Do you need multiple credit cards?
How to weigh the pros and cons of having multiple credit cards
These days, having multiple credit cards is common. In fact, Americans average 2.3 cards per person, according to Experian. But is it a good thing to have multiple credit cards? Here are some things to consider.
Advantages of having multiple credit cards
- You can have a separate credit card just for online shopping. This can help you keep track of your spending and let you keep an eye out for identity theft or fraud.
- If a credit card is lost or stolen, it helps to have a second card available if it takes more than a day to get a replacement card.
- You might save money on interest charges by transferring credit card balances to a new card that has a lower APR or a promotional rate. Get more information about balance transfers with our balance transfer tips.
- If you’re traveling abroad, having multiple credit cards allows you to have one card as backup. This is helpful in case your primary card isn’t accepted where you travel. Look for a card that offers smart chip technology, which provides greater acceptance and added security at chip-enabled merchant terminals.
- You can choose which card to use, depending on the different rewards each offers. For example, you might use one card to earn cash back or points you can use for travel purchases, while another card could be a good option if it offers better product warranties or purchase protection.
“Your credit report benefits from using established credit cards at least every few months. ”
Things to watch for if you have multiple credit cards
- Try to avoid opening a new credit card as a solution to other financial problems. This strategy can lead to unmanageable debt down the road.
- Having multiple credit cards means you have to work harder to manage them. Missing due dates or paying the wrong amount to the wrong card can result in costly late fees. Multiple missed payments can lead to increased interest rates and hurt your credit score.
- If you have multiple credit cards, you may end up with cards you don’t use. If your cards become inactive, it could impact your credit. (Check with your card issuer to see what constitutes inactivity.) Some cards also have yearly fees. Be sure to understand the conditions of all your accounts so you can plan accordingly.
- It’s easier to run up debt when you use multiple cards. Make sure you use your cards the way you planned. If you have a new, low-APR card as a way to consolidate debt at a lower interest rate, don’t use the extra credit and get deeper in debt.
- If you start applying for many cards within a short time, it can negatively impact your credit score. Instead, do some research before applying for another card. A good rule of thumb, according to FICO®, a company that tallies data for your credit score, is to only apply for credit cards you need and that you know you will use.
Tips on managing multiple credit cards
Remember, having multiple credit cards doesn’t necessarily harm your credit score. In fact, your credit report benefits from using established credit cards at least every few months. Just keep a couple simple things in mind to make sure you’re getting the maximum benefit out of your cards:
- Don’t use all of your available credit. Try to use no more than 30 percent.
- Paying on time is the most important thing. When you track multiple cards, online banking can be a helpful tool for managing multiple accounts. Setting automatic payment reminders can help you keep your due dates straight. If you’re a Bank of America card customer, learn more about setting up Online Banking alerts.
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