Fistfuls of Credit Cards: How Many Is Too Many?

About 14 percent of U.S. consumers have more than 10 credit cards, and one in seven use at least half of their available credit, according to a recent Experian National Score Index study.

Overall, the study found that U.S. consumers have an average of four credit cards, and just over half--51 percent--have at least two credit cards. New Hampshire and New Jersey have the highest percentage of consumers with fistfuls of cards, with one in five consumers in these states having at least 10 credit card accounts, according to the credit-reporting bureau.

Credit Card Use Most Critical

More critical than the number of cards is how they're used. About 14 percent of U.S. card holders use at least half of their available credit, which, experts say, is too much credit usage. These consumers have credit scores of 645, compared to the overall national average of 674, according to Experian.

Credit Cards: How Many Should You Have?

There is no precise answer, but the guideline is to maintain only the number of cards that you can handle responsibly. Before you fill out another credit card application, evaluate whether you can keep track of purchases and payments.

Two Credit Cards Better Than One

It's not a bad idea to have more than one credit card as a matter of safety. A VISA card can serve as a backup in case your Discover card isn't accepted at an establishment when you're traveling, for instance. Some experts recommend keeping a card with a zero balance stashed away in a safe place in case your wallet or purse is stolen. That way you'll have some credit while you're waiting for the stolen cards to be replaced. Beware, though, that some card issuers cancel cards automatically if they're unused for a certain period of time. If that's the case, make sure you use the card periodically to keep the account active.

Credit Card Debt: Avoid Maxing Out Accounts

Regardless of the number of cards, avoid maxing them out, which can hurt your credit score. Lenders like to see that you can manage credit accounts by paying off debt in reasonable periods and paying bills on time, but they see red flags when you use a large percentage of your credit. Experts recommend keeping your balances under 30 percent of your credit limits.

Fistfuls of Credit Cards: How Many Is Too Many? was written by Barbara Marquand, a writer for, a website where you can learn about secured credit cards for building credit and can compare cards with the lowest rates.

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