Credit, it’s a tricky thing to master, yet it’s a crucial component of life. How you maintain your credit will determine many aspects of your life like where you can afford to live, which vehicles you drive, if you can start a business, etc. Credit cards are a small component of your overall financial portfolio, but it is still important to maintain healthy credit card debt. Accruing a massive amount of credit card debt will negatively affect your FICO credit score and by extension your entire life.
Whether you’re beginning to build your credit score or looking to improve your current credit situation, it’s crucial to understand how credit cards work. Reports show that nearly 380 million people have open credit accounts in the U.S. alone. Additionally, 1/3 of Americans own more than one credit card.
The idea of owning more than one credit card might terrify some people, especially if you’ve ever incurred a huge sum of credit card debt. But owning more than one credit card is potentially beneficial for some people. In fact, having more than one credit card can help you manage your FICO credit score and improve your finances if managed correctly.
HOW DO CREDIT CARDS AFFECT MY FICO CREDIT SCORE?
Before you decide to apply for another credit card, you first need to understand how ONE credit card affects your credit score. Plenty of people hesitate to have more than one credit card for fear of running into massive amounts of credit card debt. While this hesitation is natural, owning more than one credit card is helpful to your overall FICO credit score, because owning more than one credit card helps keep your debt utilization ratio lower.
The debt utilization ratio, also known as the credit utilization ratio, is a figure used to determine your revolving debt, it’s usually expressed as a percentage. The best way to calculate your credit utilization rate is to take the amount of your current revolving credit and divide that amount by your credit limit.
For example, you have one credit card with a $5,000 credit limit, however, your monthly purchases amount to $3,750 on average. Your credit utilization rate would be 75 percent. A credit utilization rate of 75 percent is extremely high and will negatively affect your credit score. Experts recommend keeping your credit utilization rate to 30 percent and below, to maintain a strong credit score.
How important is it to keep your credit utilization rate low? Credit utilization rates can impact up to 30 percent of your overall FICO credit score so it’s incredibly important to keep this number as low as possible.
At this point, you may be thinking to yourself, how unfair it is that your credit score suffers because you’re cautious about accruing more credit card debt? True, it’s a tricky system, but credit experts contend there are ways to keep your credit utilization rate low without going into massive credit card debt.
HOW DOES HAVING MORE THAN ONE CREDIT CARD HELP MY FICO SCORE?
Although it sounds counterintuitive, owning more than one credit card helps keep your credit utilization rate low enough to help your overall credit score. However, experts suggest using 30 percent of your available credit on any given card at a time.
In other words, instead of using one card to make your $3,750, spreading that amount between different credit cards will keep your credit utilization rate low.
However, there are a few guidelines to follow to make this work. First, you’ll need to keep track of all payment due dates, late fees and interests add up quickly and negatively impact your credit score. Second, be sure to pay each credit card bill in full each month, again, it’s the interest and fees that make owning credit cards an expensive hassle.
Additionally, take the time to learn and understand credit card interest. Before applying for more credit cards make sure you understand the complexities of your annual percentage rate (APR), learn what a good interest rate is, and other rewards that certain credit cards offer.
SO, HOW MANY CREDIT CARDS ARE TOO MANY CREDIT CARDS?
Truthfully, there isn’t a solid answer. Some will be disappointed to learn that there is no “one-size-fits-all” solution. Because everyone’s credit situation is different, there isn’t a formula that works for everyone. There are, however, a few recommendations by experts:
• Avoid getting too many credit cards in a short period.
• If you can’t afford to pay your current bills, having more than one credit card is probably a bad idea.
• If you don’t plan on using your credit card (s) don’t waste your time.
• Keep a variety of credit cards so you can earn the maximum amount of rewards and benefits from each.
Again, there isn’t a magical number of credit cards you should own, but experts suggest that 2 or 3 credit cards are a good amount of credit cards to keep on hand. Not only is this amount manageable but 2-3 credit cards can protect you in emergencies. Whether it’s an unexpected medical bill, car repair, or general emergency a backup credit card (or two) is extremely useful in these situations.