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It's smart to figure out how to earn the highest credit scores possible. Good credit has many benefits—like helping you qualify for valuable rewards credit cards and other types of financing. So, if you're wondering about the perfect number of credit cards to help you achieve an excellent credit score, you're on the right track. However, there's actually no such thing as a perfect number of credit cards. Instead, the right number of cards for you is likely different than the right number for someone else. Here's why.
Why There's No Such Thing as the Right Number of Credit Cards
You can earn a good credit score with 20 credit cards or with a single account. In general, credit scoring models like FICO and VantageScore pay little attention to the number of accounts you have open. How you manage your credit cards is what matters.
There is, however, an important exception to note here. If you have no credit cards, you might hold your credit score back.
Consider FICO Scores as an example. Ten percent of your FICO® Score is based on the mix of account types that appear on your credit report. So, if your credit report lacks revolving accounts like credit cards or lines of credit, you may not earn as many points in this scoring category as you could otherwise.
Related: Are Store Credit Cards Worth It?
How Many Credit Cards Do People With Excellent Credit Have Open?
Consumers who earn high credit scores are often called high score achievers, and looking at the credit behaviors of this group of people can be helpful. There's no magic formula that will help you earn an excellent credit score. But it is possible to copy some of the habits of people who have had credit score success.
According to a recent study from Experian, people with the highest credit score of 850 have on average:
- Number of credit cards: 5.9
- Card balance: $2,558
- Delinquent accounts: 0
Based on the Experian data, people with a sky-high credit score of 850 have about six credit cards on average. For some consumers that might be too many and for some, too few. But the key here is in the other two data points. These high score achievers are using their credit cards—with an average balance of almost $2,600—but they pay that bill on time all the time. That means they never have delinquent accounts, or the interest charges or credit dings that come with late payments.
Other Credit Score Factors
Some other factors that influence credit score include:
- Credit utilization
- Payment history
- Account balance
High score achievers watch their credit utilization, which is the percentage of your credit card limits that you use. For example, if you have one account with a $1,000 limit and you owe $500, your credit utilization rate is 50%. But if you have five cards (each with a $1,000 limit) and you owe $500, your total utilization rate is only 10%.
Payment history is even more important than credit utilization. People with high credit scores pay their credit cards on time.
Finally, the balances on your credit cards can also impact your credit score. Lower balances tend to be better. But, again, this detail doesn't impact your credit score nearly as much as your payment history and your overall credit utilization rate.
How to Find Your Perfect Credit Card Number
There's no minimum or maximum number of credit cards you should have to earn an excellent credit score. Some people open five or even 10 new credit cards per year to take advantage of sign-up bonuses and other perks and still keep a FICO® Score in the 800s.
You should, however, figure out the right number of credit cards for you. To figure out the perfect number of credit cards for you, ask yourself the following questions:
- How many credit cards am I comfortable with? If you don't have experience managing a card or have had trouble with credit card debt, it's probably best to start small. But if you have a good track record managing credit, multiple cards could make sense. Even cards with big annual fees can work if you can take advantage of enough of the cards' perks.
- Do I have enough cards to keep my utilization rate low? Having more cards can make it easier to maintain a low credit utilization rate because you have more available credit. But you'll want to keep an eye on your spending as your credit limit goes up so you don't negate this benefit with overspending.
If you're not comfortable opening another credit card right now, you can ask your existing credit card issuers to increase the credit limits on the accounts you already have open. If an issuer approves your request, the higher credit limit might make it easier to keep your balance-to-limit ratio low.
Choosing the Best Credit Card for You
If you're ready to open a new account, it can help to learn the steps it takes to get approved for a new credit card. Then, you can choose the card that has the features that matter most to you—from rewards card offers, to sign up bonuses, to annual fees.
But most of all, make sure you manage your credit cards with care. If you pay your bill on time each month and are careful about only charging what you can afford to pay off, you can enjoy the credit-building benefits these versatile financial tools have to offer.