Multiple credit cards: Maximum rewards or overspending risk?

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MUNMUN NATH

The Credit Card Association of the Philippines (CCAP), which is made up of about 14 largest banks in the country, reported in 2015 that there were about 7 million credit cards in circulation and more than 3 million cardholders. Two years later, it is certain that both these numbers would have increased manifold times. It is also likely that the average number of credit cards a person holds continues to be two or more. We are no different from other countries who exhibit similar behavior. Generally, most countries have a credit card density of one to two cards per capita, an exception being the US, where it tends to be more than three cards per person.

Here are two reasons why most people feel the need for multiple credit card:

Rewards—Every card has a unique headline benefit such as cash back for groceries, air miles, dining or shopping rewards. We all have more than one primary expense and having a separate card for each purpose helps us maximize the rewards.

Flexibility—In 2016, the Philippines lost more than half a billion pesos due to fraudulent credit card transactions.
Having multiple cards gives you the flexibility in case one of your cards gets blocked due to suspicious activity. Also, some cards are not accepted universally, so it’s better to have an alternative.


Despite these reasons, you might wonder whether it is a good financial practice to have more than one card. To answer that question, we need to look at both the pros and cons of keeping multiple cards:

Pros of multiple credit cards

Emergency protection—In emergencies such as hospitalization, maintaining multiple cards means having a higher ability to take credit. Ideally, one should always keep one card on which there is no current debt at all times to be prepared for such situations.

Balance transfer—A credit card balance transfer allows you to move the amount you owe from one card account to another. This helps in lowering/avoiding interest expenses and for consolidating multiple debts.
Several banks in the Philippines offer 0 percent balance transfer schemes for a specified time period. However, some cards might charge high fees for this at a later date.

Travel—When traveling abroad, we often incur a service fee for foreign currency transactions that can range from 2.0 percent to 3.5 percent of your purchase price. Having a card that doesn’t charge this fees can save you a lot of money. Also, several cards offer free travel insurance with coverage for flight delays, loss of baggage, and other travel inconveniences for both you and your family.

Cons of multiple credit cards

Overspending—Having more cards can lead you to spend more than you can afford, especially when chasing rewards and trying to meet minimum spend requirements. Also, to prevent banks from potentially closing your accounts due to inactivity, you might be forced to regularly use each of your cards.

Management—More credit cards mean more billing cycles and credit limits to remember. Missed payment dates and spending above card limit can lead to late and over-limit fees.

Risk of loss—In the Philippines, banks could hold a cardholder liable if their credit card is stolen and used by someone else. Earlier this year, the PNP-Anti Cybercrime Group arrested a person for credit card fraud and identity theft. With the rise in such cases, more cards mean more risk for the holder.

To sum up, the primary reason the credit card was introduced as a financial product was the convenience of payment. Rewards and other benefits might drive us to hold multiple cards. But no matter how many credit cards you own, remember that they are meant to be a mode of payment and not an alternative source of credit. For more advice on credit card best practices, visit our blog here—https://www.moneymax.ph/blog/

Munmun Nath is managing director at MoneyMax.ph, the Philippines’ leading comparison website for insurance, credit cards, and loans. We want to help you save money through free and fair financial information, so please tweet us: @MoneyMaxPH, like us on Facebook: MoneyMax.ph, and email your comments to munmun.nath@moneymax.ph. For more information, visit our website: www.MoneyMax.ph

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