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How to Keep an Excellent Credit Score While Applying for Lots of Credit Cards

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How to Keep an Excellent Credit Score While Applying for Lots of Credit Cards

Million Mile SecretsHow to Keep an Excellent Credit Score While Applying for Lots of Credit CardsMillion Mile Secrets Team

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Million Mile Secrets reader, Brittany, tweeted:

Can you do a post on maintaining a credit score of 750+ while applying for lots of cards?  I can’t find a recent one.

Did you know applying for lots of credit cards can actually improve your credit score?

If you aren’t familiar with how your credit score works, credit cards can seem scary.  Because the way you handle your credit cards can greatly impact your credit score.

But if you understand the factors of your credit score, you’ll see it’s less impacted by the number of cards you have.  And has more to do with how you use them.

Don’t Let Applying for Multiple Credit Cards Keep You Away From Getting Big Travel With Small Money!

I’ll show you why applying for lots of credit cards is NOT always bad for your credit score.  And how they can even enhance it!

Will Applying for Lots of Credit Cards Lower Your Credit Score?

Applying for credit cards will NOT ruin your credit score.  But misusing the credit cards you open can.

According to the FICO website, your credit score is determined by 5 factors:

  • Payment history
  • Amounts owed
  • Average length of credit history
  • Types of credit
  • New credit
How To Keep An Excellent Credit Score While Applying For Lots Of Credit Cards
Payment History, Amounts Owed, and Credit Mix Account for 75% of Your Credit Score

When you apply for a new credit card, 2 of these areas will decrease your credit score.  Your credit score’s average length will decrease, and your new credit will take a minor hit.  So your credit score will dip by 3 to 5 points.  But this is temporary!

You Are in Control of Your Credit Score

When you’re approved for a new card, the other more influential areas will increase your credit score!

1.   Amounts Owed

Your amounts owed, which accounts for 30% of your score, will improve.  That’s because you’ve opened a new credit line, and have more credit available to use.  So the ratio of how much you have available to how much you owe will go down.

How To Keep An Excellent Credit Score While Applying For Lots Of Credit Cards
If You’re Responsible, Miles & Points Credit Cards Can Fulfill Your Wildest Travel Dreams!

Note:   The general rule is having a balance of over 30% of your available credit will decrease your score.  So if your credit limit is $10,000, for example, don’t charge more than $3,000 to that card.

2.   Payment History

After you have opened a credit card, you must pay your bill in full every month.  If you miss a payment, your payment history will be negatively affected.  This is a big deal because it accounts for 35% of your credit score!

As long as you are responsible with your finances (pay your bills on time, and don’t max out your card limits), you can open lots of cards, and your credit score will actually increase over time!  With an increased credit score, you’ll get great benefits like lower interest rates and higher odds at being approved for other loans.

Million Mile Secrets team member Jasmin has 23 active credit cards.  And her credit score is ~800.

How To Keep An Excellent Credit Score While Applying For Lots Of Credit Cards
Jasmin’s Credit Score Has Improved, Despite Having 23 Credit Cards!

Million Mile Secrets team member Meghan has 14 active credit cards and 4 mortgages.  And her credit score is ~793.

How To Keep An Excellent Credit Score While Applying For Lots Of Credit Cards
Meghan’s Credit Score Is Also Nearly 800

Note:   A history of applying for lots of credit cards will not prevent you from getting things like auto loans and mortgages.  But I personally would not apply for lots of cards in the 2 years leading up to a mortgage, just to make sure you don’t look desperate for credit.  A few cards is okay, but not 20!

Good Credit Is Good Enough!

Your credit score will benefit if you use your credit responsibly.  And pay each bill in full and on time.

And having a good score is enough.  You don’t need to strive for “perfect.”  A score of ~780 is just as good as 800+ to open a new card.  

So while you might not reach the elusive 850 credit score, just know if you’re well over 700, your credit is already good enough to get the best travel rewards cards.

You Should NOT Apply for Credit Cards If…

The miles & points hobby is not for everyone.  And your credit score is not something to take lightly.  I would not recommend applying for lots of miles & points credit cards if you:

  • Carry a balance (miles & points credit cards have higher interest rates – the rewards you earn will not be worth the interest you pay!)
  • Have trouble budgeting
  • Can not meet minimum spending requirements
  • Think you may have late payments
Develop Your Credit to 700+ Before Applying for Miles & Points Credit Cards

Note:   While canceling a credit card can slightly decrease your credit score, annual fees can add up.  Evaluate each card for a year, and cancel any cards you don’t feel are worth it.

If you downgrade your card to a no-annual-fee version, you’ll keep your available credit, and you won’t impact your average length of credit history!  But in most cases, you give up earning a sign-up bonus when you downgrade.

Or, you can also apply for a new no-annual-fee card periodically to maintain your length of history (because you never have to cancel them!).

Confident You Can Handle Travel Rewards Cards?  Start With These!

If you’re responsible enough to use miles & points credit cards, here are a few good cards to start with!

  • Chase Sapphire Preferred Card – Earn 50,000 bonus points (a value of at least $625 when you redeem through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal) after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening.  This is the top card I recommend for beginners!
  • Chase Freedom – Earn $150 (15,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points) after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening
  • Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card – Earn 60,000 Southwest points after meeting tiered spending requirements:
    • 40,000 Southwest points after spending $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months of account opening
    • 20,000 additional Southwest points after spending $12,000 on purchases in the first year

In general, if you’re new to miles & points, Chase cards are the best place to begin.

Bottom Line

Opening lots of credit cards does NOT ruin your credit score.  The way you use your cards is what will determine your credit score.

Miles & points credit cards have higher interest rates.  If you aren’t financially responsible, those interest rates will cancel out the rewards you earn with your credit cards.  And can even put you deeper in debt!

You can keep your credit score in the “excellent” range (and even increase your score!) by paying each and every bill in full and on time.

Editorial Note: We're the Million Mile Secrets team. And we're proud of our content, opinions and analysis, and of our reader's comments. These haven’t been reviewed, approved or endorsed by any of the airlines, hotels, or credit card issuers which we often write about. And that’s just how we like it! :)

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“A history of applying for lots of credit cards will not prevent you from getting things like auto loans and mortgages. But I personally would not apply for lots of cards in the 2 years leading up to a mortgage, just to make sure you don’t look desperate for credit.” -MMS

These two sentences are a contradiction.

Author
Million Mile Secrets

There are lots of reports of folks applying for lots of cards AND getting approved for car loans and mortgages. Personally, I’d rather NOT risk getting a house loan for a few extra cards, so would dial back the amount of cards. But folks who apply for lots of cards do end up getting approved for house loans – so depends on how much risk you can tolerate.

Darius, what the heck– Surprised you did not mention this absolutely key piece of information that reduces your score a decent amount from being in the points game, see example below:

My score dropped from 820 to 770 due to my average credit history decreasing from 10 years to 5 years because I had 10 new accounts opened in the last year. I pay all my bills in full and always have less than 3% utilization on a maximum revolving credit line of approx $200K.

Other than inquiries, I would say length of credit history is severely impacted when applying for many new accounts and chasing points. I thought it was a weighted average but it isnt… i.e. if you have one 10 year account and one brand new account, your average account age will decrease to 5 years upon approval.

Author
Million Mile Secrets

That’s certainly a factor when you first start (and especially if you have 10 in 1 year!). But once the cards are open it takes 7 years to drop off the report (even when cancelled).

There are plenty of links floating around for 50K Southwest sign ups. For those seeking the companion pass, do some searching for a better points deal on your sign up bonus. 40K will make it harder to get to your CP.

Author
Million Mile Secrets

I agree!