How Many Credit Cards Does the Average American Have?

By Steven Shaw on 1/4/2016

Credit Cards

How Many Credit Cards Does the Average American Have?

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The average American has more than one bank-issued credit card, and that number is on the rise. According to June 2015 data from Experian, consumers each held an average of 2.09 cards in 2013, 2.18 cards in 2014, and 2.24 cards in 2015.

While the numbers are on the rise, the 2015 average is still below pre-recession figures. There were about 2.57 bank-issued credit card accounts per consumer in 2007, but that fell to 1.98 cards by 2010, after credit standards tightened and people became a bit warier of debt.

Retail cards also lost favor with consumers during the recession. In 2007, there were 2.25 open retail credit card accounts per person, but that’s down to 1.55 cards per cardholder now. That’s pretty much the same as 2014 (1.54 cards) and only a slight increase from 2013 (1.45 cards).

How Many Credit Cards Should You Have?

How many credit cards you have in your wallet is a matter of personal need and preference, and there are pros and cons to having many or few. Generally, having a lot of credit cards could put you at risk for getting into a lot of debt, and it can be tricky to keep track of multiple billing cycles, due dates and terms of use.

Multiple cards can also provide flexibility through rewards programs and having more available credit at your disposal. Having a high overall credit limit, but low overall balances can be good for your credit score, but maintaining that balance can take some serious discipline.

For folks whose credit card debt gets out of hand, credit card debt consolidation can be a viable option. You can see how your credit card use affects your credit by getting two free credit scores every month on Credit.com.

In the end, it’s up to you to determine how many credit cards make sense. Some people are great with managing multiple accounts, while others prefer to keep it simple with one (or none). No matter what you do, be sure to research your options before applying for a new card. Each credit card application typically generates a hard inquiry on your credit report, which could ding your credit score.

Image: vitchanan

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Note: It's important to remember that interest rates, fees and terms for credit cards, loans and other financial products frequently change. As a result, rates, fees and terms for credit cards, loans and other financial products cited in these articles may have changed since the date of publication. Please be sure to verify current rates, fees and terms with credit card issuers, banks or other financial institutions directly.

Christine DiGangi covers personal finance for Credit.com. Previously, she managed communications for the Society of Professional Journalists, served as a copy editor of The New York Times News Service and worked as a reporter for the Oregonian and the News & Record. More by Christine DiGangi

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