amount of Credit Inquiries

When you apply for credit, any new hard credit inquiries will bring your credit score down a few points. Having multiple hard credit inquiries in a short period of time will really hurt your credit score. And so avoid applying for too many credit cards in a short time. 

What Credit Card Factors Affect My Credit?

So, technically you can have many credit cards, and depending on things like your credit history, the amount of debt you have, and your income, it may be a good or bad thing for your credit. Here are some things ways that credit cards can help or harm your credit: 

The Actions You Take With Your Credit Cards

How you use your credit cards will have a significant impact on your credit. If you make your payments on time, it will help your credit. On the other hand, missed payments will impact your scores. So, it is extremely important to ensure you make your payments on time. Keep in mind that many credit card companies have grace periods, and so talk to your credit card issuer about a late payment. 

How Your Credit Card Adds to Your Financial History 

Now that you know the importance of credit mix with your credit scores, you can probably see how multiple cards can hurt your credit mix, especially if you don’t have other types of credit or loan types.  

The Amount of Debt You Accrue With Your Credit Cards

Having a lot of debt in relation to your income—a high debt-to-income ratio—will hurt your credit and your financial health. And so, if you are thinking about taking out credit cards, be aware of how much you are spending on them. 

What To Look Out for With Credit Cards

Credit cards are one of the most common loan types because they are pretty accessible. However, credit card debt can quickly become unmanageable. Here are some things to keep in mind if you do have multiple credit cards: 

Compound Interest Rates

Most credit cards have compounding interest rates, which means that there will be interest charges on top of the amount you borrowed and the interest rate. Because of this, if you get to a high balance, you will be paying a lot of credit card interest!

Overspending 

Because credit cards are revolving accounts—accounts where you can borrow from multiple times and then pay to use again, it can be easy to overspend. Credit card spending can quickly get out of hand. If you have multiple cards, and so, make sure you have good spending habits before you decide on taking out one or more credit cards. 

Reaching Credit Limits

As mentioned above, credit cards are revolving credit accounts, and so will impact your credit utilization rate in more than one way. Whenever used, they will impact the amount of debt you have and lower the amount of available credit you have, which hurts your credit utilization.

Annual Fees 

Most credit cards have annual fees, which can sometimes be a surprise if you weren’t expecting them. These annual fees can be a couple of hundred dollars, so keep that in mind! 

The Best Ways To Use a Credit Card

If you do have a few credit cards you are using, knowing the best ways to use them can be extremely helpful. Here are some tips: 

  • Be mindful of your credit card limits.
  • Payoff credit cards as soon as possible after using them. 
  • Be strategic with credit card rewards to get the most out of using them. 
  • Don’t include an authorized user on your credit cards unless you trust them completely. 
  • Take advantage of low or zero-interest introductory offers. 
  • Use a balance transfer loan or debt consolidation loan to pay off high-interest credit card debt. 

How to Apply for a Credit Card

Applying for a credit card is pretty simple. Here is how it will work: 

Step 1: Find Lenders You Would Like to Work With 

The first step is to find a few lenders who you think are a good fit for your needs. Pay attention to the interest rates and repayment terms of the credit card, along with reviews from past customers. Once you find a few lenders you want to work with, you can apply for pre-approval with them. Most lenders will look at your income and credit score for approval. 

Step 2: Compare Your Options and Choose One To Move Forward With

Once you hear back from lenders, you can then pick the best credit card option. Once you do that, you may have to submit some documents and give permission for a hard credit card inquiry. 

Step 3: Find Out About Final Approval

Once you submit the necessary documents and a lender verifies all your information, you will find out about final approval. You will find out the exact credit card amount, APR, and repayment terms. 

Step 4: Once Approved, Wait for Your Credit Card To Be Mailed to You 

After you are approved, you can go over the credit card terms, and if everything looks good, you can sign. The credit card will then be mailed to your address, and once it arrives, you can use it.  

Step 5: Repay the Credit Card Every Month 

Once you begin using your credit card, you will need to begin repaying it! Your billing cycle will vary depending on your credit card issuer. In most cases, payment may be due 30 days apart. 

Although these may seem like a few steps, the great thing about credit card applications is that these steps can all be done at once, and the process shouldn’t take too long. When applying for in-store credit cards, you will likely get the ability to use the credit right away and continue doing so even without a physical credit card right away. 

FAQs About Credit Cards

How many credit cards should a beginner have?

Starting out? It’s wise to begin with just one or two credit cards. This helps you manage your credit effectively without getting overwhelmed. Too many cards too soon can make it hard to keep track of spending and payments.

Can having multiple credit cards improve my credit score?

Yes, having multiple credit cards can improve your score by diversifying your credit mix and increasing total credit limits. Just remember, it’s crucial to manage them responsibly! However, be cautious as applying for several cards in a short period can lead to hard inquiries that temporarily lower your score.

What happens if I exceed my credit limit on a card?

Going over your credit limit can lead to fees and a negative impact on your credit score. It’s best to keep your balance well within your limits. Consistently exceeding your limit may signal to lenders that you’re struggling financially.

How often should I check my credit report?

Regularly! At least once a year. It’s important to ensure your credit report is accurate, especially if you have multiple cards. Errors in your report can negatively impact your score, so prompt correction is key.

How does the age of my credit accounts affect my credit score?

The age of your accounts plays a significant role in your credit score. Older accounts generally contribute to a higher score as they demonstrate a longer history of credit management. When you open new credit cards, the average age of your accounts decreases, which can temporarily lower your score. It’s often beneficial to keep older accounts open, even if you don’t use them frequently, to maintain a longer credit history.

What’s considered a good average credit card balance?

A good rule of thumb is to keep your balance below 30% of your credit limit. This shows lenders you’re a responsible consumer credit user. Maintaining a low balance relative to your limit can positively influence your credit score.

Is it bad to have multiple cards with high credit limits?

Not necessarily. High credit limits can be beneficial if managed well. The key is to avoid accumulating debt you can’t comfortably pay off. However, having access to too much credit can sometimes be tempting and lead to overspending.

How does closing a credit card affect my credit score?

Closing a card can decrease your overall credit limits and potentially impact your credit utilization ratio, which might lower your score. Also, if the card has a long history, closing it could shorten your credit history, affecting your score negatively.

Should I pay off my credit card balance in full each month?

Absolutely! Paying off your balance in full each month is a great habit. It helps you avoid interest charges and demonstrates good credit management. Consistently carrying a balance can lead to unnecessary interest and can indicate risk to lenders.

What’s the impact of reward credit cards on my credit score?

Reward credit cards can be a great asset if used wisely. However, they often tempt consumers to spend more to earn rewards, which can lead to higher balances. Remember, the impact on your credit score comes from how you manage these cards – keeping balances low and making payments on time is key. 

The Bottom Line on How Many Credit Cards You Should Have From CreditNinja

There isn’t really a maximum or minimum credit card amount you should have to help your credit. It really depends on your financial situation, which includes your credit score, credit history, and income. However, having multiple credit cards may lead to too much debt. And so, definitely think about how many credit cards you handle before you apply for more!

CreditNinja provides online loans for unexpected expenses. However, we also have a free online blog with articles on almost every financial topic. Check out the CreditNinja Dojo for information on whether you can pay a loan with a credit card, how long it takes to get out of ChexSystems, and more!

References:

  1. How Many Credit Cards Should You Have? │ Los Angeles Times
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