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HOW MANY CREDIT CARDS DO YOU NEED FOR GOOD CREDIT?

If you are fresh out of school and figuring out how to handle your finances, the amount of information out there about how to build your credit can be overwhelming to say the least.

There are thousands of websites touting the best strategies to get rich, invest, save for retirement, and find a career.  There are just as many websites about credit, but we hope to simplify the information you need about credit cards into just this one.

HOW CREDIT CARDS AFFECT YOUR CREDIT SCORE?

Credit cards are wonderful tools if you know how to use them.  Just like any tool if you misuse it, there will be consequences which can be painful.

How Many Credit Cards Do You Need for Good Credit?


Credit companies evaluate the information available to specify how likely an individual is to pay back a loan if they took one out.  This is what your credit score is – it’s a rating of your likelihood to pay back loans.

 

CREDIT CARDS AFFECT ALL OF THE COMPONENTS OF YOUR CREDIT SCORE, INCLUDING

  • Payment History – Credit card companies and any payday lender want to know that you’ve been paying your debts on schedule. For loans, this means monthly payments are paid on time rather than early or, especially, late.  For credit cards, it means that you’ve never been late with at least a minimum payment due.
  • Debt to Income (DTI) Ratio – Credit companies will check how much debt you have (credit cards and loans) and compare this with your actual income. You might wonder how they have all this information about you, but you’re required to give your social security number when you sign up for both banks and credit cards. Credit companies use this to create a percentage of your debt compared to your total income.  Credit cards should be paid off, but if your DTI is above 20%, that means 20% of your income automatically is taken up by paying other debts.  Above 28% and credit companies start losing interest.
  • Credit Utilization – This measure takes all of your available credit from credit cards (all credit limits) and compares it with how much you currently owe on those credit cards. You should aim for less than 10% as a matter of keeping your finances under control, but credit card companies start worrying when your credit utilization goes above 30%.
  • Credit History – the longer your record of paying debts on time and on schedule is, the better your credit score.

All of these points can be somewhat hard to improve when you have no credit.  That’s why taking out credit cards can be one of the best ways to start your credit journey.

HOW MANY CREDIT CARDS SHOULD YOU HAVE?

Now that you understand a bit more about credit cards, you’re probably going to go out and get five or six cards going right?

Wrong. It’s tempting to look at those introductory bonuses from airline credit cards and hotel credit cards and think you’ll rack up a bunch of points right from the start.  However, those intro bonuses require you to rack up sometimes substantial balances to capture them.

If you’re 22 and you sign up for even three credit cards with great bonuses after you spend $3,000 each to get those bonuses, that’s $9,000 in credit debt you’ve racked up!

In order to help get your credit score running up, you only need one credit card.  The best option is to pick one with fantastic benefits that fit your lifestyle and spending habits, then get that intro bonus taken care of.

You might consider getting one more for emergencies that has a $0 annual membership charge, but if you have several credit cards, you’re spreading out not only debt but also points.  With three credit cards, it can be difficult to focus your points and really get the benefits you’re trying to rack up.

Summary

So, you only really need one credit card.  You can get two, but three is pushing it.  If you pay for things that get reimbursed by your company or you have your own business, then a third credit card is essential so you can separate those costs from your personal accounts.

If you’re building your credit, remember that credit cards are tools.  Using them right can help you enjoy the benefits, but using them incorrectly may mean exhausting credit card payments.

 
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