Plenty of people love credit cards — love the rewards they earn, the perks they enjoy, the interest-free financing they can get, the security offered by quick access to funds in a pinch.
But can you have too much of a good thing? That is, is there a limit to how many credit cards you can have? The quick, technical answer is no — there’s no law or industry standard that says “X number of cards is too many.” The longer answer is more of a “maybe?” — it depends on you and the issuers whose cards you apply for.
In theory, plastic is unlimited
In theory, you can get as many credit cards as you want.
This is because credit card issuers generally don’t look at the number of card accounts on your credit report when deciding whether to approve you for more plastic. Factors like your credit score, your income and your debt-to-income ratio are used to make this assessment. But the number 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 having a large number of credit cards isn’t going to make it difficult to keep getting more plastic in the future.
Keep in mind, though, that if you have a bunch of credit cards with high balances, it’s quite possible you’ll get denied for more credit. But in that case, you aren’t being rejected because you have too many cards but rather because you have too much debt.
In practice, there might be a cap
Although there is no overall limit on the number of credit cards you can have, you might run up against a cap in specific circumstances.
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 First Humongous Bank & Trust. Your total credit line among all three cards is $20,000. Suddenly, First Humongous introduces Card D. You like Card D’s rewards program, and want to add it to your portfolio.
But if $20,000 is the maximum amount of credit that First Humongous is willing to extend to you, then you’ll be rejected. Not because of the number of cards you have, but the total amount of open credit with that bank.
What could you do in that case? You could ask for a product change to convert one of your accounts to Card D. Or you could call the bank’s customer service department and ask to lower your credit limits on the other three cards in order to get Card D. Or you could close one of the cards — but be sure to do it carefully.
Meanwhile, some issuers have policies designed to weed out credit card “churners” — people who apply for cards for lucrative sign-up bonuses or perks, then quickly close the account. The so-called “5/24 rule” enforced by one of the country’s largest credit card issuers is one example.
Set your own limits
Although you can hypothetically get as many credit cards as you want, it’s 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 payment history accounts for 35% of your FICO 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 FICO score comes from recent credit inquiries, so getting overzealous with applications you could do damage.
Rules of thumb
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.