There is no perfect number of credit cards to have. Once you begin exploring credit card offers, you’ll quickly notice how wide and varied the best credit cards are. From travel rewards to cash back and 0 percent APR offers on purchases, it may feel difficult to narrow your choices.

In some cases, carrying several credit cards makes a lot of sense. In others, you’re probably better off with a single credit card that meets all your needs.

Here’s what you need to know about having multiple credit cards, plus tips for how you can most effectively pair them to maximize your rewards.

Is it good to have multiple credit cards?

If you’re relatively new to credit, don’t feel like you need to have multiple cards — even if you think you could benefit. In the beginning, it makes sense to choose one card and stick with it as you establish positive credit habits.

On the flip side, however, having more than one credit card can actually benefit your credit score because it helps keep your credit utilization ratio low. Your credit utilization is the ratio of your total credit to your total debt, and it makes up 30 percent of your credit score. With that in mind, it is recommended to keep your credit utilization below 30 percent.

If you have one credit card and a high credit utilization, this probably means you are close to maxing out your credit card. However, having multiple credit cards increases the total amount of credit available to you, and if you can manage your spending, your credit utilization should go down.

For the most part, consumers usually lean into juggling multiple cards as they become more confident in their finances and improve their credit enough to qualify for the best credit card offers. You will know when the time is right to add to your credit profile, but multiple credit cards won’t hurt your credit score unless you use them irresponsibly.

When multiple credit cards makes sense

There are many situations in which you can benefit from having more than one credit card, and that’s especially true for rewards enthusiasts who are willing to get multiple credit cards from the same issuer.

Instances where it can make sense to have multiple credit cards include the following:

Reason to have multiple cards Advantages
You want to earn different types of rewards. Having multiple credit cards lets you rack up different types of rewards (cash back, travel rewards, etc.) you can’t always earn with one card.
You love credit card sign-up bonuses. Multiple cards yield multiple welcome offers, which can be worth hundreds of dollars each.
You want to lower your credit utilization. Having multiple credit cards increases your overall credit line, which can lower your credit utilization rate if you keep your spending consistent.
You want a diverse set of perks. Several credit cards can give you varied perks like automatic elite status at hotels, airport lounge access, Global Entry or TSA PreCheck credits, annual travel credits and more.
You want to pair multiple cards within a single rewards program. Having multiple cards that earn the same type of rewards can help you leverage each card’s unique earning rate and bonus categories.
You’re a business owner. Small business owners should have a separate business credit card for all their business-related spending and bills.

All these reasons aside, it’s important to note that multiple credit cards only makes sense for people whose finances are organized already, as well as those who pay their credit card balances in full each month.

Also, keep in mind that juggling a few credit cards can also mean juggling multiple annual fees. In theory, there’s nothing wrong with that, but you should make sure you are getting enough value in terms of credit card perks and rewards.

When having one credit card makes sense

If you find yourself stressed out at the mere thought of carrying more than one credit card, you’re certainly not alone. After all, many consumers prefer the simplicity of having one credit card and one bill to deal with — especially when one card meets a variety of needs and additional cards would just make life more complicated than it needs to be.

What are some situations where you might want just one credit card?

Reasons to have one credit card Advantages
You want 0 percent APR on purchases for a limited time. If you are more interested in a 0 percent APR offer rather than earning rewards, picking one card with the longest introductory offer you can find makes a lot of sense.
You plan to use a balance transfer credit card to consolidate debt. Paying off debt with a balance transfer is a lot easier when you don’t have multiple credit cards tempting you to spend.
You only want to earn cash back. If you want to focus on cash back only, picking a card with the highest earning rate can yield the most in rewards.
You are averse to annual fees. Having one credit card with no annual fee lets you avoid paying for the privilege of having a more perk-laden credit card.
You want to keep your finances simple. One credit card means one credit card bill and simpler finance management.

Risks of having multiple credit cards

There are benefits to having multiple credit cards with the right discipline, but there are also a few risks to keep in mind:

Too many credit card applications can ding your credit score

Everytime you apply for a new credit card, a hard inquiry is placed on your credit report. Lenders conduct a credit inquiry to determine what kind of borrower you are, and these inquiries can cause your credit score to drop a few points. With this in mind, it is always best to avoid applying for multiple credit cards in a short period of time. Do your research, and when you find the right credit card that will fit your financial needs, apply for just that card.

Your best bet is checking your credit score to see where you stand before you apply for any credit card, let alone several over time. Tools such as CardMatch™ can help narrow down your credit card search by telling you which cards you’re most likely to be approved for.

If you are denied, follow the appropriate steps to improve your chances of approval, and try again three to six months later.

Managing multiple lines of credit can lead to debt

When you have access to multiple lines of credit, the increased credit limit makes it far too easy to spend beyond your means. You should always treat your credit cards like you would cash in your pocket. You should only use your credit card when you have the means to pay your balance in full in order to avoid falling into unnecessary debt.

If you’ve struggled with debt in the past or are prone to charging up balances you can’t afford to pay off, you should probably avoid credit cards — especially any situation in which you have several to manage. When debt is a problem, sticking to cash or debit cards will likely leave you better off in the end.

Look out for high annual fees

Make sure you consider annual fees as you search for the right combination of credit cards. The more fees you pay each year, the more rewards and perks you’ll need to be earning to still come out ahead. If you don’t spend enough to earn a significant amount of rewards each year, or if you rarely travel and won’t be able to take advantage of many perks, it’s possible you may be better off with credit cards that don’t charge an annual fee. If you already have a card with an annual fee and you’re tired of paying it, try downgrading to a no-fee version instead of closing the account.

How many credit cards is too many?

It is hard to establish a magic number for this question because there simply isn’t one. Everyone’s financial needs are different, and while one credit card may be sufficient for some, others may justify having more than one to accommodate higher budgets.

What we know for certain is that having at least one credit card is a great way to build credit and take advantage of other added benefits such as rewards, convenience, fraud protection and more. If you feel you have your credit under control and you don’t see a need for additional credit cards, then you are probably right.

However, if you spend in an array of categories each month and your credit limit is restricting how much you can put on your credit card without harming your credit utilization, you may benefit from having multiple credit cards. Always pay your bills on time and in full, though, so you aren’t facing high interest charges.

The bottom line

How many credit cards to have is a personal decision, but it’s one you shouldn’t take lightly. After all, you’ll do best with multiple cards if you sign up for options that complement each other.

If you want to get the best rewards from multiple credit cards, consider picking a few cards with different earning rates in categories you spend the most in. You can also maximize your rewards by pairing cards within a single program that lets you pool points before transferring to your favorite airline or hotel program.

If it all seems like too much, that’s perfectly okay. Having one credit card can still be immensely helpful, whether your goal is earning rewards or maintaining access to an emergency line of credit. If you decide to have one credit card, just make sure it’s a good one.