5 Things to Consider Before Getting a Personal Loan

Consider This Before Getting a Personal Loan – SmartAsset

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It’s a new year and if one of your resolutions is to get out of debt, you might be thinking about consolidating your bills into a personal loan. With this kind of loan, you can streamline your payments and potentially get rid of your debt more quickly. If you plan on getting a personal loan in 2016, here are some key things to keep in mind before you start searching for a lender.

Check out our personal loan calculator.

1. Interest Rates Are Going Up

At the end of 2015, the Federal Reserve initiated a much anticipated hike in the federal funds rate. What this means for borrowers is that taking on debt is going to be more expensive going forward. That means that the personal loan rates you’re seeing now could be a lot higher six or nine months from now. If you’re planning on borrowing, it might be a good idea to scope out loan offers sooner rather than later.

2. Online Lenders Likely Have the Best Deals

The online lending marketplace has exploded in recent years. With an online lender, there are fewer overhead costs involved, which translates to fewer fees and lower rates for borrowers.

With a lower interest rate, more money will stay in your pocket in the long run. Lending Club, for example, claims that their customers have interest rates that are 33% lower, on average, after consolidating their debt or paying off credit cards using a personal loan.

Related Article: How to Get a Personal Loan

3. Your Credit Matters

Regardless of whether you go through a brick-and-mortar bank or an online lender, you  likely won’t have access to the best rates if you don’t have a great credit score. In the worst case scenario, you could be denied a personal loan altogether.

You can check your credit score for free. And each year, you have a chance to get a free credit report from Experian, Equifax and TransUnion. If you haven’t pulled yours in a while, now might be a good time to take a look.

As you review your report, it’s important to make sure that all of your account information is being reported properly. If you see a paid account that’s still showing a balance, for example, or a collection account you don’t recognize, you’ll need to dispute those items with the credit bureau that’s reporting the information.

4. Personal Loan Scams Are Common

As more and more lenders enter the personal loan arena, the opportunity for scammers to cash in on unsuspecting victims also increases. If you’re applying for a loan online, it’s best to be careful about who you give your personal information to.

Some of the signs that may indicate that a personal loan agreement is actually a scam include lenders who use overly pushy sales tactics to get you to commit or ask you to put up a deposit as a guarantee against the loan. If you come across a lender who doesn’t seem concerned about checking your credit or tells you they can give you a loan without doing any paperwork, those are big red flags that the lender may not be legit.

Related Article: How to Avoid Personal Loan Scams

5. Not Reading the Fine Print Could Cost You

Before you sign off on a personal loan, it’s best to take time to read over the details of the loan agreement. Something as simple as paying one date late could trigger a fee or cause a higher penalty rate to kick in, which would make the loan more expensive in the long run.

Photo credit: ©iStock.com/DragonImages, ©iStock.com/Vikram Raghuvanshi, ©iStock.com/MachineHeadz

Rebecca Lake Rebecca Lake is a retirement, investing and estate planning expert who has been writing about personal finance for a decade. Her expertise in the finance niche also extends to home buying, credit cards, banking and small business. She’s worked directly with several major financial and insurance brands, including Citibank, Discover and AIG and her writing has appeared online at U.S. News and World Report, CreditCards.com and Investopedia. Rebecca is a graduate of the University of South Carolina and she also attended Charleston Southern University as a graduate student. Originally from central Virginia, she now lives on the North Carolina coast along with her two children.
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What is a Judgment?

June 4, 2020 &• 6 min read by Gerri Detweiler Comments 737 Comments

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A judgment is an order issued by a court of law. When you borrow money, you are legally required to repay the debt. This includes opening a credit card account, getting a line of credit from your bank and obtaining financing for a big purchase.

You can also become indebted to service providers. This can include utility companies, medical professionals, cell phone service providers and auto mechanic shops. They provide a service to you and then bill you, similar to a credit extension.

So, what happens when you don’t pay a bill or repay a debt? The company, creditor or collection agency has legal ways to pursue payment. One of those options is to sue you. If they are successful, the court issues a judgment against you.

What Happens After a Judgment Is Entered Against You?

The court enters a judgment against you if your creditor wins their claim or you fail to show up to court. You should receive a notice of the judgment entry in the mail. The judgment creditor can then use that court judgment to try to collect money from you. Common methods include wage garnishment, property attachments and property liens.

State laws determine how much money and what types of property a judgment creditor can collect from you. These laws vary. So, you need to look to your own state for the rules that apply. A consumer law attorney can help you understand your state’s laws on judgment collections.

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What Is a Judgment on Property?

Your property includes both physical items and money. That means judgment creditors can seek debt payment from more than your wages and bank accounts. They may also take back a car you financed or other personal property. Another option is placing a lien on some of your property, such as your home.

What Property Can Be Taken to Settle a Judgment?

Creditors must follow the law when applying a judgment to take, or seize, your property. Some things are exempt—which means they can’t touch those items or properties. Some examples include the home you live in, the furnishings inside it and your clothes. State laws identify these items and set limits based on their value.

Non-exempt property can be taken to help meet a judgment debt. Your creditor can take or leverage these possessions in the following ways:

  • Wage attachments. This is known as wage garnishment. When your employer receives the proper legal notice, they must withhold a percentage of your wages. These payments are sent to the judgment creditor until your debt is paid.
  • The Consumer Credit Protection Act caps these types of garnishments. The limit is 25% of your disposable weekly wages or the amount you earn that’s above 30 times the minimum wage. The lessor of these two amounts applies. Some states set the cap even lower.
  • Nonwage garnishment. If you’re retired, unemployed or self-employed, your bank account may be garnished instead. Here, too, there are exemptions. Veterans payments, social security and disability benefits are not eligible for nonwage garnishment. Some states add even more restrictions to the garnishment of bank funds.
  • Property liens. If you own real estate, your judgment creditor may file a legal claim against it. These liens notify lenders of the creditor’s rights to your property. That way, if you sell your real property, the debt must be paid out of the proceeds. In many states, liens are placed automatically when a judgment is entered.
  • Property levies. Judgments may also allow some of your non-exempt personal property to be taken through a levy. Law enforcement may seize things like valuable collections or jewelry to be sold at auction. Sales proceeds are applied to your debt.

What Can You Do to Avoid a Judgment?

Heading off a lawsuit is the best way to avoid a judgment. To do so, don’t ignore calls and correspondence from your creditor. Reach out to learn if they’ll accept suitable payment arrangements. Educate yourself on smart ways to pay debt collectors, and consider using the services of a debt management agency.

What if the loan company or debt collector has already started the lawsuit? Don’t skip court. Show up and fight. You may win if the statute of limitations has expired.

If you haven’t made a payment on an old debt for many years, you may have a successful legal defense. Most states set the time frame between four to six years. Collectors often still file suit because they win by default if you don’t show up. So, it’s important that you go to court with proof of your last date of payment.

If you successfully defeat or avoid a judgment, don’t stop there. Take some sensible steps to help you get out of and stay out of debt. Adopting these smart financial habits can also help prevent future judgment actions.

How Long Can the Judgment Creditor Pursue Payment?

The answer depends on where you live, since state laws differ. Some states limit collection efforts to five to seven years. Others allow creditors to pursue repayment for more than 20 years. With the right to renew a judgment over and over in many states, it may last indefinitely.

Judgment renewals may be repeated as often as desired or limited to two or three times. This is another state-specific issue. Judgments can also lapse or become dormant. The creditor must then act within a specific time frame to revive it.

What Happens When You Can’t Pay a Judgment Filed Against You?

If you own a limited amount of property, it may all be exempt from judgment collection efforts. Also, you may not work or only work part-time. With the CCPA cap, that may mean you don’t earn enough for garnishment.

This inability to pay your debt is called being judgment proof, collection proof or execution proof. While these circumstances exist, the judgment creditor has no legal way to collect on the debt. It’s not a permanent solution. The creditor may revisit collection efforts periodically for many years.

For a more permanent solution, you may want to consider filing bankruptcy. This process can discharge or eliminate most civil judgments for unpaid debt. Exceptions apply for things like child support, spousal support, student loans and some property liens. Speak with a bankruptcy lawyer to learn whether this will help your situation.

Can You Settle a Judgment?

If you can afford to pay a decent lump sum, you may be able to negotiate a settlement. The judgment creditor may be willing to settle if they fear you will otherwise file bankruptcy. Get the terms and settlement amount you agree upon in writing. Be sure the creditor agrees to file a satisfaction of judgment with the court after they receive your pay off.

Can a Judgment Be Challenged or Reversed?

Challenging and overturning a judgment is difficult, but not always impossible. This is the case if there were errors. Perhaps you weren’t notified of the suit or it was never your debt to begin with. Consult with an attorney to find out whether you have grounds to challenge the decision.

If you want to challenge a judgment, act fast. If you received prior notice of the case, you may have up to six months to reopen it. If you weren’t notified, you likely have up to two years to appeal. By reopening the case, you have the opportunity to fight the claim anew.

Do Credit Reports Still Include Judgments?

For many years, credit reports included judgment information. But that changed in 2017. The National Consumer Assistance Plan is responsible for creating more accurate credit data requirements. These changes resulted in the removal of civil debt judgments from credit reports.

Judgments are still a matter of public record. But the NCAP now requires that there be identifying information on these records for more accuracy. That data includes a social security number or date of birth along with the consumer’s name and address.

Public records cannot include this type of identifying information. It would violate privacy laws. This is the reason these judgments are no longer reported on credit files.

How Do You Find Out if You Have Any Judgments Against You?

You should receive a summons when you’re being sued. So, you can expect a default judgment will follow if you don’t show up in court. You can also expect a notification when a judgment is entered against you.

Mistakes happen, though. You may have missed the notice or moved to a new address. If that happens, you may not learn of the judgment until collection actions start.

What if You Find a Judgment on Your Credit Report?

Take action if you learn that judgments are still being reported by Equifax, Experian or Trans Union. The NCAP eliminated this practice. So if there’s a judgment on your report, this is definitely something that you should dispute. Credit repair services, like Lexington Law, can help you dispute the error and correct your report.

If you’d like a more in-depth look at your credit score, give ExtraCredit, our newest product, a try. It has five killer features that all work together as a solution to your credit troubles. Plus, you’ll be able to see all 28 of your FICO credit scores. 

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Disclosure: Credit.com and CreditRepair.com are both owned by the same company, Progrexion Holdings Inc. John C Heath, Attorney at Law, PC, d/b/a Lexington Law Firm is an independent law firm that uses Progrexion as a provider of business and administrative services.

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5 Best Personal Loans for Fair Credit for 2020

Are you wondering if there are personal loans for fair credit out there?

If you are, then the answer is a resounding “Yes.” There are, indeed, personal loans for fair credit available to you.

If you have fair credit, expect your credit history to be under the microscope by lenders when applying for a personal loan. But that shouldn’t stop you from getting a personal loan.

So, how do you get a personal loan when you have a fair or average credit?

While you may have fewer options, the best way to know for sure what’s available to you is to shop around and compare.

In other words, there are lenders that are willing to get you a personal loan even if your credit is simply average. You just have to know where to look.

A simple internet search of “personal loans for fair credit” can return thousands of results. That can be overwhelming to go through everything.

But don’t worry.

This guide will provide you a selection of the best personal loans for fair credit. It will also show you ways to fix a fair credit score to a good or excellent credit score.

What is a fair credit score for purposes of getting a personal loan?

Before we offer you a list of personal loans for fair credit, you need to know what a fair credit score is.

A fair credit score, according to Credit Sesame, is a credit score within the range of 640 and 680. It sits “between bad and good credit.”

With an average credit score in the mid 600’s, you more likely to get a personal loan than those who have a poor or bad credit score (which usually ranges between 300 to 600).

But you will not enjoy the same interest rate that someone with an excellent credit score would.

Great interest rates are reserved for people with excellent credit score.

What is a personal loan and what can it be used for?

A personal loan is a lump sum of money you borrow from an institution, and then repay that amount (with interest) over a set period of time.

There are two types of personal loans: secured and unsecured. For example, if you’re taking a personal loan to pay off credit card debts or to go on a vacation, that loan is an unsecured debt.

On the other hand, if you’re taking a personal loan to finance a car, you’ve taken a secured loan that is guaranteed by collateral, which is the car your purchase. 

Unsecured loans have more risks for lenders, because there is no collateral. So, they have to rely solely on your credit history and other aspects of your financial life. That’s why it may be harder to get qualified for an unsecured personal loan with bad or fair credit.

Can I get a personal loan with a fair credit?

The answer is “yes.”

While there are plenty of personal loans for fair credit out there, it’s not always the best idea to apply. One reason is that you’ll often be charged a higher interest rate than someone with a good or excellent credit score. 

In that case, it could be worth raising your credit score first before applying for a personal loan.

So while there are lenders who are willing to offer personal loans to people with fair credit if you’re struggling to get approved for a personal loan with a fair credit, you may want to consider improving your credit score first.

Click to get approved for a personal loan now

5 Best Personal Loans for Fair Credit

The better your credit score, generally the higher your chance is for getting approved for a personal loan.

If you’ve got an average credit, you may still get a loan but you will get a high interest rate.

Check out the list below to see some personal loans you may be eligible for.

Part of your search for the best personal loans for fair credit should start with LendingTree.

That is because LendingTree is not a direct lender of personal loans, but instead it’s an online marketplace that matches borrowers to lenders based on your individual qualifications.

It saves you time. Instead of applying to several lenders, with LendingTree you can shop around and compare the best personal loans on one website. It’s an all-in-one platform.

It just connects you with multiple lenders, you can get a personal loan with even a 600 credit score. 

Avant targets people with bad and fair credit. So, that means even if you have a credit score as low as 580, you may still get qualified for a personal loan. The loan amount ranges from $2,000 to $35,000.

Plus, Avant provides quick funding for personal loans.

Just like Lendingtree.com, BadCreditLoans.com is another online lending network that connects you to a huge selection of lenders.

These lenders specialize in lending personal loans to people with bad or fair credit. You can get a personal loan from up to $5,000.

Payoff provides loans to borrowers who have a tons of credit card debts. If you have high interest credit card debts, a Payoff loan can help you consolidate them.

While you can get a Payoff personal loan with fair credit, the minimum credit score is around 640, which is on the higher end of a fair credit score.

So if you have a less-than-stellar credit, you may postpone your personal loan application.

Another peer-to-peer lender to get a personal loan with fair credit is Prosper. With Prosper, not only can you get loan approval the same day, you can also get funding the same day.

But the main downside is that Prosper requires a minimum credit score of 640, which is on the higher end of a fair credit score range.

Other ways to find personal loans for fair credit

When you’re applying for a personal loan, don’t underestimate banks. The options above are online lenders. But banks and credit unions do provide personal loans to people with an average credit.

Banks.

This includes all the major banks, such as Chase, Wells Fargo, Citibank, Bank of America, plus other small banks.

The main benefit of visiting a bank when applying for a personal loan, especially with a fair credit, is that you get to speak with a human being and has the opportunity to explain your financial situation.

For example, you might be able to explain that the reason for an average credit score is due to an unexpected medical bill.

That is not possible with online lenders where it is an automated system that’s reviewing your finances.

It’s even better to get approved for a personal loan even with a fair credit if you have an account with that bank. They can see your transaction history.

The disadvantage, however, is that a bank may not offer the most competitive personal loan rate, especially with a fair credit.

Credit Unions

Part of your search for a personal loan with fair credit should also include credit unions.

Credit unions are not for profit organizations and are more willing to approve you.

But to get access to the best rate, you’ll have to become a member.

Peer-to-peer (P2P) Lenders

Another alternative to banks and credit unions, P2P lenders can provide you with a personal loan even if your credit is average.

For example, LendingClub, a popular P2P, can get you a personal loan with a credit score as low as 600 — which is considered fair credit.

However, your rate may not be as competitive.

Tips to fix a fair credit if you can’t get a personal loan

Holding off applying for a personal loan to improve your fair credit to an excellent one is a good idea.

Not only will you get qualified, but you’ll also get a better interest rate.

Follow these tips to improve your credit score.

1. Get a copy of your credit report

The first step is to obtain a copy of your credit report.

The three main ones to get it from are Transunion, Equifax, and Experian.

By law, you can request a credit report once every 12 months.

But if you want to do so more frequently, you can request it from free credit monitoring services such as Credit Sesame or Credit Karma.

2. Make sure there aren’t any mistakes

Once you get a free copy of your report, make sure there aren’t any inaccurate information or listings.

If you find something that you’re not familiar with, dispute it immediately.

Sometimes it can be a harmless mistake such as a misspelling or an issue that has already been resolved. Some other times, it can be something more serious such as a credit card or a loan taking out in your name.

So it’s important to always check so you’re not a victim of identity fraud.

3. Pay off any credit card debts

Some debts like student loans (as long as you’re not in default) may not have an impact on your credit score.

But if you have outstanding credit card debts, make it a priority to pay them off.

Or at the very least, pay them down until your balance is at or below 30%. That’s called “credit utilization rate,” which is a big factor in calculating your credit score.

4. Pay your bills on time

Nothing will tarnish your credit score like late payments. That is because payment history accounts for 35% of your total credit score.

Before a lender can provide you with a personal loan, (whether you have fair credit or not) they look at your entire credit history.

A late payment history does not look good. It tells them that you’re not responsible with your money. 

So make an effort to pay your bill on time, even if you can only make the minimum payment.

5. Don’t apply for new credit

When you’re improving a fair credit to good credit in order to get a personal loan, the last thing you want to do is to apply for new credit.

That’s because each time you do, you rack up what’s called a “hard inquiry.” Each hard inquiry is recorded on your report. And hard inquiry accounts for 30% of your credit score.

One hard inquiry is nothing to worry about. But when you make several within a short amount of time, you’ll hurt your credit score. It also tells lenders that you are desperate for credit.

Consider a co-signer

While it makes sense to raise your credit score before applying for a personal loan, sometimes you just need the money right away. 

If that’s the case and can’t get approved on your own, then you will need to use a co-signer with good credit.

With a fair credit, using a co-signer should be able to get you qualified for a personal loan.

But, bear in mind that this is a big financial burden you’re putting on them. By accepting to co-sign a loan, they are also responsible to pay off the loan if you cannot. So don’t take it personal if they say “no.”

Summary

Can I get a personal loan with fair credit? The answer is “yes.”  Personal loans for fair credit are available. And the list above have the best personal loans if you have fair credit.While there are several personal loans for fair credit, it’s not always the best idea as you will often charged a higher interest rate and fees. In this case, it makes sense to improve your credit score first before applying.

Click to get approved for a personal loan now

Work with the Right Financial Advisor

You can talk to a financial advisor who can review your finances and help you save 100k (whether you need it to pay off debt, to invest, to buy a house, or plan for retirement, saving, etc). Find one who meets your needs with SmartAsset’s free financial advisor matching service. You answer a few questions and they match you with up to three financial advisors in your area. So, if you want help developing a plan to reach your financial goals, get started now.

Source: growthrapidly.com

How Many Credit Cards Should You Have for Good Credit?

Should you fill your wallet with credit cards or limit the number you have? It all depends on how you use credit and what makes sense for your financial life. Laura explains how to use credit responsibly and determine what number of credit cards is right for you.

By

Laura Adams, MBA
November 18, 2020

Money Girl podcast, you know the fantastic benefits of having excellent credit. The higher your credit scores, the more money you save on various products and services such as credit cards, lines of credit, car loans, mortgages, and insurance (in most states).

Even if you never borrow money, your credit affects other areas of your financial life.

But even if you never borrow money, your credit affects other areas of your financial life. For instance, having poor credit may cause you to get turned down by a prospective employer or a landlord. It could also increase the security deposits you must pay on utilities such as power, cable, and mobile plans.

Credit cards are one of the best financial tools available to build or maintain excellent credit scores. Today, I’ll help you understand how cards boost your credit and the how many credit cards you should have to improve your finances.

Before we answer the question of how many credit cards you should have in your wallet, it’s important to talk about using them responsibly so you’re increasing instead of tanking your credit score.

5 tips for using credit cards to build credit

  1. Make payments on time (even just the minimum)
  2. Don’t rely on being an authorized user
  3. Never max out cards
  4. Use multiple cards
  5. Keep credit cards active

A common misconception about credit is that if you have no debt you must have good credit. That’s utterly false because having no credit is the same as having bad credit. To have good credit, you must have credit accounts and use them responsibly.

Having no credit is the same as having bad credit.

Here are five tips for using credit cards to build and maintain excellent credit scores.

1. Make payments on time (even just the minimum)

Making timely payments on credit accounts is the most critical factor for your credit scores. Your payment history carries the most weight because it’s an excellent indicator of your financial responsibility and ability to pay what you owe.

Having a credit card allows you to demonstrate your creditworthiness by merely making payments on time, even if you can only pay the minimum. If the card company receives your payment by the statement due date, that builds a history of positive data on your credit reports. 

I recommend paying more than your card’s minimum. Ideally, you should pay off your entire balance every month so you don’t accrue interest charges. If you tend to carry a balance from month-to-month, it’s wise to use a low-interest credit card to reduce the financing charge.

2. Don’t rely on being an authorized user

Many people start using a credit card by becoming an authorized user on someone else’s account, such as a parent’s card. That allows you to use a card without being legally responsible for the debt.

Some credit scoring models ignore data that doesn’t belong to a primary card owner.

Some card companies report a card owner’s transactions to an authorized user’s credit report. That could be an excellent first step for establishing credit … if the card owner makes payments on time. Even so, some credit scoring models ignore data that doesn’t belong to a primary card owner.

Therefore, don’t assume that being an authorized user is a rock-solid approach to building credit. I recommend that you get your own credit cards as soon as you earn income and get approved.

3. Never max out cards

A critical factor that affects your credit scores is how much debt you owe on revolving accounts (such as credit cards and lines of credit) compared to your total available credit limits. It’s known as your credit utilization ratio, which gets calculated per account and on your accounts’ aggregate total.

A good rule of thumb to improve your credit scores is to keep your utilization ratio below 20%.

Having a low utilization ratio shows that you use credit responsibly by not maxing out your account. A high ratio indicates that you use a lot of credit and could even be in danger of missing a payment soon. A good rule of thumb to improve your credit scores is to keep your utilization ratio below 20%. 

For example, if you have a $1,000 card balance and a $5,000 credit limit, you have a 20% credit utilization ratio. The formula is $1,000 balance / $5,000 credit limit = 0.2 = 20%.

There’s a common misconception that it’s okay to max out a credit card if you pay it off each month. While paying off your card in full is smart to avoid interest charges, it doesn’t guarantee a low utilization ratio. The date your credit card account balance is reported to the nationwide credit agencies typically isn’t the same as your statement due date. If your outstanding balance happens to be high on the date it’s reported, you’ll have a high utilization ratio that will drag down your credit scores.

4. Use multiple cards

If you need more available credit to cut your utilization ratio, there are some easy solutions. One is to apply for an additional credit card, so you spread out charges on multiple cards instead of consistently maxing out one card. That reduces your credit utilization and boosts your credit.

Having the same amount of debt compared to more available credit instantly reduces your utilization and improves your credit.

For example, if you have two credit cards with $500 balances and $5,000 credit limits, you have a 10% credit utilization ratio. The formula is $1,000 balance / $10,000 credit limit = 0.1 = 10%. That’s half the ratio of my previous example for one card.

Another strategy to cut your utilization ratio is to request credit limit increases on one or more of your cards. Having the same amount of debt compared to more available credit instantly reduces your utilization and improves your credit.

5. Keep credit cards active

Credit card companies are in business to make a profit. If you don’t use a card for an extended period, they can close your account or cut your credit limit. You may not mind having a card canceled if you haven’t been using it, but as I mentioned, a reduction in your credit limit means danger for your credit scores.

A reduction in your credit limit means danger for your credit scores.

No matter if you or a card company cancels one of your revolving credit accounts, it causes your total amount of available credit to shrink, which spikes your utilization ratio. When your utilization goes up, your credit scores can plummet.

Anytime your credit card balances become a higher percentage of your total credit limits, you appear riskier to creditors, even if you aren’t. So, keep your cards open and active, especially if you’re considering a big purchase, such as a home or car, in the next six months.

In general, I recommend that you charge something small and pay it off in full several times a year, such as once a quarter, to stay active and keep your available credit limit in place.

If you have a card that you don’t like because it charges an annual fee or a high APR, don’t be afraid to cancel it. Just replace it with another card, ideally before you cancel the first one. That allows you to swap out one credit limit for another and avoid a significant increase in your credit utilization ratio.

If you’re determined to have fewer cards, space out your cancellations over time, such as six months or more. 

How many credit cards should you have to build good credit?

Now that you understand how credit cards help you build credit, let’s consider how many you need. The optimal number for you depends on various factions, such as how much you charge each month, whether you use rewards, and how responsible you are with credit.

There’s no limit to the number of cards you can or should have if you manage all of them responsibly.

According to Experian, 61% of Americans have at least one credit card, and the average person owns four. Having more open revolving credit accounts makes you more likely to have higher credit scores, but only when you manage them responsibly. 

As I mentioned, having more available credit compared to your balances on revolving accounts is a crucial factor in your credit scores. If you continually bump up against a 20% utilization ratio, you likely need an additional card.

You can keep an eye on your credit utilization and other important credit factors with free credit reporting tools such as Credit Karma or Experian.

Also, consider how different credit cards can help you achieve financial goals, such as saving money on everyday purchases you’re already making. Many retailers, big box stores, and brands have cards that reward your loyalty with discounts, promotions, and additional services.

If you continually bump up against a 20% utilization ratio, you likely need an additional card.

I use multiple cards based on their benefits and rewards. For instance, I only use my Amazon card to get 5% cashback on Amazon purchases. I have a card with no foreign transaction fees that I use when traveling overseas. And I have a low-interest card that I only use if I plan to carry a balance on a large purchase for a short period.

There’s no limit to the number of cards you can or should have. Theoretically, you could have 50 credit cards and still have excellent credit if you manage all of them responsibly.

My recommendation is to have a minimum of two cards so you have a backup if something goes wrong with one of them. Beyond that, have as many as you’re comfortable managing and that you believe will benefit your financial life.