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A credit score is like a financial footprint. A good credit score can offer many possibilities: from better insurance rates and nicer housing options to easy loan approvals and higher credit limits.

However, achieving a good score can seem complicated at times. If you wonder how many credit cards you can use to build credit, you have landed at the right place.

Before we explain why you don’t need more than one card, let’s first see how credit cards work:

How Credit Cards Work

Credit cards are used to judge a person’s responsibility. When one uses a credit card mindfully, i.e. borrows only the amount they can comfortably return, their credit score improves.

On the other hand, if a person borrows more money than they can pay back, their credit score drops. The credit score can drop especially low if someone uses their credit card for luxury purchases but doesn’t pay back that money. Hence, besides showing responsibility or irresponsibility, a credit score also shows one’s purchase patterns, preferences, and spending habits.

Generally, high scores also result in a higher FICO score. A high FICO score tells lenders how likely it is for the borrower to pay the amount back.

Now that you know how credit cards work, let’s find out how many credit cards you need to build a good score:

How One Card Is Usually Enough to Build a Good Score

Contrary to a common belief, having multiple credit cards does not increase your credit score. Moreover, owning just one credit card can bring greater benefits.

Building Credit on One Card is Easier

Yes, that’s true. Building credit on one card can be easier than with multiple credit cards. See, multiple cards bring you more sources of borrowing money. But even if you know you can return the money to each source you’re borrowing from, it is only a hassle.

It takes time and energy to acquire a new credit card. Hence, acquiring an additional source of borrowing money does not look good on your record. Also, you must note that your credit card issuer may deduct a few points from your credit score when you get a new credit card. Though you can earn back those points easily, it is considered better to have one source of borrowing money than multiple sources.

Increasing Credit Limit is An Easy Alternative

Instead of securing multiple sources of borrowing money, you can increase your credit card’s limit if you require a greater amount available as credit. Increasing an existing card’s limit is easier than acquiring a new credit card.

While some credit companies check your credit scores before increasing your limit, many don’t. So even if you’re new to building a credit score, you can easily get a greater credit limit.

However, some credit card issuers can deduct a few points for increasing your card’s limit. But these points are usually fewer than those deducted for acquiring a new credit card.

Increasing the Number of Accounts on Credit Report Helps

Instead of increasing the number of credit cards in your bank account, your goal should be to increase the number of accounts on your credit report. You can achieve this by understanding the credit account types, sometimes called credit forms.

Most credit cards have only a single type of account: the revolving account. A revolving account carries money that you borrow and return. But an installment account is another common credit card account that many people utilize. Installment accounts are for loans that you promise to pay back in installments.

Besides these, you can have a student loan account, mortgage account, auto loan account, line of credit, personal loan account, etc. Adding credit accounts useful to you and utilizing them according to the terms and conditions makes building up a credit score easier. It works because it increases your payment history for different reasons.

But you shouldn’t sign up for credit accounts if you don’t need them. Signing up for credit accounts without utilizing them can hurt your overall credit reports that calculate your credit score.

When sticking with a single credit card, choose one with a beneficial reward program. Many credit card companies offer certain rewards or rewards cards to users for making purchases worth pre-decided amounts. Users can also earn discounts and cashback through some cards.

Even though one credit card is usually enough, specific financial requirements may encourage some to get more than one credit card. If you already own multiple credit cards and are looking to improve your credit score while keeping all of them, here’s what you can do:

How to Build Credit with Multiple Cards

Owning too many cards can help build credit scores if used wisely. The key to using multiple cards to build scores is to keep them all in rotation.

For example, you don’t want to use one card until its limit ends and only then begin using the other card as it won’t be helpful and might result in a negative score. Instead, you want to utilize all cards equally or according to their credit limit.

The goal here should be to reduce the credit utilization ratio compared to the available amount. You can easily reduce the utilization rate under the preferred limit of thirty percent with too many cards. You can even bring it down to the ideal ten percent limit if you have too many cards. This might require some extra management and tracking of finances and purchases, but it can be worth the result in the long run.

If you don’t own more than one card, we recommend not signing up for another. However, if you believe more credit cards can help you better due to your specific financial scenario, try to limit the number of cards you want to acquire.

It is wise to keep a gap of at least six months between two new card applications. Applying for several new cards over a short time span can significantly harm your credit score.

Should You Close Extra Credit Accounts or Cards?

You can consider closing credit accounts or credit cards if they aren’t serving you. Closing credit accounts or cards does not negatively impact your score or FICO score. Instead, fewer credit accounts can be more manageable. But paying off the credit on any account or card is essential before closing it.

However, we recommend making at least a five-year financial plan before closing down a credit card account or credit card. If you believe you might need it within five years, it is better to maintain it than close and reopen a card.

How to Build a Credit Score without Opening an Account

If you don’t have an account yet, don’t worry! You can still build a credit score.

Pay Back Car or Student Loan

You can build a credit score by paying off your student loan installments as a student. Even if these installments are the lowest possible amount, regular payments for the student loan will help build your credit score. Similarly, you can also pay back your car loan. Many banks allow car loans despite the absence of credit card accounts.

Both these loans allow you to build up a credit history before opening an account.

Be an Authorized User

Becoming an authorized user of someone with a good score is another practical way of building a credit score without owning an account of your own. To earn credit this way, you will need to earn the trust of a close family member or friend to make you an authorized user of their account.

If someone chooses to let you be an authorized user on their account, they become responsible for how you use it since they essentially lend you their credit history. Therefore, it may be beneficial to discuss the terms with the primary account holder in detail. If they are not comfortable lending you a card linked to their account, you can also offer for them to keep the card with themselves and only utilize it in a way that helps build their credit score.

But before signing up as an authorized user, ensure that the primary holder’s account report shows the authorized user separately. This can vary from bank to bank. But you will only benefit from becoming an authorized user on an account report that shows your transaction record separately.

After a year of being an authorized user, you may be able to apply for a credit account.

Summary

There is no one way of building a good credit score. Each individual’s financial situation and requirements may be unique, which can dictate the best strategy. However, one can only successfully develop a good strategy when they have enough knowledge and understanding to achieve a good credit score.

Therefore, it is essential that you go through your credit reports thoroughly, keep tabs on your account balances, track your expenditure, finances, and credit history, and stay updated on your account’s policies.

About the author

Chris Muller picture
Total Articles: 231
Chris has an MBA with a focus in advanced investments and has been writing about all things personal finance since 2015. He’s also built and run a digital marketing agency, focusing on content marketing, copywriting, and SEO, since 2016. You can connect with Chris on Twitter.