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Credit card use in U.S. cities

By Leslie McFadden ·
Monday, August 9, 2010
Posted: 4 pm ET

Pop quiz: Residents of which major U.S. city have the highest average monthly credit card balance?

It's not New York. New Yorkers hold more open cards than folks in any other U.S. metropolitan area, but don't have the highest average monthly balance to show for it. A new study from Experian shows that out of the top 20 U.S. metropolitan areas, Phoenix residents own the fewest number of open credit cards, with an average of 2.78 cards, while New Yorkers have the highest number, with an average of 3.77 cards. Yet people in Atlanta and Columbus, Ohio, owe the most on revolving accounts, with an average balance of $6,753 and $6,734, respectively. San Francisco residents have the lowest average monthly balance, at $5,323.

Experian researchers also found that in most of the cities studied, the number of open bank credit cards exceeded that of store cards, except for Pittsburgh, Miami, Columbus and Atlanta residents.

Should you have more than one credit card?

In the study, city dwellers had three to four open cards on average. Yet is it smart to own more than one credit card?

There are several reasons why it makes sense to carry multiple credit cards, such as having a backup in case one card isn't accepted, or to benefit from several credit card rewards programs. You also might be glad to have other cards should one issuer close down your account or slash your credit limit. In addition, having unused credit cards helps lower your debt-to-limit ratio, which can boost your credit score.

Then again, having more than one card means keeping track of additional due dates, fees and balances. Having so much available credit can also create temptation to spend, so having more than one card isn't for the fiscally irresponsible.

How many cards are in your wallet? Share your opinion on how many is too many.

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Debra James
August 10, 2010 at 2:13 pm

I have 4 open bank credit cards; one of them I opened for my former home business. I had a couple of other accounts, but they were closed by the issuer last year, because I didn't use them. The only problem I have with that is one of the cards was my oldest account, and had a relatively large available balance of $12,800. I know my credit score took a hit for a few months after those cards were closed, because my average card age and overall credit availability were lessened. Although I was not in the market for any new credit, I think that there should be a special notation on credit reports when cards are closed due to inactivity, and the credit score calculation formula adjusted not to reflect a higher debt to available credit ratio.

I pay off all of my credit cards every month, except for one where I took advantage of a balance transfer promotion for 0% for 18 months and a one time 3% transaction fee. For me, this was more convenient and less expensive than trying to opening a HELOC. I made one phone call and received a check in about 7 days, and didn't have to pay: an application fee, for an appraisal, points, or closing fees. I am using that money to add a new bathroom to my home. I have set up automatic monthly payments that will pay off the credit card before the 18th month. This is my second time doing this for a major purchase, and it works well for me, because I get to keep my savings liquid and earning interest; effectively reducing the balance transfer transaction fee.