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Topics addressed on January 25, 2006:
Getting more credit cards to help credit scores
Will my credit score improve if I have more credit cards? Do I have to use them to get a better score?
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