Experts explain the pros and cons
Credit cards are great financial tools for many reasons, including building or repairing credit, accumulating rewards, or providing protection while traveling. But Americans seem to be use them with cautionas a new GOBankingRates survey reveals that a whopping 70% of them have two or fewer credit cards.
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The survey reveals that 28% of Americans have one credit card, 25% have two, 15% have three, only 8% have four and 9% have more than four.
Nearly 16% of Americans do not have a credit card, the survey notes.
While expert opinions vary on how many credit cards you really need, the consensus is clear: don’t have more than you can handle, as the consequences could be detrimental. Also, if you plan on having multiple cards, be extremely disciplined in their use.
What are the benefits of having multiple credit cards?
There are benefits to having multiple credit cards, but you have to be very methodical about it, according to Howard Dvorkin, CPA and president of Debt.com.
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“If you’re incredibly disciplined, you can rotate credit cards to rack up signing bonuses, limited-time offers, and double rewards for certain categories,” Dvorkin said. “I know a credit card expert who did just that and took his whole family to Europe – with all flights and hotel rooms covered. But he spent countless hours timing perfectly when he opened and closed his credit cards. Most of us aren’t that obsessed.
Another benefit of having multiple cards is that it can help consumers achieve higher overall credit limits and maintain lower usage rates.
“Access to additional cards can also provide consumers with flexibility if they need to make a large purchase and don’t have a sufficient credit limit on their primary card,” said Charlie Wise, senior vice president and Global Head of Research and Consulting at Trans Union.
Wise notes, however, that the goal for consumers is to have sufficient credit limits to support their normal monthly credit card expenses while maintaining their total usage rate – the balance against the credit limit. credit – on all cards below 30%.
Another benefit is that consumers can use different credit cards for different purposes, allowing them to better budget, plan, and organize their finances.
“Some people treat it like a game and mix and match many different cards and maximize every dollar they spend – and that’s fine as long as they’re able to pay in full and avoid overspending and late payments,” said Ted Rossman. , Senior Industry Analyst at CreditCards.com. “A multi-card strategy can leverage many different spending categories; for example, you might have a card with great dining rewards and another that prioritizes groceries and the like for travel. [and/or] gas.”
Additionally, most consumers with multiple credit cards in their wallet have a primary or preferred card that they use for the majority of their purchases, depending on the features of the card, including cash back on purchases or other awards, TransUnion’s Wise said.
“Some consumers may move their spending between cards depending on the type of purchase,” he said, “using one card for everyday purchases they intend to pay each month and another for major purchases like vacations or large bills they intend to pay for over time.
What are the risks of having multiple credit cards?
Besides not being disciplined enough to keep track of your balances, payment due dates, and fees, experts say there are also other risks associated with having multiple credit cards.
According to the GOBankingRates survey, 21.5% of Americans use their credit cards to build or repair their credit, and 41% say they are actively trying to improve their credit scores.
In this context, however, an unintended consequence of having multiple cards – and the most crucial one – is that it can backfire and negatively impact your credit score, if you forget or cannot make the one of the payments, according to Mark Reyes, senior director of financial assistance at the banking app albert.
“Having too many credit cards can impact your credit score, particularly through the credit mix factor,” Reyes said.
This sentiment is shared by several experts, including Jason Vissers, credit card analyst at MerchantMaverick.comwho said having too many credit cards can make you want to take advantage of your newly available credit and charge unnecessary fees.
In turn, Vissers said, this can leave you “struggling to keep up with your payments, in which case your credit utilization rate — and therefore your credit score — will be affected, not improved, by your decision to accept. multiple credit cards.”
“You will also need to track the different payment due dates, minimum payment amounts, interest rates and rewards programs carried by your different credit cards,” Vissers added.
Albert’s Reyes also noted that some rewards cards require an annual fee, and if you don’t use the cards enough, it might not be worth keeping them. Plus, he recommends taking note of their underutilized benefits.
“Take the time to understand each of your card’s benefits,” Reyes said. “For example, your travel rewards card may offer you more than just points. Some cover your worldwide entry fees or annual subscription fees on delivery services, such as DoorDash. Keeping up with multiple credit cards takes work.
Of course, increasing the number of credit cards can increase the temptation to take on more debt.
“If the credit card user cannot pay their balance in full each month, the consequences can be devastating,” said Tomas Campos, co-founder and CEO of spinning wheel.
“The average interest rate charged on credit card debt will soon exceed the all-time high of 19%,” Campos said. “At these rates, if you have a typical credit card balance of around $5,500 and are only paying the minimum, it will take you over 16 years to pay it off and cost you thousands more in interest.
“Finally, more cards mean more to master. Monitoring your balances and statements is essential for budgeting purposes and to detect fraudulent transactions.”
Ideally, how many credit cards should you have?
According to several experts, having two or three credit cards is the ideal solution for responsible borrowers.
“It allows you to have one dedicated credit card for cash back and one for travel rewards.” Reyes said. “More than three credit cards can become difficult to manage and track.”
According to him, if you’re new to credit cards or rebuilding your credit, having just one credit card can be ideal. This will allow you to build a solid payment and usage history with just one card, which can improve your credit score in the long run.
MerchantMaverick.com’s Vissers agrees, saying that to build your credit profile, consider having at least two credit cards, especially if you have few or no other open loans or debt accounts.
“Beyond that, it depends,” Vissers said. “If your spending is focused on certain things – groceries, gas, travel, etc. – that rewards credit cards tend to focus on, you might consider getting different rewards cards for different purposes – one for the fuel, one for flights and hotels, etc. on.”
Finally, most experts agree that no matter how many cards you have or intend to have, you should be on top of the balances.
“The most important thing is to have a plan and a budget for your cards,” Campos said. “Track your expenses and avoid paying interest as much as possible.”
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This article originally appeared on GOBankingRates.com: Multiple credit cards: experts explain the pros and cons