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How to manage multiple credit cards

Keep track of payments and rewards for each of your cards.

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It may seem convenient to have different cards for different purposes but it can also be challenging to manage them all – and it may cost you more in the long run. At worst, multiple credit cards could lead to debt. But having multiple cards could earn you rewards and save you money.

This guide looks at the different reasons people use multiple cards, how to manage them and what to do if you want to cancel some of them.

How to manage multiple credit cards

If you have or want to use several credit cards, keeping the following tips in mind will help you make the most of each account.

  • Give each card a purpose
    To get the most benefit from your cards and their perks, pay attention to where they shine. For example, use an airline credit card to earn points redeemable for flights or seat upgrades, but use another card with no foreign transaction fees for your actual travel overseas.
  • Be deliberate with timing
    If you make a purchase that you know you’ll need more time to pay off, use a card that has the lowest APR. Focus on paying those off, without making any additional purchases.
  • Change your statement due dates
    If you struggle to keep up with monthly due dates on all your cards, some providers let you request payments dates. Some people prefer to pay all their credit cards on the same date. Others like to space it out over the month. It could be helpful to align due dates with the date they get paid.
  • Set up automatic payments
    Autopay is a set-it-and-forget-it program that can help you stay current on your monthly payments. You can either pay the full amount, or pay what you can afford. Making consistent on-time payments helps build your credit.
  • Regularly review your credit card costs
    Having multiple credit cards can be expensive when you factor in annual fees, interest charges, and other costs that could apply for each account. If you can’t justify the expenses of one or more of your cards, consider canceling them and sticking with the ones that are working for you.
  • Check your credit score
    Multiple credit cards can work for or against your credit score. On one hand, if all your credit accounts are in good standing, having access to a large amount of credit could boost your score. However, carrying high balances on multiple accounts could negatively affect your credit.
  • Compare credit cards
    Multiple credit cards can work for or against your credit score. On one hand, if all your credit accounts are in good standing, having access to a large amount of credit could boost your score. However, carrying high balances on multiple accounts could negatively affect your credit.

Compare credit cards

Name Product Filter values Rewards Purchase APR Annual fee
Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express
6% on select US streaming services, 3% on transit and US gas stations, 6% at US supermarkets on up to $6,000 annually, then 1% after that and on all other purchases
0% intro for the first 12 months (then 13.99% to 23.99% variable)
$0 intro annual fee for the first year ($95 thereafter)
Perfect for families: Get up to 6% on everyday purchases and a welcome offer worth $300. This heavy-hitter rewards card has uncontested value. Rates & fees
Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express
2% at US gas stations and select US department stores, 3% at US supermarkets on up to $6,000 per year, then 1% after that and on all other purchases
0% intro for the first 15 months (then 13.99% to 23.99% variable)
$0
Get 3% cash back on groceries on up to $6,000 annually (then 1%) with no annual fee. This is a simple and effective rewards card. Rates & fees
Chase Freedom Flex℠
5% back in rotating categories up to $1,500 combined each activated quarter (then 1%), 5% on travel purchased through Chase, 3% on dining and drugstores, and 1% on all other purchases
0% intro for the first 15 months (then 14.99% to 23.74% variable)
$0
Get up to 5% cashback in rotating and newly added everyday categories. The refreshed Freedom Flex card has lots of earning potential.
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
5x points on Lyft, 2x points on travel and dining and 1x points on all other purchases
15.99% to 22.99% variable
$95
Earn a huge signup bonus worth $1,000 with this popular travel card. Combine with other Chase Ultimate Rewards cards for even greater value.
Citi® Diamond Preferred® Card
N/A
0% intro for the first 18 months (then 14.74% to 24.74% variable)
$0
An impressive 18 months intro APR on balance transfers and purchases, as well as no annual fee make this one of the top 0% APR cards available.
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Compare up to 4 providers

How many credit cards can you have?

Technically, you aren’t limited in how many credit card accounts you can have open. When you apply for a new card, an issuer is looking at factors like your debt-to-income ratio and credit score when deciding whether you qualify. The number of credit cards you have doesn’t necessarily affect this.

There are a few caveats however. Some issuers will limit your ability to apply for a new card if you’ve opened too many accounts within a certain period of time. The Chase 5/24 rule is one example: you can’t open a Chase card if you’ve opened 5 card accounts within the last 24 months.

Some banks will also limit the number of cards you can have open with them. Discover only allows two cards per cardholder, for example.

Is it good to have multiple credit cards?

Having multiple credit cards can be useful, especially if you pay your balance on time and use the perks. However, if you find it hard to pay your balance on time, or if the annual fee is too high, having multiple credit cards could be a liability. Make sure you weigh the pros and cons before you get another card.

Why do people have multiple credit cards?

There are many reasons someone might end up with more than one credit card. Usually, it comes down to why they have chosen a particular product, with different credit cards designed to suit specific needs.

Reasons to have multiple credit cards

Here are just a few of the benefits of having several cards in your wallet:

  • Earn rewards through different programs
  • Earn more frequent flyer miles
  • Take advantage of bonus point offers
  • Pay down credit card debt faster with a 0% balance transfer rate
  • Save money on spending with a 0% purchase rate offer
  • Take advantage of different complimentary extras available with premium credit cards
  • Pay no foreign transaction fees when traveling or shopping online with an international retailer

Reasons to limit your credit cards

There are also some reasons you might choose to limit the number of cards you own:

  • It can prove difficult to juggle multiple cards. Forgetting payments can hurt your credit score.
  • Applying for cards can lower your credit score. Applying for credit cards results in a hard pull on your credit, which affects your credit score. Applying for multiple cards in succession can put a big dent in your score.
  • Having a lot of credit is tempting. You might spend outside of your means if you’re not disciplined with your credit line.

Credit card consolidation

If you find yourself struggling to manage multiple credit card debts, or if annual fees are becoming too expensive, consider consolidating your accounts. If you have cards with no balance, you can simply close those accounts. But if you want to close an account with a balance, there are two main options for credit card consolidation:

  • Consolidate your debts with a new balance transfer card. Balance transfer credit cards offer a low or 0% interest rate for existing card debts when you move them to the new account. You can consolidate several cards with a balance transfer, as long as you have a credit limit to support it. Then you can cancel your old cards so that you have fewer accounts to manage and pay. To make sure this new card works for you, check the purchase APR and the annual fee.
  • Transferring card balances to an existing account. If you don’t want a new credit card and are looking to downsize your wallet, you can transfer balances to a card with a lower APR to one you already have. Just call the issuer with the lower APR and request a balance transfer. You may not get the 0% rate you could get with a new card, and may end up paying a 3% to 5% transfer fee.

Bottom line

Multiple credit cards can offer a wide range of benefits, but keep each account in good standing and cancel any that aren’t working for you.

If you still haven’t found the right card to complement your wallet, check out other credit card options and compare them.

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