When you ask the question, how many credit cards is too many, there is no standard answer; it depends on the scoring system used by your lender and your credit history.
According to Experian data, baby boomers have an average of 4.8 cards. In comparison, millennials have 3.2 cards on average. Judging from this, it seems like the younger generations are wary of having too many credit cards.
Is Having Too Many Credit Cards Bad?
Yes, having too many credit cards can be bad for your financial health if paying debt is becoming difficult for you.
Avoiding your debts might provide momentary relief for an immediate expense. Still, the long-term effects of not paying your credit card bills translate to excessive debt, higher interest rates and a negative impact on your credit score.
So, if you’re planning on getting a new credit card, ask yourself if you can afford to make monthly payments on all the cards you own. If you aren’t keeping up with existing payments, you may have too many credit cards already, and ought not add another.
Too Many Credit Cards Could Hurt Your Credit Score
Depending on your credit history, “too many” credit cards for you might be the right number of credit cards for someone else. As a rule of thumb, the lower your credit score, the fewer credit cards you should have.
Secondly, it will depend on your lender. What is their risk tolerance level? Which credit scoring formula do they use? One lender might consider your credit cards too numerous while another doesn’t have a problem with it.
Should You Close Your Current Accounts?
What if, based on your lender and credit score, you have too many credit cards? Should you close your existing accounts? Well, doing so may hurt your credit score because when you close an account, its contribution to your credit limit is lost. When you lower your available credit limit without decreasing your debt, your credit utilization ratio goes up.
What Is Credit Utilization?
The term credit utilization ratio refers to your total credit limit across every credit card account you hold compared to your outstanding debt on those cards. For your credit score to be higher, this percentage should be closer to zero. That is, people who use less of the credit available to them tend to have higher credit scores. However, when you close a credit card account, the total amount of credit available to you goes down, leading to an increase in the total percentage of your available credit that you are utilizing, and causing a dip in your credit score.
Reasons You May Want To Close Accounts
- If you have a near-perfect credit score, you can go ahead and close your account. It will impact your score but not so gravely that it prevents you from getting a loan or a new credit card.
- If you plan on applying for new credit in the near future, say three to six months, don’t close your account. Open the new line of credit and then close your previous account.
- If you have limited self-control and are always tempted to charge your credit cards but have trouble repaying the amount, you should close the account even if it means a dip in the credit score.
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- Experian. 2020. "How Many Credit Cards Is Too Many?"
- Experian. 2020. "Millennials vs Baby Boomers: Who Has More Credit Cards?"
- Forbes. 2019. "How Closing A Credit Card Can Hurt Your Credit Score."
- Forbes. 2021. "What Is Credit Utilisation – And Why Does It Matter? "