How many credit cards do you have and why?

This is one of those topics that everyone seems to have an opinion on, but is there actually a right answer?

I spoke to Clark Howard and credit card expert Jason Steele on this topic for an article for

The big takeaways from that discussion:

  • Clark says most consumers should have at least two credit cards from different issuers. This helps diversify your risk if one of your credit lines is diminished or eliminated, and it also positively impacts your credit score.
  • Jason says that having more than two cards can open you up to category-specific rewards without adversely impacting your credit, assuming that you can remember to pay each of these cards on time and in full.
  • If you’re going to carry a balance on a credit card, you should consider APR over rewards when picking your cards.
  • If you have had trouble with spending that has led to serious credit card debt in the past, you may want to avoid applying for credit cards altogether. We’d rather you stay out of debt!

Personally, I have some rewards credit cards from a few of the big banks (Chase, AmEx, etc.) and also a good rewards card with a reasonable APR from my local credit union.

What’s your household strategy? Do you stick to one bank for multiple cards? Or do you spread things around a little bit?

And, if you do more than one credit card with the same issuers, have you run into any credit limit issues lately?

Looking forward to reading what the Clark community says about this. Thanks!


My credit cards have changed over the years as I’ve gotten older, etc.

When I started out, credit cards were hard to get, so I started with Sears and American Express (which I had to pay for) !!
I used to have gas credit cards (remember those?)

Now I have 4 – My bank cc, Discover, Amazon (for Amazon only), Target (5% discount).
I have frozen my credit for security, and I don’t anticipate getting any new credit cards.

I think a lot of it depends on where you are in life!

I’m a green girl… Amex green only. Pay in full every time!

I have 3 now:

  • A rewards card for travel and entertainment
  • An everyday card with maximum cash back
  • A card for online purchases

I have four:
Citi Double Cash - for just about everything except for…
Citi Costco card - gas, Costco, and travel
Discover Card - 5% off at Amazon during Christmas
First Tech Credit Union - 1% fee for ATM use internationally, but:
I now have a Charles Schwab Debit card for international ATM, so the FT CU card may go by the wayside.

I will ocassionally get a new CC if the signup bonuses are worth it.

I have 22 credit cards! Different ones for different purposes. My score is 825. I never pay interest.
I’m a financial counselor and my philosophy is to make the cards work for you and not you for them.
I fly free and stay in hotels free!

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I have 9 credit cards:

  1. American Express Blue Business Plus. Got it for the 2x in points for everyday purchases. Don’t have a business, used my SSN to get the card as a Sole Proprietor.

  2. American Express Gold Card. For 4x points on Groceries and Restaurants.

  3. American Express Platinum Card. For 5x on airline ticket purchases. $200 for use on a specific airline. Typically used to buy seats on airline or other airline amenities. Centurion Lounge access.

Both #2 and #3 have other hard and soft benefits that I do use.

For #1, #2 and #3, all cards are registered with Amex Premium Car Rental Insurance. So, at time of car rental charge, I am charged $24.99 for the entire rental length up to a maximum of 30 (or 42 days?) days. A cheaper option is offered at $19.99 as well. This is primary car insurance. Although my personal insurance covers rental cars, my thought is 1) I’m in an unfamiliar car and 2) in an unfamiliar area. So, additional primary insurance where I hopefully won’t need to report a claim to my personal insurance company.

  1. Barclays AAdvantage Aviator - Living in Charlotte, my main airline is American Airlines. a) Get 1 free baggage check (plus for any travelers on my itinerary - ie: wife), b) Group 5 boarding (if don’t have airline status) - which is great because we board immediately after priority and get bin access to our carry-ons. Never had issue about not having bin space. Always plenty available. c) other side benefits - WiFi credits, Food / Drink discount and if spend $20,000, Anniversary Companion Certificate. d) Fast path to Airline Status which I usually strive for the Platinum level which gives me Priority Check in / Priority Boarding / Priority Baggage Handling plus other benefits vs. fighting the long “non-status” lines - especially good for trips outside the US.

  2. Capital One Quicksilver. Simple 1.5% cash rewards. Just a long-time holder of the card. One of my first cards.

  3. Navy Federal World Mastercard. Simple 1.75% cash rewards. An additional .25% due direct deposit. Banking relationship.

  4. USAA Signature Visa. Simple 1.5% cash rewards. Banking relationship.

  5. M1 Visa Signature Card. Various cash back levels that get deposited into my brokerage account. Rewards vary from 1.5% (everything not covered by other reward levels which vary at 2.5%, 5% and 10%). ie: Netflix is 10%, Peloton was 10% - so that was key, Shake Shack 5%, Target 2.5%, etc etc. - total of about 25 to 30 companies on list of 2.5% and above.

  6. Lowe’s Advantage - for those purchases where I want to split up large payments over multiple months using deferred interest. I always ensure I pay in full before the promotion period ends so I don’t have to pay all the accumulated interest. Plus as a Veteran, get 10% discount.

That’s it. All credit cards are paid in full every 2 weeks unless a card - such as #9, has deferred / no interest but will ensure $0 balance about a month before promotion period ends. Don’t care about interest rates on cards since I pay in full. However, the Navy Federal World Mastercard (#6 above), has a generous credit limit and generous interest rate for a credit card.

For the most part, all cards have some form of spend. If not, once a month I make a $10 Amazon Reload (my personal Amazon gift card balance) purchase on the card.

Re: hitting any credit limit issues - none. I feel as though I have plenty of headspace for the purchases that I make on each of the cards.

In the end, each card is treated as a debit card. I only spend what I have in my budget. If I am making a big purchase, I save up cash first and then use the credit card to pay for the item.

FICO 8 Credit Score: 844
FICO 9 Credit Score: 839

I feel like I may be a skunk at this picnic but I have zero credit cards and 2 Visa debit cards. I use one for everyday purchases (when I am not using cash). I always check out using “credit” so never use a PIN at Point of Sale. The second debit is associated with a credit union account with a small balance (less than $3,000) for online purchases. About 14 years ago when I did have a credit card, it was compromised once or twice/ year. I wanted to simplify my life so closed the two cards I had and have never looked back. IMHO life is too short to be constantly checking credit scores and keeping up with credit card statements. Consequently, I have no credit score. Neither does my spouse.

One does not charge a fee for international transactions. The others are used to maximize rewards.

No, there is not.

The right answer is…
Regardless of the card or its gimmicks… the end user always pays.

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That’s the answer to a different question.

I have 10 credit cards -
Fidelity Visa - 2% off everything - General Purpose
Costco Visa - 4% Gas, 3% travel & restaurants, 2% Costco
Bank of America Mastercard - Legacy, backup
Store Cards - 4% - 7% off in specific stores

I’d recommend 3-4 cards plus store cards to maximize rebates. 3-4 in case one or two are cancelled or limits reduced.

I have a handful of CCs along with my everyday debit card linked to my checking. I’m not a big shopper and generally only use my CCs for the unexpected. I’m retired so that’s now mostly car repairs and medical bills until I can shift funds around to pay in full. Miles, hotel / restaurant points, and spending rewards generally do not inform my choice of cards.

I have had a CapitalOne VISA fixed at 7.9% for decades that I use for any charges I expect to carry for multiple months.

I have a fairly old MC that’s been through several bank changes and no longer has a working app - website access only. I now only use it as my designated card for gas and parking meters/garages and have it set to auto pay monthly.

I’ve recently acquired a CapOne MC (QS) for the convenience of using the CapitalOne app to access both my CapOne accounts. I’m still enjoying the 15-month 0% intro rate and will pay my current balance down to zero before the intro rate expires.

Lastly, I have AMEX and Discover cards to round out my wallet. I mostly use Disc to optimize my 5% cash back in any given quarter.

Given my retirement income, I’m unable to shop for/collect CCs these days but I’m very comfortable with the options I have created over the years. I charge as needed and pay down ASAP; my credit utilization generally hovers around or below 2%. I’ve managed to maintain a credit score of 800++ for many many years using these practices.

As noted, no one right answer, only individual right answers.

Great discussion !

Got my 1st card (Discover) right out of HS on the advice of my boss because work was going to move me often. Years later listening to various money advisors I added a Visa and MC-each from different banks. Still have each in their current forms through various bank buyouts but at least they give me decades of credit history. I’ve added a few rewards cards in the past 2 years just because the offers have been so darned good compared to the 1-1.5% I was getting on the old cards. Settling into middle age with my wife where expenses have kind of leveled off we rarely carry much more than $1000-1500 in total on each of our main cards (we only owe a little on the home and don’t have much left on car payments). We generally stick to the card with the best cash back at the time and I do tape reminders on each describing what they’re each best used for. Surprisingly over the years I’ve not once been threatened with any limit decreases. I do try to occasionally give each (not in general use) card $100 worth of charges a few times a year but from what I read I guess my time will come lol. Don’t care-I’ve probably got 6 or 7 different Visa or MCs all from different banks all with crazy high limits I’ll never use. 810-ish credit usually. I’m getting a new/used truck this fall and wife will probably follow next summer so we’ll see how that shakes out.

Three. One for biz expenses, one for personal expenses, and one with a low credit limit if I’m at all concerned that the vendor may be sketchy. All have rewards: one cash back, one with cash or travel miles, and one with just travel miles. Don’t care about the APR - pay in full every month.

I have had 2 credit cards since I was 21 and i have always PIF every month and taken maximum advantage of any benefits available… I recently swapped one out for the Amex Platinum and our other one is the Costco Visa. I pay for everything via CC as long as there is no “fee” to use the card. I have made a killing on it over the decades as I have always tailored our CC to our life needs at the time and optimizing the benefits. Amex is expensive and we are now traveling extensively for business and personal so it pays for itself many times over as I use just about every benefit available on the card which I track and shockingly it pays for itself many times over annually considering the annual fee.

I hv only one cc that I use for on line purchases because it is saer than using a debit card on line.

I pay the card off the same day I receive the bill.