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Choose the right number of credit cards

Advice on how to take advantage of credit card offers without letting credit companies take advantage of you.

Ivan from Manhattan, NY sent us a question that had us a bit conflicted.

He's a credit card rewards addict and wants to consider opening up more credit cards. He doesn't carry any balances on any of his cards and has a credit score of 770, but is wondering if 10 or 15 credit cards is credit overkill. The answer?

It depends.

We know, we know ... it'd be nice if decisions like these were more definitive.

David Lazararus says he’d be happy if Ivan dropped down to three cards.

Farnoosh Torabi says as long as he paid off his credit cards in full, going for the full amount of cards he wanted was fine.

John Ulzheimer from Mint and SmartCredit.com said his magic number is five.

The biggest thing you should keep track of is paying off your card in full and on time. Cash back and rewards points can add up, but if adding more credit cards will make that too hard to track, it’s not worth it.

And picking the right credit card is important, too. Check out NerdWallet's comparison tool if you want to make sure you're getting the right card for your needs.

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Farnoosh advised to keep those cards with the highest limits, especially since Ivan was paying off each month. I was under impression that having too many cards with high limits worked against your credit rating, even if there was no balance because of the potential to rapidly increase one's debt significantly. Example: three cards with $20K limit each could allow one's debt to increase from $0 to $60K in just a few days. Would a lender wish to hold a loan for someone who has that much debt? Am I incorrect in my impression?

if applying for too many cards at once hurts your credit score due to hard inquiries, wouldn't this mean that when applying for loans or homes, you should not have the applications done all at once? (which is what seems to always be advised)

I personally think two is plenty, but I like having an uncomplicated life. One isn't enough, in case something happened to it, but five or more is totally unnecessary. I have two and an 800 credit score, which as a single mom, is kind of a feat! :)

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