Is one credit card enough? Not according to the average American. A 2014 Gallup survey found that U.S. consumers carry between two to three credit cards, and if you exclude Americans who don’t use credit (29%) that average increases to three to four cards.
Expanding your credit experience is a common and smart move under the right circumstances. Keep these criteria in mind as you begin your search for the best second credit card.
You’re Aiming for Better Credit
In many ways, building credit is like building your career: the more experience you have, the more qualified you’ll be for future opportunities. If you have years of positive credit experience behind you, your credit score is likely to reflect your good habits. In fact, there are five factors of FICO credit scoring that may be improved if you add another credit card to the mix, including your credit utilization ratio. While payment history is at the top of the list, accounting for 35% of your credit score, utilization is a close second at 30%. Credit utilization compares the amount of debt you owe to your overall credit limit.
The lower your credit utilization ratio, the better your credit will fare, and a second credit account can drastically improve your standing.
For example, suppose you have a single credit card with a $5,000 limit and you have a balance of $1,000. Currently, you have a 20% credit utilization ratio. Now suppose that you open a second credit card with $10,000 limit. Right away, your combined credit limit increases to $15,000 and your overall credit utilization drops to 6.6%. A change like this could boost your credit quickly, which is helpful if you’re planning to pursue other financial goals in the near future, like buying a house or car.
You Qualify for the Best Terms
The best second credit card is going to come with the best terms and conditions, and the most attractive ones are usually reserved for customers with stellar credit, including:
- No annual fee: Many high-end credit cards assess an annual fee to take advantage of their rewards, but there are plenty of worthwhile options that don’t charge for your loyalty.
- Low or 0% APR: Many credit cards offer a period of no-interest spending for the first 12 months and beyond. If you’re hoping to make a large purchase soon after opening the account, this option allows you to repay the balance without worrying about accruing debt.
- Due date flexibility: It can be tough to pay a credit card bill on the first of the month if you aren’t paid until the sixth. Some credit cards allow you to request a monthly due that works better with your budget.
- Freebies: Many credit card issuers go beyond spending rewards by offering freebies on a regular basis. For example, the American Express Platinum card provides customers with a monthly Uber credit of $15.
If your credit is low, it can be tough to find a second credit card that delivers these types of terms. It’s a good idea to focus on improving your scores beforehand to provide you with options that suit your lifestyle.
The Card Serves Your Lifestyle
Speaking of lifestyle, securing the best second credit card means taking a closer look at why you want it in the first place. Establishing boundaries for its use will help you avoid overspending by making deliberate purchases. If you feel nervous about managing more than one card, a few options for limited use might include groceries, entertainment, bills, and emergencies. If you feel secure in your spending habits, opening yourself up to a wider spending net could pay off big in terms of rewards. Credit card issuers offer benefits to their customers as a way to compete for your business, providing you with:
- Cash back
- Travel rewards and miles amounting to free trips and hotel stays
- Discounts with partnered retailers
- Early access to ticketed events
- Purchase and fraud protection
- College saving funds
Putting the “best” in that best second credit card could mean trimming your budget in a significant way if these expenses pop up on a regular basis—or, better yet, if they align with your lifestyle goals for the future. Take stock by reviewing the last three months of your spending, highlighting the categories that cost you the most, and comparing your findings to credit cards that offer the right perks.