Can You Really Have 20-Plus Credit Cards at the Same Time?


In the U.S., only about half of people have two or more credit cards, and a measly 13% of people have five credit cards or more. I’m part of that statistic. Me, with my 20-odd cards — spread across three wallets — from roughly a dozen issuers, across all four card networks.

Look, I know — it sounds like a lot. It is a lot of cards. But it’s absolutely true. And you know what else? My credit score looks great. (Well, it looked better for the new mortgage loan, but I digress.)

Yes, you can have 20 cards (and more!)

There is no legal limit to how many credit cards a person can obtain. You can have as many credit lines as the banks and credit unions are willing to give you.

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And as long as you use those cards responsibly — by paying on time every month and keeping your balances low — credit card issuers are willing to give you quite a few.

Most issuers have in-house caps

All this isn’t to say that you can have unlimited credit. Each financial institution has its own ceiling on how much money it is willing to lend you. (Because that’s what credit cards are: lines of credit, i.e. debt.)

This cap will generally apply to your total credit lines across all of your cards with that issuer. For example, if Chase is only willing to give you $10,000 in total credit, and you already have two Chase cards with $5,000 limits, you’ll likely be rejected for a third card.

Similarly, most issuers have caps on how many credit lines you can have with them at one time. American Express, for instance, is said to cap your total number of credit cards to five. (Charge cards are reportedly exempt from this limit.)

The downside is that issuers don’t generally tell you about these limits. So you may not realize you’re at your credit line or card cap until you bump your head on it (metaphorically).

That many cards is hard to keep organized

For the folks who wonder how someone keeps track of 20-plus cards — well, let me tell you, it takes work. Personally, I couldn’t do it without my spreadsheets.

It helps that a lot of my cards don’t get much regular use. More than half of my collection is made up of travel rewards cards, including cobranded hotel and airline cards. These typically only come out when I’m planning travel that includes the associated brand.

I also diligently log into all of my online banking accounts at least once a week to check due dates, scan transactions for signs of fraud, and check offer portals for useful deals. My mobile banking apps make this super easy to do while I’m cooking dinner or waiting on a persistently late family member.

Pay on time, or the credit score gets it

If you’re the type of person who forgets due dates, then the multi-card lifestyle probably isn’t for you. Even one missed payment can do bad things to your credit score, and missing multiple payments while juggling too many cards could lead to catastrophic credit damage.

One thing that can help the on-time-challenged is to set up autopay. This automatically makes at least your minimum payment (you can set the payment amount) before your due date so you won’t have to worry about late fees or credit damage.

The other important thing is to never charge more than you can afford to repay quickly. Ideally, you want to pay off your balances in full every month. The only exception is when you have an active 0% APR offer. In that case, make at least your minimum payment every month, but be sure to pay the full balance off before the offer expires.

They spawn like rabbits

If you’re thinking of starting the credit card rewards game by picking up a second, third, or even 19th card, be warned: These things multiply. One day you’re just grabbing an airline card to make your next trip cheaper. The next thing you know, you have three wallets and a career writing about credit card rewards.

It’s a slippery slope, folks. Tread carefully.

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