Credit Card Basics

No Limit on How Many Credit Cards You Can Have

Dear Experian,

How many credit cards can I have? I have eight credit cards. I opened all of them within the last year (total $6,500), plus a loan for a car ($16,000). I am a housewife. My husband pays all my bills on time, but he keeps asking me to get new credit cards. I wonder if it's damaging my credit history or my credit score. Also, is it shown on my credit report if I apply for a credit card and I do not get approved?


Dear ARY,

You can have as many cards as you want. I once knew a person who collected credit cards for the pictures on them. There is no limit to the number you can have. However, it is not generally a good idea to continually apply for credit cards.

Ideally, you should only have the credit cards you need and that meet your needs in terms of interest rates, credit limits, fees and incentives. For most people that means only a few cards. Many people only have one or two credit cards.

The number of cards you have isn't really important. There are two things that are:

  • The total of the balances you carry on the cards you have.
  • The total of the credit limits available on the cards you have.

The total of the balances you carry is the most important. High balances as compared to the available limits is a strong sign of credit risk. Having unused cards can actually help in this situation.

If you miss payments or carry a lot of debt, unused available credit can concern lenders. You could suddenly charge to the limits and not be able to repay the debts. It can mean you are overspending and will be tempted to even more debt on those unused cards.

Your credit report does not indicate whether or not your applications were approved or declined. There will be an inquiry showing that your credit report was accessed as part of the application process, but it is not an indicator of approval or declination. The only indication that the application was approved is the appearance of a new account.

Lack of a new account does not indicate your application was declined. It only suggests no new account was opened. That could be simply because you chose not to accept the account and so has no negative implication.

I suggest you get a credit score to see where you and your husband stand. That should guide you on whether you need to stop applying for new credit.

Thanks for asking.
The "Ask Experian" team