How many credit cards should I have?

If you’re wondering how many credit cards you should carry, there’s no one-size-fits-all answer. Some experts recommend two or three accounts, as long as you use them responsibly. Your number ultimately depends on your personal situation, including your credit history, credit scores and financial goals. 

In general, several well-chosen cards could be helpful if you’re trying to build credit, manage your finances and take advantage of perks and rewards. Before you apply, here are some things to consider.

Key takeaways 

  • Having a credit card can help you build credit if you use it responsibly by doing things like making payments on time every month.
  • The average American has four credit card accounts. But that may not be what works for you.
  • Advantages of having multiple credit cards include increased buying power and the ability to maximize different card offerings and benefits.
  • Downsides to having multiple credit card accounts include tracking different bills and payment due dates and the potential to overspend.

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How many credit cards is too many?

Figuring out how many credit cards you should have can be challenging. For example, is it good to have more than one credit card? And how many is too many? 

Having more than one credit card can give you more available credit to work with. It can also mean more spending flexibility. But having more than one card also means keeping track of more than one bill every month. 

You might decide you have too many credit accounts if:

  • You’re not comfortable with your fees or interest charges.
  • You’re having difficulty managing multiple credit card bills and due dates.
  • You have a pattern of missed or late payments.
  • You’re unable to maximize and keep tabs on your various card benefits and perks.

Can you have too many credit cards?

Short answer? Yes. But how many credit cards you should have depends on your needs and circumstances. Here are some questions to ask yourself before you apply for new credit:

  • What are the terms and conditions? It can be helpful to make sure you know about all the terms of a credit card before applying. That includes things such as late fees, interest rates, rewards and more. If you’re not comfortable with all the terms, it might not be the card for you. 
  • What rewards and benefits do you want? Consider whether you can open a rewards credit card to access benefits you don’t already have. 
  • How many cards can you comfortably use and pay off at the same time? Consider your personal spending and budgeting habits.

Can you have two of the same credit card? 

While it may be possible to be approved for identical credit cards from a card issuer, it’s ultimately up to the issuer. 

If you want two credit cards from the same issuer, you could consider applying for a different card with benefits you don’t yet have. For example, you could have a cash-back rewards card and a travel rewards card from the same issuer. 

How many credit cards does the average American have?

Experian®, one of the three major credit bureaus, reported in 2021 that the average American had nearly four credit cards. 

Experian additionally reported in 2022 that the number of cards people carry tends to vary by generation. On average, baby boomers and Generation X had the most credit cards.

Knowing what others are doing can help you gauge your own situation. But ultimately, the number of cards you have should be based on your personal finances, needs and goals. 

Pros and cons of having multiple credit cards

Having multiple credit cards can affect your credit scores in a number of ways, depending on how you use them. Here are some factors that can positively or negatively affect your credit when applying for a new card.

Potential advantages of multiple credit cards

Benefits to having multiple credit cards, and using them responsibly, can include:

  • Increased buying power: Having more credit available can increase your spending power. This can be especially helpful in a financial emergency.
  • More available credit: Adding another credit card account can increase your available credit. If you keep your credit utilization low, it could have a positive effect on your credit scores.
  • Maximized benefits across multiple cards: There are many types of credit cards, such as travel rewards cards and cash back cards. Some cards may offer temporary 0% APR intro rates.
  • Backup cards: Having more than one credit card gives you options when a card is damaged, lost, stolen, or involved in a case of fraud. You could also consider setting up a digital wallet to make purchases without using physical cards or cash. Virtual credit card numbers are also a convenient way to shop online without giving merchants your actual card number.

Potential disadvantages of multiple credit cards

Potential disadvantages of having multiple credit cards can include:

  • More accounts to manage: Having more payment due dates and credit card balances to track might make it more likely for you to miss payments or pay late. And that can hurt your credit scores. Having multiple cards from the same issuer could make managing payments easier, though.  
  • Overspending: Creating a budget and spending only what you know you can pay off each month can help keep your credit card spending in check. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) recommends using cash for purchases under $20 and identifying opportunities for using your card less often—for example, when you buy your morning coffee. 
  • Impact on your credit scores: When you apply for a new account, your credit scores may take a temporary hit. Applying for multiple credit cards in a short period could send the wrong message to lenders.
  • Additional fees: Some credit cards charge annual fees. Having multiple cards with these fees could add up. It may help to consider whether the rewards and benefits that come with a card balance out its annual fee for you.

Does having more credit cards increase credit score?

Having multiple credit cards can affect your credit scores both positively and negatively. Here are some reasons why:

Hard inquiries

When you submit a credit card application, it triggers a hard inquiry with the credit bureaus. A hard inquiry is when a credit card issuer gets a copy of your credit report to help it decide whether you’ll be approved. 

A single hard inquiry from one credit card issuer generally has a small impact on your credit scores. But multiple inquiries in a short period of time might have a more significant effect, according to the CFPB.

Types of credit

The combination of revolving credit and installment loans you have is known as your credit mix.

Credit cards are a type of revolving credit account. Auto loans and mortgages are types of installment loans. Responsibly using both as part of your credit mix could help your credit scores. 

Credit age

Your credit scores are determined in part by how long you’ve had credit. As long as your accounts are managed responsibly and are in good standing, the older your average credit age the better. 

Closing an old card to make room for a new one could make your average credit history younger. And that could negatively affect your credit scores. That’s something to consider before closing accounts.

Credit use and total debt

Carrying a balance on multiple credit card accounts can impact things like your credit utilization ratio and your debt-to-income (DTI) ratio. Your credit utilization ratio is the percentage of available credit you’re using across all your credit  accounts. And your DTI ratio is how much total debt you have compared to your income. 

Both measurements might matter when lenders decide whether to extend credit to you. They could also impact the interest rates you receive. 

How to manage multiple credit cards

No matter how many credit cards you have, responsible use is an important part of financial health. And remember, having multiple cards means keeping up with multiple bills. Here are some things that could help you use your credit cards responsibly.

Pay on time

No matter how many credit cards you have, making on-time monthly payments is vital if you’re working toward having good credit scores. Your payment history plays a big role in your credit scores. And even occasional late or missed payments can hurt your scores if they’re reported. 

You might want to set reminders on your phone or leave a note on your fridge to make sure you don’t forget about a due date. You could also opt to receive email or text alerts if your credit card issuers offer them. Or you could set up automatic payments to help you make payments on time. 

Pay more than the minimum amount 

Paying your balance in full every month can help you avoid incurring interest charges. If you can’t pay the full balance, paying more than the minimum amount due can still help. 

Keep your credit utilization ratio low 

The lower your credit utilization, the better your credit scores might be. According to the CFPB, experts recommend keeping your credit utilization below 30% of your total available credit. So if your only credit line is a card with a $2,000 credit limit, that would mean keeping your balance below $600. 

Now imagine that you have two cards and your available credit across your accounts is $4,000. In that case, keeping your balance below $600 would mean you’re utilizing just 15% of your available credit. 

Stick to a budget

Sticking to a budget is a great way to keep your finances in check, especially if you’re managing multiple credit cards. 

The good news is your credit card comes with a very useful budgeting tool: your monthly statement. Your statement gives you an overview of what you’ve spent. That can be a great place to start when you’re learning about how to budget with a credit card. It’s also a good idea to spend responsibly and avoid charging more than you can afford to pay off each month. 

Do a balance transfer

A balance transfer involves moving credit card debt from one card to another. Potential benefits include consolidating debt and paying off debt faster. You also might be able to save on interest, particularly if the other card has a lower interest rate. Keep in mind that both credit cards can be from the same issuer. 

It may help to know that balance transfers can come with fees. Plus, you may have a limited time to pay off your debt at the lower interest rate.

Monitor your credit

Keeping a close eye on your credit helps you know where you stand as you work to improve your credit scores. And it can help you spot errors on your credit report as well as fraud attempts. Visit to learn how to get free copies of your credit reports from each of the three major credit bureaus.

Using CreditWise from Capital One is another way to monitor your credit. With CreditWise, you can access your TransUnion® credit report and VantageScore® 3.0 credit score—without hurting your score. And CreditWise is free for everyone. You don’t even have to be a Capital One customer to enroll.

Use digital tools

Great news: Technology’s making it even easier to manage your credit card accounts. For example, Capital One customers can take advantage of the Capital One Mobile app. It has a variety of digital features, like the ability to track upcoming bills and block recurring charges, to make managing finances more convenient.

Having multiple credit cards in a nutshell

There’s a lot to think about when deciding how many credit cards you should have. At the end of the day, it’s an individual decision. Before opening a new credit card account, it could help to do some research and consider what’s best for your spending habits and financial situation.

Thinking about applying for a credit card but not sure where to start? Compare Capital One credit cards. When you're ready to apply, pre-approval from Capital One can help you see if you’re pre-approved for card offers with no impact to your credit.

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