How Many Credit Cards Should I Have for Good Credit?

How Many Credit Cards Should I Have for Good Credit?

credit card advice

Brittney Mayer
By: Brittney Mayer
Posted: July 20, 2018
Opinions expressed here are ours alone, and are not provided, endorsed, or approved by any issuer. Site may be compensated through the issuer affiliate programs.

If you’re like the average American, you might have two credit cards in your wallet. If you’re a rewards enthusiast, you may have more than 40 cards. And if you’re a credit card collector, you could have over a thousand credit cards (and a custom wallet).

But, what’s the right number of credit cards?

Better yet, consider it another way. Most of us know by now that credit cards can impact your credit score, influencing whether you qualify for loans and other new credit. So, perhaps we should ask: How many credit cards should you have for a good credit score?

Consumers Should Have (and Use) at Least One Credit Card

Although some hard-core budget purists will tell you to stay well away from credit cards entirely, the fact of the matter is that modern-day consumers simply need to have (and occasionally use) at least one credit card.

The first reason you need at least one credit card is that it can both help establish and improve your credit profile. The vast majority of consumers will, at some point, need credit for something, be it a new car, a new house, to start a new business, or something else entirely.

Alright, yes, you can choose to pay cash for everything, forgoing the need to ever apply for credit — but this isn’t realistic for most people. And, even if you avoid credit like the plague, your credit profile isn’t just used by lenders anymore; your credit may be checked in any number of situations, including:

  • Consumer credit card or loan applications
  • Business credit card or loan applications
  • Job applications
  • Apartment or rental home applications
  • Setting up home utility accounts
  • Opening a new cellphone account
  • Undergoing a background check

Credit cards are, by far, the easiest way to establish a consumer credit profile. There are a wide range of credit cards ideal for those who need to build credit. If you use a card with no annual fee, like those below, and pay it in full each month to avoid interest, building credit won’t cost you a dime.

Discover it® Cash Back Review

at Discover Card'ssecure website

BEST OVERALL RATING

★★★★★
5.0

OVERALL RATING

5.0/5.0
  • Earn 5% cash back at different places each quarter like gas stations, grocery stores, restaurants, Amazon.com, or wholesale clubs up to the quarterly maximum each time you activate.
  • Earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases – automatically.
  • INTRO OFFER: Discover will match ALL the cash back earned at the end of your first year, automatically.
  • Redeem cash back any amount, any time. Rewards never expire.
  • Use your rewards at Amazon.com checkout.
  • Receive FREE Social Security number alerts—Discover will monitor thousands of risky websites when you sign up.
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% for 14 months
0% for 14 months
13.74% - 24.74% Variable
$0
Good/Excellent

BEST OVERALL RATING

★★★★
3.8

OVERALL RATING

3.8/5.0
  • Pay no annual fee
  • Get access to a higher credit line after making your first 5 monthly payments on time
  • Fraud coverage if your card is lost or stolen
  • Use online banking to access your account, even from your smartphone, with our mobile app
  • Pay by check, online or at a local branch, all with no fee - and pick the monthly due date that works best for you
  • Get access to your account 24 hours a day, 7 days a week
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
24.99% (Variable)
$0
Average, Fair, Limited
Discover it® Secured Review

at Discover Card'ssecure website

BEST OVERALL RATING

★★★★
3.7

OVERALL RATING

3.7/5.0
  • No Annual Fee, cash back on every purchase, and helps you build your credit with responsible use.
  • Your Secured Credit Card requires a refundable security deposit up to the amount we can approve of at least $200 which will establish your credit line. You will need to provide your bank information when submitting your security deposit.
  • We will automatically begin reviewing your account starting at 8 months to see if we can transition you to an unsecured line of credit.
  • Earn 2% cash back at gas stations and restaurants on up to $1,000 in combined purchases each quarter, automatically. Plus, earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases – automatically.
  • Get a dollar-for-dollar match of all the cash back you've earned at the end of your first year, automatically.
  • Receive FREE Social Security number alerts-Discover will monitor thousands of risky websites when you sign up.
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
10.99% for 6 months
24.74% Variable
$0
Please refer to issuer's website

You’ll need at least one open account with a minimum of six months of reported payment history to be eligible for a credit score. But don’t stop using your credit card after the six months are up. The longer your history of positive payments extends, the more it will help your credit score.

Furthermore, credit cards can also help your overall credit mix, which considers the types of credit on your reports. Lenders like to see a mix of credit types that shows you can handle various types of debt without issue. Having at least one credit card in good standing shows you can responsibly use revolving credit.

Multiple Cards Can Be Useful for Maximizing Rewards

Now that we’ve established you need at least one credit card, the question becomes: Do you need more? But here’s where it gets tricky because the answer to that question is different for everyone.

At the most basic level, if you use your credit card regularly, it can be helpful to have a second card, perhaps from a different network. Not all merchants accept all networks, so having a backup card can come in very handy.

Another reason you may want to have more than one credit card is if you plan to take advantage of credit card rewards. Sure, you can earn rewards with just one card — particularly one with a decent unlimited cash back rate, like the Chase Freedom Unlimited® — but maximizing those rewards often requires using multiple cards in concert.

Cash Back | Points | Miles

Best Cash Back Rewards Cards

While cash back rewards won’t necessarily provide the best value for your earning dollars, they tend to be the simplest type of rewards to use. Cash back is generally redeemed for a statement credit to cover eligible charges on your credit card, with no complicated transfers or variable redemption options to master.

Maximizing your cash back rewards usually involves multiple credit cards that provide bonus cash back for purchases in categories in which you spend the most. For example, consumers who spend a lot on dining each month may get a lot of value out of a card that provides bonus cash back for restaurant purchases.

CASH BACK RATING
★★★★★
5.0
OVERALL RATING
5.0/5.0
  • Unlimited 1.5% cash back on every purchase - it's automatic
  • Earn a $150 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening
  • 0% Intro APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases and balance transfers, then a variable APR of 16.74-25.49%. Balance transfer fee is 5% of the amount transferred, $5 minimum
  • No minimum to redeem for cash back
  • Cash Back rewards do not expire as long as your account is open
  • Free credit score, updated weekly with Credit Journey℠
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% Intro APR on Purchases for 15 months
0% Intro APR on Balance Transfers for 15 months
16.74% - 25.49% Variable
$0
Excellent/Good
Wells Fargo Cash Wise Visa® Card Review

at Wells Fargo'ssecure website

CASH BACK RATING
★★★★★
4.9
OVERALL RATING
4.9/5.0
  • Earn a $200 cash rewards bonus after spending $1,000 in the first 3 months
  • Earn unlimited 1.5% cash rewards on purchases
  • Enjoy 1.8% cash rewards on qualified mobile wallet purchases, like Apple Pay® or Android Pay™, during the first 12 months from account opening
  • No category restrictions or sign ups and cash rewards don't expire as long as your account remains open
  • Get up to $600 protection on your cell phone (subject to $25 deductible) against covered damage or theft when you pay your monthly cellular telephone bill with your Wells Fargo Cash Wise Visa® Card
  • 0% Intro APR for 12 months on purchases and balance transfers, then a 14.74%-26.74% variable APR; balance transfer fees apply
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% for 12 months
0% for 12 months
14.74%-26.74% (Variable)
$0
Excellent/Good
Discover it® Cash Back Review

at Discover Card'ssecure website

CASH BACK RATING
★★★★★
4.9
OVERALL RATING
5.0/5.0
  • Earn 5% cash back at different places each quarter like gas stations, grocery stores, restaurants, Amazon.com, or wholesale clubs up to the quarterly maximum each time you activate.
  • Earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases – automatically.
  • INTRO OFFER: Discover will match ALL the cash back earned at the end of your first year, automatically.
  • Redeem cash back any amount, any time. Rewards never expire.
  • Use your rewards at Amazon.com checkout.
  • Receive FREE Social Security number alerts—Discover will monitor thousands of risky websites when you sign up.
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% for 14 months
0% for 14 months
13.74% - 24.74% Variable
$0
Good/Excellent

+See More Cash Back Credit Cards

Best Rewards Points Cards

Rewards points are typically the most flexible type of rewards, making them the preferred choice for many value-happy rewards enthusiasts who seek to maximize their earnings. Many points programs allow redemption for cash back, gift cards, and merchandise, but the best value often comes from redeeming for travel or transferring to a travel loyalty program.

As with cash back cards, points credit cards are available with both unlimited and bonus category rewards structures, so you can maximize your rewards with the right combination of cards. Rewards cards that offer bonus points for multiple useful categories can simplify the process.

POINTS & GIFTS RATING
★★★★★
4.9
OVERALL RATING
4.8/5.0
  • Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $625 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • Chase Sapphire Preferred® named a 'Best Travel Credit Card' by MONEY® Magazine, 2016-2017
  • 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
  • Earn 5,000 bonus points after you add the first authorized user and make a purchase in the first 3 months from account opening
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
17.74% - 24.74% Variable
$0 Intro for the First Year, then $95
Excellent Credit
Wells Fargo Propel American Express® Card Review

at Wells Fargo'ssecure website

POINTS & GIFTS RATING
★★★★★
4.9
OVERALL RATING
4.8/5.0
  • New! Earn 30K bonus points when you spend $3,000 in purchases in the first 3 months – that's a $300 cash redemption value
  • Earn 3X points for eating out and ordering in
  • Earn 3X points for gas stations, rideshares and transit
  • Earn 3X points for travel including flights, hotels, homestays and car rentals
  • Earn 1X points on other purchases
  • $0 annual fee
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% for 12 months
0% for 12 months
14.24%-26.74% (Variable)
$0
Excellent/Good
POINTS & GIFTS RATING
★★★★★
4.9
OVERALL RATING
4.8/5.0
  • Earn a one-time $150 cash bonus after you spend $500 on purchases within the first 3 months from account opening
  • Earn unlimited 3% cash back on dining, 2% on groceries and 1% on all other purchases
  • No rotating categories or sign-ups needed to earn cash rewards; plus, cash back won't expire for the life of the account and there's no limit to how much you can earn
  • 0% intro APR on purchases for 15 months; 16.24%-24.99% variable APR after that
  • 0% intro APR on balance transfers for 15 months; 16.24%-24.99% variable APR after that; 3% fee on the amounts transferred within the first 15 months
  • No annual fee
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% for 15 months
0% for 15 months
16.24% - 24.99% (Variable)
$0
Excellent, Good

+See More Rewards Points Credit Cards

Best Air Miles Rewards Cards

Cardholders who spend a lot of time in the air are often big fans of credit cards that reward air miles, as miles can be redeemed for free flights. Plus, many unbranded miles from rewards credit cards (those not associated with a specific frequent flyer program) can often be redeemed for other travel expenses, as well.

Air miles rewards credit cards come in the same formats as other rewards cards in that you can potentially earn unlimited miles on every transaction, regardless of category, or earn bonus miles on purchases in specific categories. Mix and match bonus categories with a good unlimited card to cover all of your bases.

AIR MILES RATING
★★★★★
5.0
OVERALL RATING
4.9/5.0
  • Enjoy a one-time bonus of 50,000 miles once you spend $3,000 on purchases within 3 months from account opening, equal to $500 in travel
  • Earn 2X miles on every purchase, every day. Plus earn 10X miles on thousands of hotels; learn more at hotels.com/venture
  • Receive up to $100 application fee credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✔®
  • Fly any airline, stay at any hotel, anytime
  • Travel when you want with no blackout dates
  • Miles won't expire for the life of the account and there's no limit to how many you can earn
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
14.74% - 24.74% (Variable)
$0 intro for first year; $95 after that
Excellent, Good
AIR MILES RATING
★★★★★
4.9
OVERALL RATING
4.8/5.0
  • Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $625 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • Chase Sapphire Preferred® named a 'Best Travel Credit Card' by MONEY® Magazine, 2016-2017
  • 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
  • Earn 5,000 bonus points after you add the first authorized user and make a purchase in the first 3 months from account opening
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
17.74% - 24.74% Variable
$0 Intro for the First Year, then $95
Excellent Credit
Discover it® Miles Review

at Discover Card'ssecure website

AIR MILES RATING
★★★★★
4.9
OVERALL RATING
4.8/5.0
  • We'll match all the Miles you've earned at the end of your first year. For example, if you earn 30,000 Miles, you get 60,000 Miles.
  • Unlimited 1.5x Miles per dollar on all purchases, every day, with no annual fee.
  • No Blackout Dates - fly any airline, stay at any hotel.
  • Redeem your Miles as a statement credit towards travel purchases.
  • Freeze your account in seconds with an on/off switch either on the mobile app or website to prevent new purchases, cash advances, and balance transfers.
  • Get your free Credit Scorecard with your FICO® Credit Score, number of recent inquiries and more.
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% for 14 months
10.99% for 14 months
13.74% - 24.74% Variable
$0
Good/Excellent

+See More Air Miles Rewards Credit Cards

Be Mindful of Credit Card Fees

Of course, having a full stable of credit card options isn’t for everyone — mostly because of the fees. From annual fees to transaction fees to interest fees, credit cards can get expensive fast if they’re not managed properly.

That being said, many credit card fees can be avoided simply by choosing the right card and using it wisely. Not all credit cards charge every type of fee — a large number of cards come with no annual fee, for instance — and responsible card use can help you avoid the rest.

Annual Fees | Interest Fees

Best Cards with No Annual Fees

Depending on the card, the fees will start as soon as you open your account. This is particularly true of top-tier rewards credit cards, as well as the subprime cards for bad credit at the other end of the spectrum.

You don’t actually need to pay an annual fee to get a good credit card, however; the market is flooded with credit card options, many of which can be had without a fee. You don’t even need to pay an annual fee to earn solid rewards, so long as you have at least good credit.

BEST OVERALL RATING
★★★★★
5.0
OVERALL RATING
5.0/5.0
  • Unlimited 1.5% cash back on every purchase - it's automatic
  • Earn a $150 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening
  • 0% Intro APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases and balance transfers, then a variable APR of 16.74-25.49%. Balance transfer fee is 5% of the amount transferred, $5 minimum
  • No minimum to redeem for cash back
  • Cash Back rewards do not expire as long as your account is open
  • Free credit score, updated weekly with Credit Journey℠
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% Intro APR on Purchases for 15 months
0% Intro APR on Balance Transfers for 15 months
16.74% - 25.49% Variable
$0
Excellent/Good
Discover it® Cash Back Review

at Discover Card'ssecure website

BEST OVERALL RATING
★★★★★
5.0
OVERALL RATING
5.0/5.0
  • Earn 5% cash back at different places each quarter like gas stations, grocery stores, restaurants, Amazon.com, or wholesale clubs up to the quarterly maximum each time you activate.
  • Earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases – automatically.
  • INTRO OFFER: Discover will match ALL the cash back earned at the end of your first year, automatically.
  • Redeem cash back any amount, any time. Rewards never expire.
  • Use your rewards at Amazon.com checkout.
  • Receive FREE Social Security number alerts—Discover will monitor thousands of risky websites when you sign up.
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% for 14 months
0% for 14 months
13.74% - 24.74% Variable
$0
Good/Excellent
BEST OVERALL RATING
★★★★★
4.8
OVERALL RATING
4.8/5.0
  • One-time $150 cash bonus after you spend $500 on purchases within 3 months from account opening
  • Earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on every purchase, every day
  • No rotating categories or sign-ups needed to earn cash rewards; plus, cash back won't expire for the life of the account and there's no limit to how much you can earn
  • 0% intro APR on purchases for 15 months; 14.74%-24.74% variable APR after that
  • 0% intro APR on balance transfers for 15 months; 14.74%-24.74% variable APR after that; 3% fee on the amounts transferred within the first 15 months
  • Pay no annual fee or foreign transaction fees
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% for 15 months
0% for 15 months
14.74% - 24.74% (Variable)
$0
Excellent, Good

+See More Credit Cards with No Annual Fee

Best Cards with 0% APR Offers

Once you start using your card, you’ll have to worry about interest fees. While you can avoid these by paying your balance in full each month, this can be more difficult when juggling more than one card. So, if you’re someone who tends to carry a balance on your credit card, then multiple cards may not be for you.

If you happen to need to carry a balance for a specific new purchase, on the other hand, opening another credit card may be a viable solution. That’s because many new cards come with introductory 0% APR deals that can give you a year or more of interest-free purchases to help you avoid interest altogether.

Wells Fargo Platinum Visa® Card Review

at Wells Fargo'ssecure website

0% INTRO APR RATING
★★★★★
5.0
OVERALL RATING
4.6/5.0
  • 0% Intro APR for 18 months on purchases and balance transfers, then a 16.90%-26.74% variable APR; balance transfer fees apply
  • Get up to $600 protection on your cell phone (subject to $25 deductible) against covered damage or theft when you pay your monthly cellular telephone bill with your Wells Fargo Platinum Visa® Card
  • Free access to your FICO® Credit Score with Wells Fargo Online®
  • Zero Liability protection for promptly reported unauthorized transactions
  • Convenient tools to help create a budget and manage your spending with My Money Map
  • $0 Annual Fee
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% for 18 months
0% for 18 months
16.90%-26.74% (Variable)
$0
Excellent/Good
0% INTRO APR RATING
★★★★★
4.9
OVERALL RATING
5.0/5.0
  • Unlimited 1.5% cash back on every purchase - it's automatic
  • Earn a $150 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening
  • 0% Intro APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases and balance transfers, then a variable APR of 16.74-25.49%. Balance transfer fee is 5% of the amount transferred, $5 minimum
  • No minimum to redeem for cash back
  • Cash Back rewards do not expire as long as your account is open
  • Free credit score, updated weekly with Credit Journey℠
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% Intro APR on Purchases for 15 months
0% Intro APR on Balance Transfers for 15 months
16.74% - 25.49% Variable
$0
Excellent/Good
0% INTRO APR RATING
★★★★★
4.9
OVERALL RATING
5.0/5.0
  • Earn a $150 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening
  • Earn 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in combined purchases in bonus categories each quarter you activate
  • Enjoy new 5% categories each quarter
  • Unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases - it's automatic
  • 0% Intro APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases and balance transfers, then a variable APR of 16.74-25.49%. Balance transfer fee is 5% of the amount transferred, $5 minimum
  • Cash Back rewards do not expire as long as your account is open and there is no minimum to redeem for cash back.
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% Intro APR on Purchases for 15 months
0% Intro APR on Balance Transfers for 15 months
16.74% - 25.49% Variable
$0
Excellent/Good

+See More Credit Cards with No 0% Intro APR

Personal Finance is Not “One Size Fits All”

To some people, the average two credit cards are more than enough to keep track of, and additional cards are simply not necessary. For other cardholders, the sky is the proverbial limit, with tens or hundreds of credit cards still not enough.

In the end, there is no “one size fits all” anything in personal finance, credit cards included. The right number of credit cards for you will likely vary from that of your neighbor — and that’s OK! With so many options available, nearly anyone can find the right credit cards (or combination of cards) to suit their needs and spending habits.

Of course, it (almost) goes without saying that, if you are one of the consumers in the latter camp who feel like you can’t ever have too many credit cards, be sure you do your research before rushing out and opening new cards all willy-nilly. Each new credit card application can impact your credit score, so consider the potential ramifications of each new card before you apply.

And, no matter how many credit cards you have, consider performing an annual credit card evaluation to ensure the cards you’re carrying are still worth keeping in your wallet. Any cards without annual fees can simply be put in a drawer, but cards that come with extra costs should be carrying their weight — or canceled and cut up.