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6 good reasons to carry multiple credit cards

How many credit cards should you have?

Many people are afraid to have multiple cards. Some are afraid that they'll lose track of the different bills each month and fall behind on their payments. Others fear that the temptation of high credit limits will entice them to overspend. And some people fear that creditors, upon seeing multiple open credit lines, will be less likely to lend them money because the creditors suspect they're more likely to fall into debt.

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Americans seem to be split on the issue of having one credit card or multiple cards -- in fact, 51 percent of the U.S. population has two or more credit cards, according to the Center for Media Research.

Emily Davidson, a credit expert with Credit.com, says people often ask, "What's the magic number of credit cards I should have?" According to Davidson, there is no clear-cut answer. "You should have as many cards as you feel you can manage responsibly."

For responsible people, however, there are a number of benefits to having multiple credit cards.

Financial safety
A simple reason to keep multiple credit cards is safety. If a person has only one credit card, there are a number of problems that can arise.

Several credit experts interviewed say consumers should keep one credit card with a zero balance in a safe-deposit box or other safe place outside of their own home or wallet. This way, if your wallet or purse is stolen or your house burns down, you'll have a credit card to use while you wait to have the damaged or stolen cards replaced.

Unconventional wisdom
Contrary to popular opinion, there are some good reasons to hold more than the often recommended one to three credit cards. Here are six good reasons you might want to maintain several accounts.
6 good reasons for multiple credit cards
1. Financial safety
2. Rewards
3. Credit score aid
4. Staggered bill paying
5. Easier bookkeeping
6. Leverage

A second safety reason would be for use exclusively for online purchases. While online shopping is convenient, one of its primary pitfalls is the possibility of identity theft. A separate card designated for such purchases makes it easier to spot fraudulent activity and could help limit the damage if you ever are a victim of online identity theft.

Multiple credit cards also give consumers a back-up in case their primary card is denied. Recently, Davidson traveled to Europe with a friend, who carried only an ATM card and a Discover card. The friend's ATM card was blocked (because the card company overzealously suspected fraudulent activity) and her only Discover card was not accepted by many establishments.

Rewards
The most fun aspect of having multiple credit cards is the rewards. These days, consumers can get cards that give reward points for each dollar spent.

Maya Held, a professor at Marquette University, is so fond of the perks provided by reward cards that she currently has more than 15 credit cards. Her array of cards gives her gift certificates to Amazon.com and Target, among other places. When she reaches enough reward points on her Mypoints.com credit card, she gets to choose a gift card from a number of different establishments (as opposed to getting rewards for just Amazon.com or Target).

Scott Bilker, creator of Debtsmart.com, likes to use his reward points for movies. Bilker and his family of five use the rewards for movies once or twice a month -- including popcorn and drinks. "We haven't paid for a movie in over two years," says Bilker, who says that he still has $389 worth of movie theater gift certificates to use.

 
 
Next: "Having multiple credit cards means you have options."
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