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Money Management

Do You Have Too Many Credit Cards?

It’s a bad sign if you have more plastic than your wallet can hold.

I knew someone once who carried two entirely separate wallets on their person at all times. One was for the normal stuff; cash, driver’s license, insurance cards, and so on. The other one was full to bursting with credit cards. Every single slot in the wallet was filled by a credit card, plus a couple in the cash pouch. I have no earthly idea how they were able to manage all of those different credit cards, though in hindsight, I don’t think they actually were able to.

A credit card is a small set of responsibilities in itself. You gotta know when they roll over, when the bills come due, what generates rewards, when you can claim those rewards, and more. One or two credit cards are pretty easy to keep track of; it’s just one or two sets of dates. You could write that on a calendar. If, however, you have upwards of six credit cards, that’s probably overdoing it a bit. Not only are you heaping more responsibilities onto your proverbial plate, you probably aren’t getting an even return for your attention.

The primary reason to have more than one credit card is to take advantage of multiple rewards programs. Maybe you get airline miles, maybe you shop frequently at a particular fast food chain, or maybe it’s just with a bank you trust; whatever the reason, those rewards need to reap tangible benefits for you on a regular, trackable basis to be worth the hassle. If you’re only picking up a few cents of rewards a week, you’re not getting anything valuable out of that card.

Having a wallet full of cards can also be potentially dangerous to your financial wellbeing. Remember how I mentioned one card’s responsibilities could be written on a calendar? Imagine filling a calendar’s squares with six cards worth of responsibilities. Every additional card make the process that much harder to track, which in turn raises your risk of missed payments. Crummy rewards are bad enough, you don’t need late fees and interest on top of that. So if your cards aren’t doing anything particular helpful for you, just close them out and save yourself the trouble.

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