Credit Advice

Getting more credit cards to help credit scores

Have a question?

Do you have a question about consumer credit? You may find an immediate answer by using the search engine. If you can't find what you're looking for, please fill out the form, being as specific as possible.

Please note: The Ask Experian team cannot respond to each question individually. However, if your question is of interest to a wide audience of consumers, the Experian team will include it in a future column.

Our policies
The information contained in this column if for educational purposes only and is not legal advice. You should consult your own attorney or seek specific advice from a legal professional regarding your particular situation.

Please understand that Experian policies change over time. Column responses reflect Experian policy at the time of writing. While maintained for your information, archived responses may not reflect current Experian policy.

Credit Advice

Getting more credit cards to help credit scores

Dear Experian,

Will my credit score improve if I have more credit cards? Do I have to use them to get a better score?

- IGG

Dear IGG,

Far more important than the number of credit cards you have is how you use them. The keys to improving your credit scores are simple, keep the balances on your existing credit cards low and always pay the bills on time.

Credit scores are derived from how you utilize your credit resources over time. A long history of responsibly using a few credit cards can result in better credit scores than a short history with a large number of credit cards.

It you were to suddenly apply for several new credit cards, there would likely be a negative impact on your credit scores, not a positive change. Because there is no payment history associated with the new accounts, credit scoring systems don’t know how to interpret them. That unknown often results in a temporary decline in scores, not an instant improvement.

In the long term, the important issue is utilization, also called the balance-to-limit ratio. Your balance-to-limit ratio is the total of your balances divided by the total of the limits on your credit cards. Having more cards can increase your total available limit, reducing your balance-to-limit ratio, which can positively affect credit scores.

However, keeping low balances on just a few credit cards can result in very good credit scores. So, improving credit scores alone is not a good reason to apply for a bunch of new credit cards. And, you should always have a good reason for getting a new credit card.

Improving credit scores isn’t a good reason because there is no way to know if that will be the result. Instead, consider lower interest rates on balance transfers or new charges, airline miles, cash back bonuses, or other benefits.

Apply only for credit cards that offer financial or service incentives that you want or need. If you keep the balances low and always pay the bills on time, your credit scores will take care of themselves. You can have as good a credit score with two cards as you can with five or 10.

Thank you for asking.

- The "Ask Experian" team

  • © 2014 Experian Information Solutions, Inc. All rights reserved.