It would be hard for many of us in America today to imagine life without credit cards. We use these small but potentially powerful plastic rectangles for everything, from our morning latte to luxurious vacations and expensive gifts. The lure of buy-now, pay-later is irresistible.
The credit reporting bureau Experian computes that the average American has 3.1 credit cards, carrying an overall balance of $6,354. Total credit card debt in this country stands at about $829 billion, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York’s Center for Microeconomic Data, and about 8% of that total is 90 days or more delinquent.
Do we really need three or more credit cards per person? If not, how many cards is a sensible number? When should we consider getting a new card, and when we do, what factors should we consider?
Whether we are adding to our existing collection of credit cards or applying for a card for the very first time, there are a number of important considerations that should be brought into play. In most cases, the issuer would have the pertinent information on its website — the small print is boring but important. If not all the pertinent information is available on the website, a call to customer service can tell a lot about the card you are considering.
For information on credit card issues worth researching, 24/7 Wall St. consulted several credit reporting and credit card and other financial advice websites, including Experian, Investopedia, NerdWallet, Credit Karma, The Street, and CreditCards.com. We also drew information from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York and U.S. News & World Report.