Key takeaways

  • Having multiple cards can help you build credit more quickly, but your focus should remain on using your card — or cards — responsibly for the best impact on your credit.
  • From improving your credit utilization to giving you a credit cushion should an emergency strike, multiple cards can certainly help improve your credit.
  • Holding numerous credit cards could tempt you to overspend or run up your balances, so be diligent about managing your budget no matter how many cards you have.

Using a student or secured credit card is a common first step toward building credit, but you may be wondering whether having multiple cards can help you reach your credit score goals faster. While it’s possible having two credit cards (or more) can help build credit quickly, a more reliable strategy is to focus on responsible financial habits and card management. Making on-time payments and keeping your credit card balances low can be far more impactful over the long run.

What makes up a credit score?

Your credit score calculation is based on several factors that include:

  • Payment history — 35 percent. Making on-time payments is the most important factor for your credit score, even if you’re only able to make the minimum payment.
  • Credit utilization — 30 percent. Credit utilization is the amount of credit you use versus the amount available to you. Many experts suggest keeping this number below 30 percent. For example, if you have a single card with a $1,000 credit limit, try to keep your outstanding balance below $300 — and pay it off as soon as you can.
  • Length of credit history — 15 percent. Credit history simply refers to how long credit has been extended to you. In general, a longer credit history is typically considered better.
  • Credit mix — 10 percent. This refers to the different types of credit accounts you have, such as revolving debt (like credit cards) and installment debt (such as a mortgage or personal loan). Don’t feel pressured to take out a loan if you don’t have one, however, since having credit cards alone can still help you build a solid credit score.
  • New credit — 10 percent. This piece of your credit score considers how often you apply for new credit. Having too many new credit requests can hurt your credit score, so waiting three to six months between credit card applications is typically advised.

Understanding how those factors influence your score can help you decide if carrying more than one card might have a positive impact.

How does having multiple cards affect your credit score?

Having multiple credit cards can impact your credit score in both positive and negative ways, which is why you should carefully consider all aspects before making your decision.

Positive impacts of having multiple cards

Having multiple credit cards offers several advantages. For starters, your credit utilization could actually decrease. Since you’re being extended more credit, you’re (hopefully) using less of your overall credit limit — provided you are keeping your balances low. Because credit utilization is such a major factor in your credit score, lowering your overall credit usage could provide your score with a nice boost.

Carrying more than one credit card also gives you a larger financial cushion, which can also help your credit score. If an emergency situation arises and you need to use a credit card, having more than one card provides additional options and greater access to credit.

Using multiple credit cards also allows you to take advantage of perks and benefits that a single card may not offer. This may include things like added travel protections, no foreign transaction fees or a lengthy 0 percent introductory APR on purchases or balance transfers. If your cards earn cash back, points or miles, using your cards strategically can help maximize your rewards haul.

Possible negative impacts of having multiple cards

While it can offer many advantages, there are risks to your credit score involved with taking on multiple credit cards.

The negative impacts can start with the application. Applying for a credit card typically involves lenders making a hard inquiry on your credit report. This can temporarily decrease your score by a few points. While it might not be too major, even a few points decrease could mean poorer terms if you’re also applying for a mortgage or new auto loan.

While not an impact of having a second card directly, adding another card to your wallet could encourage you to spend beyond your means. Having access to more credit means you have a greater opportunity to take on debt. Not being able to pay off the debt in a timely fashion can have major consequences for your financial health and, yes, your credit score. Additionally, carrying too much debt on your cards can increase your credit utilization ratio — which can have a negative impact on your credit score.

Lastly, having multiple credit cards requires you to stay extremely organized and vigilant. You’ll need to keep track of multiple balances, due dates and more. Being late or missing payments can cause your credit score to plummet, while taking on too much debt can also have negative effects on your credit score and your overall financial health.

Should you have multiple credit cards?

Having multiple credit cards isn’t as impactful as how you handle those cards, but the potential benefits of having an additional card often outweigh the drawbacks. When used responsibly, many cards can be a great addition to your financial toolbox — offering rewards or benefits that can protect your purchases and help you save money over the long run.

For example, the Wells Fargo Active Cash® Card offers 2 percent cash rewards on all purchases, a welcome bonus of $200 in cash rewards (after making $500 in purchases during the first 3 months) and other practical perks like cellphone protection. This benefit provides up to $600 in reimbursements per claim if your cell phone gets damaged or stolen (terms and deductible apply).

Remember, not all credit cards are right for every purchase. For instance, some credit cards are better for travel purchases than others. A card like the Wells Fargo Active Cash charges a 3 percent foreign currency conversion fee. However a card like the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card comes with no foreign transaction fees and a slew of important travel protections — like trip cancellation insurance, trip interruption insurance, trip delay reimbursement and more.

Having another credit card may help you with other financial goals, too. If you’re planning on making a major purchase or are having trouble paying off a credit card balance, using a card with a 0 percent introductory APR on balance transfers or purchases can be a great way to avoid costly interest charges. Many of the best balance transfer cards come with introductory offers ranging from 12 to 21 months — although they often require a good to excellent credit score to qualify.

Steps to take to increase your credit

As overwhelming as building credit may feel, one of the best ways to positively impact your credit is to stay focused on good financial habits rather than worrying about how many cards you have. Instead of trying quick credit score fixes, focus on making payments on time, keeping your balances low (or paid off) and avoiding multiple credit card or loan applications in a short period of time. Focusing on positive actions like these can increase your credit score and help you build a positive credit history over time.

There are other ways you can increase your credit score, too. Services like Experian Boost allow your on-time utility bill payments to show on your credit report and can quickly improve your credit score if you’ve maintained those payments. Becoming an authorized user on a trusted friend or relative’s credit card is another option. This can provide another potential source of on-time payments for your credit score calculation.

The bottom line

Building your credit score is a marathon and not a sprint, so you should tread carefully before taking on another credit card simply for the sake of boosting your score. Instead, focus on building responsible financial habits with the one card for a greater credit score impact. However, if the benefits of having an additional credit card — such as a potential long-term credit score boost, access to additional travel and purchase protections or earning a greater amount of rewards — help you achieve your other financial goals, then it may be worth it to have multiple credit cards.