There isn’t an exact number that works for everyone — instead, the best number of credit card accounts to have depends on how you use them. And more importantly, it’s crucial that cardholders do not open more credit card accounts than they can manage responsibly.

The Magic Number for Brand New Credit Card Users

If you’re new to credit, it’s wise to start with a single card. The first few years of credit card use are the best time to learn about how these products are used and to develop the habit of making on-time payments each month.

Multiple credit card accounts, each with their own statement and payment due dates, add unnecessary complexity to the learning curve. Finally, novice cardholders should also be extremely wary about incurring debt. Having multiple lines of credit may make it more tempting to overspend.

Intermediate and Advanced Credit Card Users

Once cardholders have been using their cards responsibly for at least a year, they may wish to consider applying for an additional credit card. A second card may offer cash rewards for spending, miles for travel, a lower interest rate or an interest-free promotional financing offer.

Holding multiple accounts may also benefit cardholders by reducing their debt to credit ratio, provided that the amount of debt does not increase accordingly.

Should You Try to Get the Most Credit Card Points Possible?

Some people go beyond having two or three cards, and choose to have a card for almost everything. One for the grocery store, one for the gas station, one for entertainment, one for online purchases, one for a particular store or brand. It’s all done in the pursuit of “points” or rewards or miles or cash rewards – whatever currency the card is offering.

Theoretically, you could take advantage of this “points game” and get the absolute most out of every different offering you can get your hands on. You could save money doing this, but it requires having a lot of cards and using them to pay for everything.

You may know someone who tells you how much money they get from this type of strategy, but you have to ask yourself if you have the discipline, dedication and organizational mindset to take advantage.

While you don’t want to lose out on rewards, if keeping it simple and staying away from debt is your main goal, it might be best to have only a couple cards that give you most of what you need – cashback and miles, for instance. You may also want to use your debit card for certain transactions just to make sure you’re not spending more than you can pay off at the end of the month.

How Many Credit Cards Should You Have Before it’s Too Many?

Credit card users should stop applying for new cards when they feel that they might not be able to manage all of their accounts responsibly. Responsible credit card usage means paying each bill in full and on time each month, keeping spending under control, and not incurring too much debt. In addition, cardholders may have too many credit cards when they are paying costly annual fees for rewards or benefits that they may not be utilizing.

Yet for those who struggle with credit card debt, just one credit card may be too many. Taking a break from credit card use can allow some people to regain control of their finances by paying for what they need out of their available funds, not a line of credit.

When cardholders find themselves struggling to make their minimum payments on time, it’s another indication that it may time to reconsider credit card use in favor of other forms of payment. The existing debt will still have to be paid off, but using other forms of payment will prevent cardholders from incurring even more debt.

Credit cards are convenient methods of payment, and they are also powerful financial instruments. While many Americans find credit cards to be an indispensable part of their everyday lives, there is such a thing as having too many accounts. By limiting credit card usage to a number of accounts that you can comfortably manage, you can safely realize the benefits of your cards.

Legal Disclaimer: This site is for educational purposes and is not a substitute for professional advice. The material on this site is not intended to provide legal, investment, or financial advice and does not indicate the availability of any Discover product or service. It does not guarantee that Discover offers or endorses a product or service. For specific advice about your unique circumstances, you may wish to consult a qualified professional.

Originally published March 6, 2015.

Updated May 13, 2019.

Legal Disclaimer: This site is for educational purposes and is not a substitute for professional advice. The material on this site is not intended to provide legal, investment, or financial advice and does not indicate the availability of any Discover product or service. It does not guarantee that Discover offers or endorses a product or service. For specific advice about your unique circumstances, you may wish to consult a qualified professional.