One of the big questions I get from friends and family who hear about how I did things like fly first class to Bali for my honeymoon is “doesn’t having too many credit cards hurt my credit score?”.
The short answer is it can but not if you have good credit already. The long answer to whether a lot of credit cards may impact your credit report is more complex. Building your credit if you are starting from scratch needs to be done carefully. But once your credit is established you are easily able to open and keep open many credit cards with no issue. Now if you have one card open with two years history and then have a run of opening 5 more in a short time span…that can impact your score significantly.
Time for some truth, which seems a little crazy to put on the internet: I have 12 credit cards. A mix of annual fee and no fee cards. I also have a credit score in the high 700’s and qualified for a mortgage without issues – twice. Not sure how many people know this fun fact about my number of credit cards but now it’s out in the open. So in my experience, having many credit cards certainly doesn’t ruin my credit score. And in fact, when I open a new account or have a new inquiry, my credit score will dip 5-10 points if at all.
Maintaining a long credit history
This may be a little confusing because in my perfect credit card trifecta I of course mentioned 3 cards, not 12. Well, most I hold onto for the perks and don’t actually spend money with. Or, I hold onto for because they contribute to my long term credit history.
Once you have built your credit slowly and over time it is important to keep your accounts with the longest history open. Then your average age of accounts is longer and banks view you with less risk. So by holding onto the oldest cards it provides a better average age of accounts for all those new rewards cards I like to open. It is for this reason that I have 4 of my cards:
- A Wells Fargo no annual fee credit card. This was my first card a month after turning 18. I think I started out with a $500 credit limit.
- American Express Blue card: my first “real” card where I earned points at age 20! And I redeemed them for a terrible, terrible value.
- A Discover card I “upgraded” to at age 22 because the idea of cash back was appealing.
- A Costco Visa card (formerly American Express) that I got around 22 and hold on to now for the Costco membership. Of all my long term cards this one actually gives some decent value still!
With the exception of the Costco Visa these sit in a safe and aren’t in my wallet.
Bottom line, the question of “do too many credit cards hurt my credit score?” is NO if you build your credit carefully and over time. Having good credit is really integral to well, life, so this points game is nothing I would ever do if I was worried about it ruining my credit.