Managing Multiple Credit Cards
With so many credit card options, you may find it convenient to have multiple cards and accounts. Using different credit cards can also help you maximize your rewards and increase your overall credit limit.
Still, there are risks to having multiple credit cards. That’s why it’s important to understand the pros and cons of managing multiple credit cards, as well as strategies for handling credit card debt and making the most of your credit card rewards.
Reasons to have multiple credit cards
Using multiple credit cards can offer many benefits to cardholders, such as:
Backup if a credit card has a security issue
If one of your cards is lost or stolen, you’ll have a backup one to use until you get a replacement card. Having multiple credit cards can help ensure you always have a credit card to use for certain purchases or during an emergency.
Just remember that it may be helpful to carry or store at least one card separately from your other cards to avoid them all being stolen or replaced at once.
More credit to access
If you have a card with a low credit limit, getting one or more additional cards can increase your total credit, giving you the ability to make more purchases. Having a higher overall credit limit can also help lower your credit utilization ratio, which can contribute to an improved credit score. Your credit utilization ratio is the percentage of your available credit that you spend. As a rule of thumb, it’s best to keep your credit utilization ratio as low as possible.
Enjoying multiple credit card rewards programs
Having more than one credit card can help you access various types of programs or cash back rewards. Certain cards might offer perks for different spending categories, for example, such as travel, dining, or business purchases.
Consider which type of rewards program might work best for your spending needs before deciding which new card to apply for.
Disadvantages of having multiple credit cards
Even with these potential benefits, using multiple credit cards may have certain disadvantages.
Harder to manage spending
With multiple cards in play, you may find it challenging to keep track of your total spending and your credit usage. You may even be tempted to overspend, especially if you have a large amount of credit available.
Easier to miss a payment
Each credit card will come with its own payment date, potentially making it more difficult to submit payments on time. Missing on-time payments can appear on your credit report and hurt your credit score, which can impact your ability to open a new credit or loan account.
Multiple cards may mean multiple annual fees
People often sign up for cards during an introductory period to take advantage of an annual fee waiver. Once that introductory period ends, however, you’ll be left with multiple cards that carry annual fees.
If you want to use two or more credit cards, you might consider ones without annual fees. Discover, for example, does not charge an annual fee on all of its cards. So you can have more money to spend where it matters.
Should you apply for multiple credit cards at once?
Each credit card application results in a hard credit inquiry, which may lower your credit score. Applying for different cards at the same time also makes you look risky to lenders, so it’s best not to do this if you’re planning to apply for other another credit account, such as a mortgage, in the near future. You should also check to see if the card issuer limits the number of credit card accounts an individual can open.
Best way to manage multiple credit cards
It’s important to know how to use multiple credit cards effectively and manage them responsibly to best meet your financial goals.
Use all of your cards regularly
Some credit card issuers will close your credit card account if you don’t use a card for a certain period of time. This will lower your total available credit, which may hurt your credit score. So remember to use all of your cards regularly and keep them active.
Set payment alerts
Keep track of multiple cards and make payments on time by setting up payment notifications. Most credit card issuers will allow you to enable payment alerts or set up automatic payments so that you don’t miss any payments.
Avoid cancelling multiple cards at once
Cancelling many cards at the same time may impact your credit score, especially if you carry a balance on your remaining cards. That’s because closing an account will lower your total available credit, raising your credit utilization ratio.
Keep track of rewards
Check which spending categories earn a higher rate of rewards for each card. Then make sure to put each purchase on the card that offers the best and most relevant rewards. If one card offers rewards for travel purchases, for example, make sure to use it when booking your plane tickets and hotel reservations.
What number of credit cards is best?
According to the Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection, the average credit card holder in America had 3.8 cards in 2020. When managed properly, multiple cards can yield more advantages than disadvantages. You will have to determine how many cards you can manage to ensure you maintain good credit.
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