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Is There a Limit to How Many Credit Cards I Can Have?

May 9, 2014
Credit Card Basics, Credit Cards
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We adhere to strict standards of editorial integrity. Some of the products we feature are from our partners. Here’s how we make money.

There are lots of people out there who love their credit cards. You might even be one of them, and it’s easy to see why: Using plastic comes with tons of benefits.

But is it possible to have too much of a good thing? That is, is there a limit to how many credit cards you can have? If you’re not sure, take a look at the details below.

In theory, plastic is unlimited

The short answer to the question of whether or not there’s a limit to how many credit cards you can get is no. In theory, you can get as many credit cards as you want.

This is because most credit card issuers don’t look at the number of accounts on your credit report when deciding whether or not to extend you plastic. Factors like your credit score, income and debt-to-income ratio are used to make this assessment. But the quantity of cards isn’t a factor.

Also, contrary to popular belief, having too much available credit isn’t an issue, either – at least not when it comes to your credit score. This means that opening a large number of credit cards isn’t going to make it difficult to keep getting more plastic in the future.

In practice, there might be a cap

Even though the number of credit cards you can get isn’t strictly limited, in practice you might run up against a cap.

Specifically, a particular issuer might not be comfortable with giving you an unrestricted amount of credit. This means you could get denied for a card because you have too much open credit on other plastic from the same bank.

For instance, let’s say you have three credit cards – we’ll call them cards A, B, and C – from Bank of the U.S. Your total credit line between all three cards is $20,000. But suddenly, Bank of the U.S. introduces Card D. You like Card D’s rewards program, and want to add it to your portfolio.

» MORE: How to apply for a credit card so you’ll get approved

But $20,000 is the maximum amount of credit that Bank of the U.S. is willing to give you. If you apply for Card D, you’ll get rejected. Not because of the number of cards you have, but the total amount of open credit.

Nerd tip: If you run up against this obstacle, most banks will allow you to reduce your credit limits on cards A, B, and C in order to get Card D. You’ll need to call your issuer’s customer service department and explain the course of action you want to take, but this is usually not a problem.

Another option is to close card A, B or C. This might be a good idea if you’re unhappy with one of them, but be sure you do it carefully.

Set your own limits

Although you can hypothetically get as many credit cards as you want, it’s probably not a good idea to go nuts and sign up for every card that strikes your fancy.

Keeping too many cards in your wallet can lead to trouble if you’re not very organized. For one thing, managing lots of cards makes it easy to forget a payment. This is a serious problem, because your history with making on-time payments accounts for 35% of your credit score.

Second, having too many cards makes it tempting to use all that credit. If you’re using more than 30% of your available credit at any point, you could be putting your credit score at risk.

Third, applying for too many cards at once can ding your score. Ten percent of your credit score comes from recent credit inquiries, so getting overzealous with applications you could do damage.

In order to keep your head on straight in a crazy credit card world, keep these tips in mind:

  • Only apply for credit you really need. There’s nothing wrong with having a few cards at once for the rewards. But applying for a card every time there’s a big sign-up bonus could lead to trouble.
  • Keep a calendar (paper or digital) of all your payment due dates. This way you won’t miss one.
  • Make and stick to a budget. This will keep you from over-utilizing the credit you have.

The bottom line: In terms of the number of credit cards you can get, there is no maximum. A particular issuer might cap the amount of credit you can have, but the number of cards isn’t a problem. Just be sure to set you own limits to stay on the straight and narrow with your credit score.

Full wallet image via Shutterstock