How to Tell If You Have Too Many Credit Cards

too many credit cards

Today’s credit card market is absolutely bursting with card options, making it easy for nearly any consumer to wind up with a pocket full of plastic (or, in some cases, metal) cards of all makes and models.

Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing — credit cards can be fantastic tools. Between the security and convenience, purchase rewards, and extra benefits, credit cards are not only easy to use, but, when used responsibly, they can also be valuable savings tools.

And that savings can be compounded when complementary credit cards are used in conjunction to maximize rewards and perks. For example, pairing a card that offers bonus rewards for groceries with one that gives double points on dining can help you earn more on every meal, regardless of its source.

But, at what point do you have too many credit cards? There’s no set-in-stone limit on the number of credit cards any particular person can have (though individual issuers tend to set their own limits). No, determining if you have too many cards will depend on your specific situation, though there are a few common ways to tell you may be nearing your limit.

  1. You Have Trouble Paying On Time

The credit card equivalent of the robot yelling “Danger, Will Robinson!”, losing track of due dates and missing payments is a big red alert that you’re juggling too many credit cards.

While occasionally being a few days late typically won’t cause long-term damage — late payments aren’t reported to the credit bureaus as delinquent until they’re more than 30 days past due — late payments often come with late fees, which can add up quickly.

can't pay credit card

Additionally, once you’re past the grace period (which generally ends on your due date), your balance is no longer immune from interest, which means you won’t be able to avoid interest fees. Indeed, even if you have an active 0% APR offer, a late payment will typically cancel your promotion, leaving you stuck paying interest fees at the regular rate.

If you’re loath to reduce your cards but want to avoid paying late, consider setting up automatic payments through your bank. This can help ensure you never miss a due date by automating the process. You’ll need to make sure you always keep enough money in your account to cover your next bill, of course.

  1. You Can’t Afford to Pay in Full

Another surefire sign that you may have an overabundance of credit cards is if you’re struggling to pay all of your balances in full each month.

That’s not to say you can never carry a balance — sometimes it’s hard to avoid — but consistently charging more than you can repay is not only a warning sign you may have too many cards, but it is also a sign you may need to reevaluate your finances.

The main reason to pay your cards in full each month is to avoid interest fees. Most credit cards offer a grace period for new purchases that allows you to avoid interest if you pay the full balance before the end of the grace period.

Although the answer to having too many credit cards is rarely getting another card, if you absolutely need to carry a balance, you may want to consider a new card with an introductory 0% APR offer. This can give you a year or more of 0% interest on new purchases (though you still need to make at least the minimum payment each month).

If you find yourself falling behind on even the minimum required payment for your credit cards, it’s time to seriously evaluate your financial state. You may need to consolidate your credit card debt with a balance transfer or personal loan, as well as reduce the number of credit cards you hold to help avoid the temptation to add to your existing debt.

  1. Your Wallet is Full

While not as alarming a sign as missing payments or carrying a balance, if your wallet is full to bursting, it may be time to audit your credit card collection to ensure you’re making the most of your purchases.

Given the abundance of credit cards on the market — and how frequently they change their offers — it’s easy to wind up with cards that provide overlapping purchase rewards or benefits. What’s more, our spending habits and needs can change over time, meaning the perfect card one year may not provide as much return the next year.

As such, it’s a good idea to inventory your credit cards at least once a year (ideally before any annual fees hit) to make sure each card is still worth carrying around. This is also a good time to brush up on the current offerings to see if a better card has come on the market that could replace one (or two, or three) of your existing cards.

You should crunch the numbers to see if any cards that charge an annual fee are still carrying their weight, and consider canceling or downgrading them if they’re no longer worth the fee. For example, if your credit card charges a $100 annual fee but you earn more than $100 worth of purchase rewards, it may be worth keeping the card, assuming you can’t find a cheaper card with a comparable rewards rate.

wallet full of credit cards

Cards without any annual fees are often best left active but placed in a drawer or safe. Closing unused credit cards can reduce your overall available credit, which may cause your utilization rate to increase if you’re carrying a balance on other cards.

  1. Creditors Start Rejecting Your Applications

The last sign that you may have too many credit cards is when you start getting rejected for loans or credit cards. Although you can technically have as many credit cards as you can qualify for, opening too many new credit card accounts in a short period of time can be a warning sign to creditors that you may about to take on more debt, increasing your apparent risk.

But that’s not all. Credit card issuers are becoming increasingly strict about credit card churners — consumers who open new credit cards simply to earn a signup bonus, then close the accounts. Issuers want loyal consumers who will use the card well beyond the on-boarding period, not one-and-done users who won’t make them any money.

Most of the credit cards from Chase, for instance, fall under the bank’s 5/24 Rule that automatically rejects applicants who have opened five or more credit accounts in the last 24 months. This means you could be rejected solely on the basis of having too many new accounts even if you have a perfect credit score.

Other issuers have restrictions on the number of credit card accounts you can have with that issuer. For example, Discover limits users to two consumer Discover credit cards per person, while American Express typically limits cardholders to five consumer cards each.

If you’re being rejected for new credit based on the number of credit cards you have, your best option may be to “garden” your credit. This basically means avoiding opening any new credit cards for a year or two while your current accounts age. Be sure to responsibly maintain all of your existing credit cards while gardening to avoid damaging your credit in the meantime.

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