How many credit cards is too many? A guide to practical daily point hacking
March 9, 2020
While many credit card issuers offer some stellar signup rewards bonuses, some cardholders open and close the same cards to earn the same bonus over and over again (known as credit card churning) to maximize the rewards they can earn. If you’re a responsible credit card user, this method can work. But, is there such a thing as opening (and closing) too many credit cards? When is credit card churning a good idea, and when is it not?
This guide will help you navigate how and when to open multiple credit cards in order to maximize all of the credit card rewards options out there, and how to align your rewards points goals with your unique financial situation.
How opening and closing credit cards can impact your credit score
Opening and closing multiple credit cards often can affect your credit score.
Your credit score is determined by a number of factors, with your payment history and credit utilization topping the list. If you regularly make on-time payments and make sure the balance on your credit cards is much lower than your credit limit, your score will likely remain stable, even if you’ve opened and closed several credit cards.
It is good to keep in mind, though, that too many inquiries at once can negatively affect your score, and raises a red flag with creditors, so it’s always smart to stagger your new credit card sign-ups a bit.
Keep in mind that even with a good credit score, issuers could deny your credit card application if you’ve applied for or opened too many credit cards within the last 12 to 24 months. This depends on the issuer, and they will most likely not tell you how much is too much, so it’s best to err on the side of caution.
Should you have multiple credit cards?
Before diving into more details about how to open multiple credit cards in order to take advantage of travel and cash back offers, you need to determine if it’s the right choice for you and your current situation.
Here are some reasons why it’s not a good idea to open and close multiple credit cards:
You’re about to take out a big loan
Let’s say you’re in the market for a new home, or are planning on refinancing your existing mortgage. In this case, you may want to hold off on travel credit card points hacking, because new accounts on your mortgage application can make it more difficult to get approval, even if you’ve proven to be responsible with credit.
Your credit score isn’t good
In most cases, you’ll need an excellent credit score to qualify for the best rewards credit cards. Instead of applying, check to see what you could get pre-approved for, so it doesn’t affect your credit score. If you’re not getting the cards you want, it might be a good idea to work on increasing your score, especially if you have things like late payments or loans that went into collection.
You don’t have credit
Having no credit history is not an indicator that you’re bad with loans, but it also doesn’t provide lenders with a much-needed proven track record of on-time payments. No credit history means it’s highly unlikely you’ll be approved for credit cards that offer stellar signup bonuses. If this is you, work on increasing your credit score first, then focus on applying for the best rewards credit cards at a later date.
You can’t meet the minimum requirements
That means if your current spending habits aren’t going to get you there, then signing up for these cards may be a waste of time, since you’re not going to earn any extra points.
In this case, either find a credit card that has a lower minimum spending requirement, or time opening the card with major purchases on the horizon (that you’ll be able to pay off), so you can take advantage of signup bonuses. Don’t get caught in the trap of increasing spending just to get rewards, though — especially on balances that will make it hard for you to pay off.
You’re not interested in staying organized
If you have a bunch of credit cards in your arsenal, you’ll need to stay organized in order to maximize your earnings. If organization isn’t one of your strengths, you can still earn rewards, but likely not as many as someone who is able to keep track of purchases, rewards, fees, bonuses and more.
Timing your credit card applications
There are so many rewards credit cards you can sign up for. But, just because you’ve read that the best cash back credit card is the Chase Freedom Unlimited® credit card, or that Chase Ultimate Rewards® is the best travel booking portal out there, it doesn’t mean they’re the best options for your unique needs.
You need to figure out which rewards credit cards are the best for you, which includes timing your applications so you can keep up with the minimum spend requirements to qualify for signup bonuses. Timing your credit card applications correctly is also important so you can work towards your specific rewards goals — whether it be to fully fund a trip to Paris with points or to earn enough cash back to save serious money on your annual Costco shopping spree.
It’s a good idea to map out your rewards goals, so you know which credit cards to sign up for to help you achieve them. For example, let’s say you love to travel, your preferred airline is Delta, and you want to be able to book a luxury hotel anywhere in the world. If this is you, then signing up for both the Marriott Bonvoy® Credit Card and the Gold Delta SkyMiles® Card would be good choices.
It’s also a good idea to keep checking for new credit card offers, since issuers change their signup offers quite often. In some cases, the offer you see on the credit card’s official website might not be the current best offer, so check credit card comparison websites to double-check and make sure you’re getting the largest signup bonus you can get.
To ensure you’re able to meet the minimum spend requirements on new cards, in order to maximize on signup bonuses offered, temporarily divert all of your spending to the cards you just opened so you can make sure you’re making enough purchases. Or, wait until you have a major purchase on the horizon before you open your new cards, like major home renovations or holiday shopping.
Whatever the case may be, take advantage of these high-spend occasions and nab some signup bonuses. But, remember: never spend more than you can afford since carrying a balance on your credit cards could negate all of the free rewards you’ve earned. Plus, if you can’t afford the new credit card payments, you could find yourself falling behind on payments, which can negatively affect your credit score.
Get organized to maximize credit card rewards
Having multiple credit cards means you’ll need to be on top of all your rewards requirements in order to maximize their return.
Staying organized means you can keep track of what you need to do to maximize those earnings. For example, if you realize you need another $1,000 on your Chase Sapphire Preferred® card to meet the minimum spending requirements, you may decide to pay your rent on that credit card that month, to help boost you toward your rewards goals.
Limitations on credit card signup bonuses
If you want to open and close multiple credit cards to earn signup bonuses again and again, be careful. You could find yourself with a credit card and no opportunity to earn those extra rewards. That’s because many issuers will only let you earn bonuses if you haven’t earned one for a specific amount of time, like 24 months. Others will only let you earn a bonus one time.
Keep in mind that if you want to earn additional points and intend on keeping a credit card open, one option is to try to earn referral points. In this case, when a friend or family member decides to sign up for the same card, you can earn bonus points if they do so through your referral link.
Also, always check the fine print before applying for a new credit card, because terms and conditions can change.
Opening multiple cards with the same bank
For most people, Chase is the Holy Grail when it comes to rewards credit cards, because of its flexibility when it comes to redeeming points through the Chase Ultimate Rewards® portal. However, Chase has an unofficial rule (though no representative from Chase has confirmed nor denied this) called the 5/24 rule, where your application will most likely be denied if you opened five or more credit cards in the last 24 months.
Other issuers, like American Express®, limit you to four credit cards with them at one time. In addition, some issuers won’t allow you to open certain credit cards if you have other ones open. For example, you can’t have the Chase Sapphire Reserve® and Chase Sapphire Preferred® credit card at the same time.
These credit card issuer limits don’t mean you can’t have multiple credit cards at once. It just means you need to have a strategy in place to make sure you can earn the points you want.
Be a responsible credit card user
Ultimately, no matter how many credit cards you have, it’s important to make sure you use (and pay off) your new rewards credit cards wisely, otherwise you could find yourself struggling to make payments.
Before signing up, make sure you can meet the credit card’s minimum spending requirements, pay off balances on time, and that you are aware of and can afford the annual fees. If you can, then good luck on earning and maximizing all of the rewards points available to you out there!