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Does having two credit cards help build credit faster?

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Credit cards are a useful financial tool. Once you open one and have used it responsibly for a while, you might be wondering if you should get more. You may be pondering the credit score impact of having two cards.

Reader Linda has a query after getting a second card with the aim of boosting her credit score. She writes, “I am trying to improve my credit, I am 69 years young. I am with Credit Karma to keep track of my credit score and to improve my credit standing. I was told to get a credit card to boost my credit score. Which in fact it did. I applied for a second credit card to boost it higher. It was for a Master card. No hidden fees of any kind. I was approved and never received a card until I called them.

“After a month or two they sent me a credit card with Merrick Bank which has ridiculous interest rates and payback fees even if you’re not using the card. It had a $500 credit limit. They are taking money off the card for the fees that I’m not paying because I didn’t order this card. It has ruined my credit score for something that I did not order and do not want at age 69. Why would I want a credit card that has 37.9 percent interest rate? I’m not using it. The card has been shredded so what else can I do?”

Benefits of having two credit cards

There are some benefits to having multiple credit cards. For one, there is the credit utilization aspect. This refers to how much of your credit available you are using. For instance, if you have one card with a $5000 credit limit and you carry a $2000 balance, your credit utilization would be 40 percent. If you had the same balance and a second card offering a $2,000 credit line, your credit utilization would dip to 28.5 percent.

This credit utilization factor accounts for as much as 30 percent of your credit score. And a credit utilization of under 30 percent is deemed ideal. You can see how your score might get a boost if your credit utilization goes down because you have a bigger total line of credit to draw on with two cards. Of course, this depends on your not racking up additional debt because of the additional credit available with the second card.

Another advantage with two cards is that if one card is stolen or misplaced you will have a back-up card to fall back on, until your card is replaced. And you could also get complementary features in a second card, such as rewards your one card doesn’t offer.

Building credit

Merrick Bank describes itself as specializing in credit programs that help people “looking to rebuild or build their credit.” By reporting card activity regularly to the major credit reporting bureaus, the bank provides input that could help raise your credit profile if you are a responsible card user.

Considering that its target audience poses high credit risk, the bank charges steep interest rates. For its unsecured Platinum Visa card, all-in interest rates are higher than 20 percent. The card’s initial credit line ranges from $550 to $1350, which could double after seven months of responsible card use.

For the privilege of being approved for a card with your bad credit status, you will be charged an annual fee of up to $72, along with a one-time account set-up fee of $75. These fees would be directly taken off your available credit line, so that it would be $147 lower than what you are actually approved for from the outset.

Linda, you will remain responsible for your Merrick Bank card if you just shred it. If you are only racking up fees on it, and don’t find it useful, you should contact the bank and ask to have the card canceled. Make sure to clear up any fees you have due so that your credit does not get further tarnished. And ask for a written confirmation of this cancellation.

If you would like a higher credit line, you could talk to the issuer of your first card to see if it will raise it. If you have a good history with this issuer, that would be something to consider.

And if you feel that you were baited with one card and switched over to a Merrick card without your knowledge, you could also put in a complaint with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau about this.

The bottom line

Having more than one credit card could help boost your credit utilization, and therefore your credit score. There are other benefits too. However, the key to credit building is not necessarily how many cards you have, but how responsibly you use them. Linda, good luck to you!

Contact me at pthangavelu@redventures.com with your credit card-related questions.

Written by
Poonkulali Thangavelu
Senior Reporter
Poonkulali Thangavelu is a senior writer and columnist at CreditCards.com and Bankrate, addressing debt and credit card-related legal and regulatory issues.
Edited by
Senior Editor