The Ideal Number of Credit Cards

Some advocate that the ideal number of credit cards is zero, and for many people, that’s just right. But if you believe that credit cards can be a helpful tool and want to use them, what’s the ideal number to have?

I think it’s two, and they would preferably be different types (Visa, American Express, etc.).

If you only have one card:

  • You might not be able to pay if your card is denied or not accepted by the vendor.
  • You’re at the mercy of changes imposed to your account by one company, without an available backup.
  • If your credit limit is low, you may not be able to use your card in emergencies (with cash in savings to back it up, of course).
  • You won’t be able to use the cards to separate transactions, for example a “his and hers” or “recurring and individual” expenses.

If you carry more than two cards:

  • You may have trouble keeping track of all of them, leading to missed bills and poor credit.
  • You may have greater risk for identity theft, especially if you’re not regularly monitoring inactive cards.
  • Your wallet/purse will grow, which is not only annoying but increases the time you’ll spend on the phone should you lose it/have it stolen.

How many credit cards do you have, and why? What do you think is the ideal?

Photo by Andres Rueda

12 thoughts on “The Ideal Number of Credit Cards

  1. I do carry two credit cards with me, although I have at least a dozen or more accounts open. I revolve my American Express, and carry a spare VISA card with me. We’re paying down two VISA cards. One I never use, the other one I use to pay a couple of auto-pay bills. So I make a double the minimum each month, plus I pay the additional amount in the auto payments that charge to that card each month.

    1. That is odd! Usually the AMEX is the only one I have problems with, but that happens to be my favorite and the one with the best rewards.

  2. I would agree with you that 2 is about the perfect number to have. My household has 6 total. 2 that are hers and hers only, and I have 4. I’m not sure why I have that many, since I really only use 1 of them.

    1. Same here; that’s why I decided to close 2 of them this weekend. Down to two, an AMEX and a Visa.

  3. I have to say it depends on your credit limits too. If you have 3 cards where one of them doesn’t have a high credit limit, you might want to consider closing the one with the lowest limit. So that you

    I have an Amex card and two other CC, a Mastercard and Visa for places where Amex isn’t accepted.

  4. I think if you’re going to use credit cards, two is good. We lost (and promptly cancelled) one while on vacation a couple of years ago and having a back up was very convenient. But ultimately I think having none at all is best. Even though we paid off our balance every month (and got rewards), just having them prompted us spend more than necessary. Now we have none and we’re far more aware of where our money goes and are spending less.

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