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I have 4 credit cards that I use occasionally but pay off the balance every month for the most part.

Recently I've been suckered into getting store credit cards (Macy's, Kohl's, etc) because they offer a discount when you sign up.

I'm curious if it's bad to have too many credit cards, even if I keep all of the balances paid in full and under control?

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Don't confuse the store cards with actual credit cards. If you can't use that Macy's card anywhere else it isn't a credit card and it isn't very beneficial. –  MrChrister Aug 6 at 15:34
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@MrChrister Not sure how "can only be used at one store" makes it "not a credit card". It's still a "card" that can be used to buy things on "credit". Sure, if you get a Macy's card and you never shop at Macy's and have no desire to ever shop at Macy's, that would be pretty useless. But I have 3 store cards -- Kohl's, Lowe's, and Firestone -- that I use for exactly the same reasons that I use my bank cards: so I don't have to carry around cash, and if necessary I can delay paying a bill. –  Jay Aug 6 at 17:44
    
@Jay - There are a number of pros and cons for "normal" cards vs store cards. As with all things, the devil is in the details. My comment was to raise awareness; store cards are generally frowned upon in PF blogs, but not in a significant way. Have them if you wish (I have used them too), but be aware of their limits. –  MrChrister Aug 6 at 17:52
    
@Jay: According to some sources, FICO weighs store cards differently than regular credit cards. –  staticx Aug 6 at 18:40
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Especially considering how weak willed you were to get "suckered into getting store credit cards", I would suggest NO credit cards. –  AbraCadaver Aug 6 at 21:18

3 Answers 3

up vote 15 down vote accepted

According to Clark Howard. The best mix is to have at least two reward cards for no other reason than rewards, but you actually should have more as far as credit score goes.

30% of your credit score is based on how much of your credit that you use.

I had only 17k in credit. I usually spend 6k a month and pay it off every month. I went to 4 credit cards got the total line up to over 40k and because my usage went down to about 12% of total credit, my credit score went up about 40 points to mid 700's after two months

Long story short the more credit cards you have the better for your credit score. You should use each one twice a year to keep them active. (Not relevant for a store credit card, you don't want to buy something from macy's for the sake of keeping the card active)

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Great answer. Although note that applying for a card will cause a hard pull, which is a brief credit score ding, and average age of credit lines also factors in to score. So best to get 3-5 cards and then just keep them for 10 years. :) –  Steven Aug 6 at 15:27
    
@Steven what if you get "pre-selected" or "pre-approved" credit cards offers in the mail, if I take advances and apply for these will I still get a ding in my score? –  Christina Rule Aug 6 at 15:36
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@ChristinaRule - pre-approvals still go through an actual approval process. The criteria to be "pre" approved is slight, but to be actually approved is great and always present. Also, that sounds like another good question you can ask separate from this one =) –  MrChrister Aug 6 at 15:42
    
Yes Good point @Steven I did lose 7 pts that first week. According to Credit Karma –  Mark Monforti Aug 6 at 18:27
    
@Steven Very good point! For every time you see an ad for "free credit reports" or simply applying for credit cards and not even using them, you will get dinged. –  Jared Burrows Aug 7 at 4:54

More card doesn't necessarily mean better but having only one or two card is not great either. It depends on your monthly debt-to-credit ratio. Most sources will tell you that it's highly recommended that you have below 30% of debt to the total amount of credit you have. For example, if all your credit cards combine adds up to $10,000 in available credit. It's frowned upon if you accrue more an $3,000 in debt every month without paying it off. Keep in mind still that a lot of things account in your FICO credit score. The important thing is to keep ALL your balances low and in control.

It's more beneficial to get bank reward cards (airline mileage, points rewards, or cash back) then to get store credit cards even with the "discount". I've listed some pros and cons below. For the most part, most financial sites will tell you that store cards are not very beneficial to have. However, if you are already approved for them, just hang on to those cards. There is no point in closing them if you already went through the hard credit pull and got approved for it. That is unless you get charged an annual fee. I still recommend using the bank cards over the store cards though.

Pros to Bank Rewards Cards:

  • Use it anywhere.
  • Easier to rack up rewards. Some banks cards offer up to 5% cash back on your purchases. Some also have bonus rewards for online shopping through them. Some cards such as the Chase Sapphire Preferred would allow points to points transfer to many airlines for travel rewards.
  • Can be used anywhere that card (Visa, Mastercard, Amex, Discovery, etc) is accepted.

Cons to Bank Rewards Cards:

  • Usually requires good to excellent credit to sign up.

Pros to Store Credit Cards:

  • Discounts at initial signing up.
  • Some store credit cards have in-store points rewards system that will give you purchase discount (ie. 10% off your next purchase) or store credit (ie. Nordstrom $20 Notes)

Cons to Store Credit Cards:

  • Not all store credit cards will offer a card to be used outside of the store franchise itself. (ie. Express Credit Card can only be used at Express stores) Some store will offer more than one option of store credit cards. Take Nordstrom for example. There is a credit card that can be used only at Nordstrom stores, "Nordstrom Credit Card." Nordstrom also offer the "Nordstrom Visa Credit Card" which can be used anywhere they accept Visa cards. Most store credit cards are like the latter.
  • Discounts is often only offered during sign-up. After that, any discounts received are far in between purchases or there's limitations.
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This is a good answer, but I think it isn't really addressing the question. I would like to see a specific question about the differences between the cards and then have this answer posted there. (I am guilty too, but we are taking the question somewhere the OP didn't ask...) –  MrChrister Aug 6 at 20:54
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Store credit cards often give some special discount. With my Firestone card, I get 6 months at 0% interest, and for a while they were giving a 5% discount on top of that. My Lowe's card gives me a choice of a 5% discount or I-forget-how-long interest free. And my Kohl's card gets me every couple of months a coupon for 10 to 30% off anything in the store. These all make having these store card well worth it to me. –  Jay Aug 7 at 13:40

No. From the perspective of the credit card issuer, multiple open lines of credit with a history of on-time payments and low balances is more evidence that you can use your credit responsibly. Signing up for a new card will temporarily ding you a few points (typically 3-5) since it results in a hard inquiry of your credit report. However, in a few months your score will actually improve as the average age of accounts and total number of accounts increases (assuming you make on-time payments and keep your balances reasonable). Since you have more available credit, your credit utilization ratio will also improve, assuming your spending habits do not change.

Should you ever close a card?

I would only close a card if it had an annual fee that I did not want to pay, and even then I would try to convert it to a card from the same bank that does not carry a fee in order to maintain the average age of my accounts. Cards with annual fees typically have a no-fee counterpart that you can downgrade to. Closing a card in good standing rarely helps you and almost always hurts you, though not much.

You could potentially get into a situation where you want a new card but your total credit limit exceeds your income, making banks leery of extending you additional credit. In this case I would suggest lowering the credit limit of one or more cards to make room for more credit. This could hurt your credit utilization ratio but will preserve the average age of accounts.

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