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Which Americans Hold the Most Credit Cards? [2024 Data Study]

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Alex Miller
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Alex Miller

Founder & CEO

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Founder and CEO of Upgraded Points, Alex is a leader in the industry and has earned and redeemed millions of points and miles. He frequently discusses the award travel industry with CNBC, Fox Business...
Edited by: Keri Stooksbury
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Keri Stooksbury

Editor-in-Chief

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With years of experience in corporate marketing and as the executive director of the American Chamber of Commerce in Qatar, Keri is now editor-in-chief at UP, overseeing daily content operations and r...

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Nearly all financial experts agree that having access to at least 1 credit card is an important financial tool. The question of how many cards a person should carry, however, is more complicated. According to data from the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority¹ (FINRA), the large majority of cardholders — approximately 69% — hold between 2 and 8 cards. Conversely, only 26% manage with just 1 credit card, while a mere 6% possess 9 or more cards.

When managed appropriately, having multiple credit cards provides both practical and financial benefits. An extra card can come in handy if one is lost or needs to be canceled, and having multiple lines of credit available can be helpful when unexpected expenses arise. Most credit card companies today also offer benefits to their cardholders to help incentivize card usage. This means that a cardholder may be able to maximize cash-back for certain spending categories on 1 card while being able to accrue travel reward points on another. However, holding multiple cards can also carry risks if cardholders aren’t careful.

The Downsides of Having a Large Number of Credit Cards

Cardholders with 9+ cards are more likely to spend more than they earn and have difficulty paying bills. Image Credit: Upgraded Points

Tracking balances, card limits, and billing cycles across multiple cards can be challenging. If cardholders do not keep up with what they’ve spent on each card, fees and interest rates can quickly add up and increase their debt burden. Additionally, the process of opening multiple accounts necessitates hard credit inquiries, which can adversely impact applicants’ credit scores, potentially resulting in less favorable rates in the future.

Furthermore, the availability of increased credit may encourage individuals to overspend. Compared with all cardholders, those with at least 9 cards are more likely to spend in excess of their earnings (31.6% vs. 18.2%) and more likely to have major difficulty covering their bills (14.5% vs. 7.5%). These challenges often contribute to heightened feelings of financial vulnerability. According to the same FINRA survey, cardholders with 9 or more cards are approximately 1.5 times more likely to experience anxiety regarding their financial situation and twice as likely to perceive themselves as burdened by excessive debt.

Number of Credit Cards by Age and Gender

Young males are most likely to hold a large number of credit cards. Image Credit: Upgraded Points

The tendency to hold a high number of credit cards varies by demographic group, with younger adults reporting the highest frequencies. Notably, 10.8% of males and 9.4% of females aged 18 to 24 hold 9+ credit cards, exceeding the national rate of 6%. In contrast, less than 4% of adults aged 55 and up hold 9+ cards.

While males generally show a higher propensity to hold a large number of credit cards, this trend is driven by age cohorts under 55. Among Americans aged 55 and over, gender disparities in card ownership are minimal.

States With the Most Credit Cards

Infographic Most Credit Cards
Residents in the Southeast and Nevada hold the greatest number of credit cards. Image Credit: Upgraded Points

The share of cardholders with a high number of cards also varies by geography. Generally, states in the South tend to have higher shares of adults holding 9+ credit cards. Louisiana (8.8%), Florida (8.4%), and Texas (8.3%) lead among Southern states, with Nevada (8.5%) also ranking among the highest in the nation. The states where residents hold the fewest cards include Michigan, Idaho, and West Virginia.

Below is a complete breakdown of credit card possession for residents in all 50 states. The analysis was conducted by Upgraded Points using data from FINRA. For more information, refer to the methodology section below.

Methodology

The data used in this study is from FINRA Foundation’s 2021 National Financial Capability Study (NFCS) and Experian’s Average FICO Score by State. To determine the states whose residents hold the most credit cards, researchers at Upgraded Points calculated the percentage of cardholders who report having 9 credit cards or more. In the event of a tie, the state with the greater share of cardholders having 13 or more credit cards was ranked higher. The “Credit Cards per Person” data field is an estimate of the median number of cards held per cardholder based on the available grouped frequency data.

Final Thoughts

Financial experts agree that having at least 1 credit card is a valuable financial tool. However, the optimal number of cards to carry varies among individuals. Most cardholders hold between 2 and 8 credit cards, while 26% manage with just 1 card, and only 6% have 9 or more cards. Having multiple credit cards can offer benefits such as backup options in case a card is lost or canceled and the ability to maximize rewards across different spending categories. Nevertheless, managing multiple cards can present challenges, including keeping track of balances and billing cycles, which can lead to increased debt and financial stress.

Cardholders with 9 or more credit cards face greater risks of overspending and financial difficulties. These individuals are more likely to spend beyond their means and struggle to cover bills. Younger adults, especially those aged 18 to 24, are more prone to holding 9 or more credit cards compared to older adults. Furthermore, the number of cards held also varies geographically, with states in the South, such as Louisiana and Texas, having higher shares of residents with 9 or more credit cards.

References

1. FINRA Investor Education Foundation. (2024). Gauging the State of Financial Capability in the U.S. Retrieved on April 20, 2024, from https://www.finrafoundation.org/knowledge-we-gain-share/nfcs.

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About Alex Miller

Founder and CEO of Upgraded Points, Alex is a leader in the industry and has earned and redeemed millions of points and miles. He frequently discusses the award travel industry with CNBC, Fox Business, The New York Times, and more.

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