How Many Credit Cards Should I Have?


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By Grace Hickman
Updated on Thursday 23 July 2020

A woman using her credit card to shop online

credit card serves many useful purposes; it can help you make large, one-off purchases and can even help to build your credit score, among other benefits. 

If it isn’t used sensibly, however, it can have a detrimental impact on your ability to borrow money in the future, and worse, you can get into a significant amount of debt if it isn’t managed responsibly. 

If you currently have credit cards, or you’re thinking of getting one to help with short-term borrowing for essential purchases, you may find yourself wondering “Is 3 credit cards too many?” and “Can having too many credit cards hurt your credit score?” 

At Compare UK Quotes, we’re here to help answer your most commonly-asked questions regarding the number of credit cards you should have and how you should manage credit sensibly to avoid any financial issues.

In this guide: 

How many credit cards should I have?

Do I need a credit card?

How many credit cards is too many? 

Credit card eligibility

How many credit cards should I have to improve my credit score?

The pros and cons of credit cards

Should I cancel my existing credit cards? - How to cancel

How many credit cards should you have?

According to Money Expert, the average British consumer has between 1 and 2 credit cards, but legally, there are no limitations as to the number of credit cards you are entitled to have. 

The answer to this question boils down to: 

  • Your financial needs 
  • The type of credit cards you choose 
  • The decision of the credit card lender who is issuing the card to you 

The number of credit cards you own can have a significant impact on your credit report and score; for example, the more credit cards you have, the more of a risk you might seem to potential credit card or loan providers. Having said this, it can also hold your credit score back if you don’t have any, so getting the balance right is crucial. 

Learn more: How to Build Your Credit Score With a Credit Card 

Additionally, having more credit cards will mean you have to manage more debt, which gives you less time to spend on managing your cards individually, and it can cause a lot of stress for borrowers, particularly if they can’t afford to keep up with all the repayments. 

Ultimately, you need to identify the true reasons for needing a credit card to help determine how many you need and which ones are most suited to you and your budget.

Do I need a credit card? 

There are many different types of credit cards available, with each one offering different interest rates and benefits, so identifying your needs first can help narrow down your options. 

You may want a credit card to: 

  • Make a purchase and spread the cost out over a period of time, with 0% interest - This is one of the safest forms of borrowing as you are only repaying what you borrowed, without interest, and the monthly repayments are fixed so you can manage your finances accordingly. 
  • Consolidate your debt by transferring your credit card debt to a 0% balance transfer credit card
  • Receive rewards when spending, such as cashback on purchases or collect points that can be exchanged for discounts vouchers for things like flights, hotels and shops.
  • Spend money abroad - Some credit cards make it cheaper for you to spend while on holiday. 

These are some of the most common reasons for getting a credit card, but there are many different types of deals to choose from, so it pays to do your research and compare credit cards online once you’ve identified your spending needs. 

Read more: Types of Credit Cards in the UK

How many credit cards is too many?

As stated above, there is no definitive answer to the number of cards you should have, as it completely depends on your purchasing needs. 
When making this decision yourself, an important factor to consider is how financially reliable you are, which can be seen by looking at your overall spending habits (this requires honesty) and your credit score, which paints a good picture as to how good you are at repaying borrowed money to lenders and creditors.

If you are sensible with your money, have a good cash flow and a good to excellent credit rating, you may want a standard credit card with a low APR for spending little and often. Additionally, you may also want a credit card that gives you rewards based on your spending. 
At Compare UK Quotes, we recommend having no more than this, just to make sure your credit card debt stays manageable and doesn’t get out of hand.

If, on the other hand, you have a poor credit score due to previously missing payments or other potential set-backs, it might be a good idea for you to get just one credit card, such as a credit builder card, to help improve your rating. This will consequently open doors to better credit deals and interest rates in the future.

To learn more about increasing your credit score with a credit card, read our handy guide: How to Build Your Credit Score with a Credit Card.

Credit Card Eligibility

Credit card lenders will look at a variety of factors when deciding whether or not to accept your application for credit.

Understandably, they want to ensure that you will repay the money back in full and on time. If you can prove that you are a reliable spender, i.e. that you are creditworthy, you are likely to get accepted for the best deals on the market; if you aren’t so savvy with your spending habits, you may be offered more expensive deals with higher interest rates to account for the risk, or in some cases, you may even get rejected completely - it all depends on the lender’s criteria.

In order to determine your creditworthiness, lenders will check your credit report and score, on top of your financial history and salary.

There are 4 main types of credit reference agencies (CRAs) in the UK, and you can check your credit score with each one yourself to gauge a better idea of what lenders see when checking up on your financial history.

The main CRAs are: 

  • Experian 

  • Equifax 

  • TransUnion 

  • Crediva 

Some lenders may just use one CRA to get your credit score, while others may be more meticulous and will want to check more than one - possibly all four.

One of the best ways to keep on top of your finances is to check your credit score regularly. You can do this with the online, multi-agency credit-checking website Checkmyfile, which provides data from all 4 CRAs.

Learn more: What are Credit Reference Agencies?

You can sign up to a 30-day free trial with Checkmyfile, where you can check your score for free and see the information and data that is seen by lenders. This is a great way to help identify any issues with your credit report that could be holding you back from securing the best deals on the market. Sign up by using the button below:

How many credit cards should I have to improve my credit score?

At Compare UK Quotes, we recommend that you look to get just one credit card to bump up your credit file if your score is below average.

One credit card is much more manageable than two, and you can work on increasing your score bit by bit. Just remember that you must only spend what you can afford to repay, and you should try to use it little and often, allocating it for essential things like petrol and food.

By paying off your debt each month, your credit score will then increase due to improved money management, and you will therefore be accepted for much better deals in the future.

Read more: How to Improve Your Credit Score

The pros and cons of credit cards

If you are considering getting a credit card, or indeed more than one, it is always advisable to look at both the advantages and disadvantages of doing so, as it will help you make a more informed decision.

There are many benefits of getting a credit card, including:

  • You can spread the cost of a large purchase over a certain period, which is particularly useful for emergency purchases.
  • Credit card protection - As per section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act, any purchases between the value of £100 and £30,000 are protected, meaning you can claim the cost back if anything goes wrong.
  • You can get an interest-free loan with a 0% credit card, meaning that you only pay back what you spent and nothing more during the interest-free period.
  • There are many benefits and rewards on offer with different cards and companies, helping you make savings on purchases elsewhere. 
    It can help improve your credit score if used sensibly, which will give you access to the very best deals.

As with most financial products, there are always potential risks to be aware of. Some disadvantages of credit cards include:

  • You can get into a lot of debt if you spend too much and/or fail to keep up with payments.
  • Some cards will charge you fees for not making your repayments on time or if you exceed your credit limit, so make sure you fully understand how your credit card works and what is expected of you as a borrower, as well as any potential repercussions.
  • There may be restrictions on your credit card, such as using it abroad, so make sure you know exactly what your card can and can’t be used for.
  • If you let your debt accumulate or fail to make repayments, you could negatively impact your credit score, and it will take some time to build it back up again. It will also make future credit applications more difficult.  

If you have more than one credit card, you also risk:

  • Spending more than you can afford. 
  • Missing payments, as it is harder to keep track of multiple credit cards.
  • Being charged for not using one of your credit cards. 
  • Being subject to theft or fraud, as it will be more difficult to spot this if you have lots of cards.
  • Not being offered the best deals on the market - If you’ve kept a card with the same provider for a long time, you’re likely not on the best deal.

Remember, when comparing credit card deals, make sure you fully understand the terms and conditions of the contract you choose – otherwise, you may end up with more debt and, inevitably, more financial stress.

Should I cancel my existing credit cards?

If you’re concerned that you have too many credit cards, don’t do anything drastic like cancelling them all or cancelling too many at once. This may leave you stranded if you need to make an emergency payment, and cancelling too many at the same time can be detrimental to your credit score. 

Instead, look at each card individually and decide whether or not you really need it. It is always worth cancelling one if you don’t use it or if you think it might be affecting your credit score.

As long as you keep up with all of your monthly repayments and can afford to do so, you should try to keep the credit cards that offer you the best rewards. 

You should also try to hold onto any cards that have a low APR or interest-free periods (just make sure you pay off the debt before the 0% period ends) and try to pay off any credit cards that have high interest rates so you can cancel it once you’ve settled the debt.

Additionally, it is also worth checking to see if any of your cards have fees – You may want to cancel them if you don’t use them enough and want to avoid unnecessary charges.

How to cancel a credit card

If you’re thinking of cancelling a credit card, you just pay off the debt first before cancelling it. Once you’ve done this, you will need to contact your credit card provider to cancel the card. 

After cancelling your credit card, you can then cut it up and dispose of it. Remember, though, that you cannot do this until you’ve settled any remaining debt and notified your lender.

For more information and advice on credit cards with Compare UK Quotes, be sure to read our related useful guides below:


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