14 Signs You Have Too Many Credit Cards

Where's the balance between having too many and having too few credit cards?
Updated May 8, 2024
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Credit cards, when used wisely, are a great financial tool. They can improve your credit score, making it easier for you to qualify for low-interest mortgages and car loans. Your credit history may even impact the jobs available to you and insurance rates. And the best cash back credit cards may even bring in a little extra cash.

But it is possible to have too much of a good thing. For many, too many credit cards may lead to too much debt. Since it’s so hard to shed this debt due to high interest rates, you’ll want to do everything you can to avoid it.

How do you know, then, that you have too many credit cards or just enough?

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It’s hard to keep up with your payments

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Payment history is one of the most important factors in determining your credit score. Being late, even just once or twice, can bring down your score.

If you have so many credit cards that you’re losing track of when you need to make payments or run out of funds before making each payment on time, that’s a sign you’re using too many credit cards.

The annual fees are becoming too costly

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Not all credit cards carry annual fees, but those with rewards programs often do. If you're just starting to open credit card accounts, you’ll also notice annual fees are a common feature if you don’t have a strong credit score yet.

If you’re finding that the annual fees are increasing your debt, that’s a sign you have too many credit cards. Annual fees can increase how much you owe rapidly.

You carry a balance month-to-month

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In the ideal situation, you use credit throughout the money, earn any rewards you can, and then pay off the balance at the end of the month before any interest is levied.

If you’re carrying a balance each month, you could be living beyond your means. And whatever cash back rewards you’ve earned are eaten up by the interest you’re paying.

Take a look at your credit card statement to see how long it will take to pay off the balance if you pay only the minimum. That information may keep you from charging purchases you can’t pay off.

Resolve $10,000 or more of your debt

Credit card debt is suffocating. It constantly weighs on your mind and controls every choice you make. You can end up emotionally and even physically drained from it. And even though you make regular payments, it feels like you can never make any progress because of the interest.

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Try it

You are hoping to find a balance transfer option soon

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Transferring your balance from a high-interest-rate credit card to one with a lower rate makes sense if you’re doing it just to lower your costs.

If you’re doing so because you’re rapidly approaching the credit limit on one card, it’s time to consider your debt. While transferring a balance to a new card with low interest is OK and can be financially savvy, you don’t want to run up new debt on the card.

Plus, the low interest rate may apply only to the balance you transfer, not to new purchases. Be sure you understand the cost of transferring a balance as well as the details on the interest rates.

The late fees are adding up

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Late fees are another common sign that you may be in over your head with credit cards. Late fees occur when you miss a payment, and depending on the card you have, they can be substantial.

According to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), the average late fee is $28 for the first offense and $39 for subsequent late payments within the next six billing cycles. That’s a lot of money to pay for not watching your due dates.

You can’t get into a bill-paying routine

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Another common problem that impacts people who have too many credit cards is not being able to get into a routine bill-paying process.

Your credit cards have different due dates for payments, and if you have too many, you may lose track of when they’re due. This will lead to late fees and may affect your credit score.

Debt is a big worry in your life

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With credit card debt comes the need to pay more, earn more, and save less. All of that worry can be overwhelming and may even affect your health.

If your debt has become a big part of your life or creates stress, consider that you may have too many credit cards.

Cards with a zero balance tempt you

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You transferred the balance from one credit card to another. Now, that old credit card with its zero balance may be too tempting. You find yourself deciding to purchase something you really could have put off because it seems like you have more money to spend.

Remember, balance transfers can create dangerous situations. If you feel tempted to use a credit card that no longer has a balance, you are compounding your debt problem.

Your credit card rewards are expiring

shurkin_son/Adobe senior woman making online payments

Credit card rewards seem like a good thing. You may be able to get a free flight or even some cash back from your purchases. However, if you have so many rewards that you’re not using them and they are expiring, that’s a cause for concern.

You only get rewards for spending money, which could also mean you have a lot of debt. The cost of carrying that debt month-to-month is likely more expensive than any benefit your rewards are offering.

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Your debt-to-income ratio is growing

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How much debt you have compared to how much income you bring in each month is a critical factor lenders look at to determine if they should lend money to you. Each lender sets its own rules, but basically, your debt-to-income (DTI) ratio is your monthly debt payments divided by your gross monthly income.

Typically, a debt-to-income ratio that is above 43% is worrisome. It could mean that a large portion of your monthly income has to go toward paying your debt.

Your credit utilization rate is high

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Credit utilization is the amount of your credit line that you’re using. The lower it is, the more credit you have available. If it is high, that means you are using up much of your available credit.

If you have a credit limit of $2,500 and you are only using about $500 (20%) of that, that’s a healthy utilization rate. However, if your credit utilization is above 33%, that could be considered high for some lenders.

You don’t know how much you owe

Wayhome Studio/Adobe family having debt problems

It’s not that uncommon. If you have more than one credit card, it’s easy to lose track of how much you owe on one or the other.

That lack of knowledge should be concerning. It may mean you don’t know if you are in over your head with debt or managing it well. Get a handle on your total debt by looking at your credit card bills and tallying up what you owe.

You’re hiding how much you owe

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Does anyone else know how much money you owe? If you know this figure but are hiding it from others, that could indicate that you know it’s too high.

Really analyze why you don’t feel comfortable with your debt. It could be a solid way to better understand your options moving forward.

The lenders have closed your accounts due to inactivity

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Credit card companies may close unused cards over time. It’s their way of allocating those credit lines to other cardholders who will actually use it and, in turn, drive up their profits.

If your lenders are closing credit cards for you, that could impact your credit history and score. You lose a line of credit, and it will affect your credit utilization ratio, too. Instead, make sure you’re using each of your cards routinely and paying them off in full each month to avoid interest.

Bottom line

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Too many credit cards can make financial management a nightmare. The problem is that you also don’t want to close your accounts since that can hurt your credit score.

Learn how to manage your credit cards and, if you’re in trouble, come up with a plan for paying down your debt.

Avoid applying for new credit cards and focus on using and paying off your existing ones instead.

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Author Details

Sandy Baker Sandy Baker is a has over 17 years of experience in the financial sector. Her experience includes website content, blogs, and social media. She’s worked with companies such as Realtor.com, Bankrate, TransUnion, Equifax, and Consumer Affairs.

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