Credit Cards How To Use Credit Cards Wisely

How Many Credit Cards Should You Have?

Written by Kristie McCauley

Walter Cavanaugh holds the Guinness Book of World Records for having the most credit cards. Yep. Walter is the proud owner of 1,487 credit cards, which he stuffs into a wallet that weighs a little over 38 pounds and measures 250 feet wide (It’s the world’s longest wallet – literally).

His total line of credit is $1.7 million and LifeHacker claims Walter has nearly perfect credit.

And now, you’re asking yourself how many credit cards you should have?

That question should almost make you laugh after reading about old Walter. Truth be told, there’s no magic number when it comes to how many credit cards you should possess, when it comes down to your credit score, anyway.
There are some things you want to think about, though, before you run and apply for every credit card you can find.

It’s Only 10%

According to FICO, when the credit bureaus calculate your FICO score, the types of credit and the amount of credit you have only comprises 10% of your overall credit score. In the end, 10% is not a big deal and is not going to make or break you in the credit score department – as long as you’re doing everything else you’re supposed to do to get a high credit score (the other 90%).

Credit Card Utilization

This is where how many credit cards you have and use can hit you in the credit score. Credit card utilization is the ratio of how much of your credit card balances you actually use– it compares your outstanding balances to the total amount of credit you have available spread out over all of your credit cards.

Obviously, the lower the ratio is, the better off you are when it comes to calculating your credit score. Ideally, the credit bureaus like to see your credit card utilization to be under 10%.

New Account Frenzy

When it comes to applying for and opening new credit cards, don’t treat it like it’s Shark Week (no frenzies here). You want to open new credit card accounts slowly over time and as you need or want them rather than go on a new account opening spree.

You primarily want to pay attention to this because it makes up another part of your credit score. Ten percent of your score is calculated from new credit accounts that you open.

Let’s say you’re a college student or you’re just starting out in the “adulting” department. You apply for a credit card and break out in a happy dance when you receive the shiny new card in the mail.

Now, you’ve got the fever. It seems like everywhere you turn there is an opportunity to apply for a new credit card – ones that offer rewards, some that have zero interest for a certain period of time. Oh, the possibilities!

But, should you really do that?

The answer is no.

Enjoy the credit card you have for some time. Get to know it. Use it. Pay off your balances each month. After some time has passed, apply for a new and different type of credit card. (Maybe the card you have is a department store card, so now you’re going to apply for one of the big boys – like a Visa, MasterCard or American Express.)

Let’s say that you’re already an established credit card user. You’ve had a credit card for a couple of years now. You’ve been using the card – always paying off your balance each month and always, always, always paying on time (good boy or girl.)

Now, you really want to up the ante. You’re ready for one of those cards that offers you some perks – like cashing in points for free stuff and saving money on filling up your gas-guzzling SUV.

In this situation, you’re ready and so is your credit for you to apply for and open a new credit card account.
Since you’re an established and responsible card user, it can even help you boost your credit score by opening a new credit card account at this time.

Back to the Credit Card Utilization

Once you are an established credit card user ready to open new credit card accounts, it all loops back to that credit card utilization. Since you’re going to have more of a total credit line open, as long as you use under 10% and make your payments on time, opening new accounts puts your credit card utilization in an even better situation.

A better situation can equal a higher credit score.

It creates a win-win situation. (And everyone loves a winner, right?)

More Credit Cards Might Even Mean a Higher Credit Score

It seems the American average for credit cards is three to four cards. Credit Karma claims that the more credit cards someone has, the higher their credit score seems to be.

This may be a catch, though, because it might point to the fact that someone with a higher credit score has the ability to open more credit card accounts (by virtue of their high credit score alone).

So the long and the short of it is that there is no magic number of credit cards that you should have. Remember, Walter Cavanaugh has 1,497 credit cards. He can’t possibly use all of those, right?

In the end, it is quality over quantity. Whether you have one credit card or half a dozen credit cards, it’s more about how you manage those cards than it is how many you carry around in your wallet.

What’s your limit? How many credit cards do you keep on hand?

About the author

Kristie McCauley

Kristie Lorette McCauley is an award-winning expert on personal finance, mortgages, and credit. She has published articles on major finance and credit blogs, such as Yahoo! Finance, Quizzle, Money Crashers, and BankRate. She is also the author of books, such as How to Use the Equity in Your Home or Business Today to Invest for Tomorrow and How to Open & Operate a Financially Successful Personal Financial Planning Business.


  • I have 1 credit card. I got in trouble in the early 2000’s and promised I would never get another after paying a ridiculous amount on interest. It’s balance is always 0. It effects my credit score but who cares. I have my home mortgage I pay each month, my car and my monthly expenses. You can very easily be drawn into a credit hole by your cards. Buyer beware!

  • I have 13, 3 are at 75% and 3 are at 30%, the other 7 are $0.00. I am working the “pay all extra money on the highest APR % til paid down to 30% while making regular minimum and then on to the next one. I have seen an increase in my score along with lower total finance charges applied every month. Also Automatic increases are helping the % utilization lower as my available credit goes up. Thanks for all the advice and daily emails, as it keeps me on top of everything

  • I have 10 credit cards. all of them at $1000 limit. does this mean I should use only 10% of the grand total ($10,000), or 10% from each card? Thanks

    • Both effect your score, say you have only one card maxed out and nothing on the others, it will hurt your score

    • I am reasonably sure from Credit Karma’s display of all my 7 cards that it is 10% of the total, Sign up with Credit Karma they give you an unbelievable amount of information on your accounts for FREE ! I do Not work for them ! I wish I worked for Somebody (;^)) Where did all the jobs go ? Especially for Americans !!

    • I have 5 of my own and I am authorized user on 10 which are my children. Only thing I am lacking is a mortgage. My other credit splits are pretty diverse.

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