If you have one credit card that’s working out well, you may be wondering if picking up another card makes sense. A new credit card could provide additional perks or the chance to earn another lucrative welcome offer.
Adding a second card also lets you diversify how you earn rewards and how you use your credit cards. For example, combining a standard rewards credit card with a travel credit card can help you maximize rewards across a broader spectrum of categories.
But you want to make sure your next credit card is the right fit. Here’s what to consider before applying for your another credit card.
Pros and cons of getting another credit card
Wanting to get a second credit card and knowing you’re ready for one are two different things.
A second credit card means another monthly payment, and requires more discipline with your finances. A second credit card could also increase the temptation to overspend, and a greater chance of digging yourself into credit card debt.
However, adding a second card does have its perks. You could earn more rewards for different purchases plus gain a wider range of benefits. Additional credit cards could even help your credit score.
Pros of getting a second credit card:
- More purchasing power
- Potential for better rewards
- Access to more credit can boost your credit score
- Qualify for another credit card welcome offer
- Access different credit card benefits
Cons of getting a second credit card:
- Another monthly bill
- Temptation to overspend
- Higher chance for long-term debt
- Additional credit card fees
When to get a second credit card
There’s no perfect time to get a second credit card, but there are situations where it can seem like the right moment. Here are some common reasons why you might add a second card to your wallet.
You want to increase your credit score fast
Getting approved for a second credit card can increase your credit score quickly since the second line of credit raises your available credit, therefore lowering your credit utilization ratio.
Your credit utilization ratio measures how much credit you have available versus how much credit you’re using. This ratio makes up 30% of your FICO score, and the only way to move this needle up or down is by paying down debt or increasing your credit limit. Most experts recommend keeping your credit utilization ratio below 30%.
So if you have a $10,000 credit line across all of your credit cards, your total running balance should be below $3,000. Of course, it’s best to pay your balances in full to keep your utilization low, avoid interest and prevent accumulating credit card debt.
Your income went up
If you just got a raise or started a new position at a higher salary, you may qualify for a higher credit line or better credit card.
An income boost can also make it easier to manage credit card payments and higher credit lines while avoiding long-term debt.
You want to maximize rewards
Maybe you currently have a starter credit card that doesn’t offer rewards but you want the chance to earn cash back or points. Or perhaps you have a flat-rate rewards credit card that offers the same earning rate no matter what you buy, and you’re hoping to pick up a new rewards credit card that offers bonus points in categories you spend regularly in.
Either way, a second credit card can help you maximize rewards on every purchase you make, either through strategic card spending or a higher rewards rate for certain purchases.
You want to earn a different type of rewards
There may also be scenarios where you’re earning one type of rewards points, but you want to earn another. If you currently have a cash-back credit card, but you really want to start earning points for travel, for example, picking up a travel credit card to use for some of your purchases could make sense.
You need to consolidate and pay down high-interest credit card debt
Consider a balance transfer credit card if you’re dealing with a high credit card APR. A balance transfer could help you consolidate and pay down debt through an introductory 0% APR for a limited time, although balance transfer fees (typically 3% or 5% of the amount transferred) apply.
How to choose the best second credit card
Once you know you’re ready for another credit card, you can take steps to find the card that will suit your needs best. Consider these tips to find the best second credit card based on your situation and goals.
Assess rewards programs
Start by comparing rewards credit cards and programs to boost your rewards haul.
Think about the type of rewards you want to earn and how you might spend your points. But rewards are only helpful if you can maximize them without overspending, so focus on a card that’s well-suited to your spending habits.
Compare credit card fees
Fees may be worthwhile if you can get enough benefit out of the card. But don’t get caught off guard by annual fees, cash advance fees, balance transfer fees, late fees and over-limit fees.
If you plan to get a credit card with an annual fee, run the numbers so you know the benefits and rewards will be worth it. For example, if you’re considering a rewards credit card with a $95 annual fee, make sure you can get more than $95 in value from the card’s features and rewards each year.
Consider points pooling benefits
For example, credit cards that earn American Express Membership Rewards points and Chase Ultimate Rewards points let you pool points across multiple different cards.
Chase travel credit cards even let you pool points in your travel credit card account for better redemption options. If you already have the Chase Freedom Unlimited® and you decide to get the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card as your second card, you can pool all your points in your Preferred account to get a 25% bonus when you redeem for travel booked through Chase.
Decide which benefits you want
Check the card benefits and compare them to the perks you already have. Consider choosing a card that includes consumer protections like purchase protection against damage or theft, return protection or extended warranties.
What to do before applying for a second credit card
Once you’ve set your sights on a second card, follow these steps to boost your chances of getting approved:
- Check your credit score: Since the best credit card offers are for people with good or excellent credit, you should check your credit score to know where you stand. You can do this for free through AnnualCreditReport.com or your current credit card issuer might offer free access to your credit report.
- Get pre-approved: Some credit cards like the Discover it® Cash Back* let you get preapproved without a hard inquiry on your credit reports. This lets you see if you can qualify without having to apply until you’re ready -- but keep in mind being preapproved doesn’t guarantee approval.
- Read over the fine print: Make sure you understand the terms and conditions of the card you’re planning to apply for, including credit card fees you’ll have to pay, your interest rate and rewards program details.
Will getting a second credit card help my credit?
Your FICO score -- one of the two main credit scoring models in the US -- is made up of five different factors:
- Payment history: 35%
- Amounts owed: 30%
- Length of credit history: 15%
- New credit: 10%
- Credit mix: 10%
Adding a second credit card helps you build an additional positive payment history while lowering your credit utilization ratio. However, a new credit card can also temporarily lower your credit since it reduces the average length of your credit history and adds a hard inquiry to your credit reports.
At the end of the day, how you use your new credit card will have the biggest impact on your credit score. Make sure you keep your credit utilization low and always pay your monthly credit card bills early or on time.
*All information about the Discover it Cash Back has been collected independently by CNET and has not been reviewed by the issuer.
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