Americans have opened a record number of new credit card accounts as they grapple with the highest inflation in 40 years.
According to the credit reporting agency Equifax, 11.5 million new bank credit cards were issued as of February 2022. That’s up 31.4% from a year earlier.
The Federal Reserve says revolving credit — that is, credit cards and lines of credit — rose by nearly 20% from the previous year to $1.1 trillion.
This is totally understandable.
Millions of U.S. households are now living paycheck to paycheck, and putting purchases on plastic may be the only way to make ends meet.
But please, please be careful.
Carrying too high a credit card balance (or balances) can make you a greater risk to lenders. That in turn can push up your interest rates or even ding your credit score.
My advice: Limit yourself to no more than three credit cards. This will maintain a more creditworthy profile to banks and other financial firms.
Also, be very careful about store cards. They often seem attractive because of discounts offered for using them.
But store cards typically come with higher interest rates. And, again, the more plastic in your pocket, the more creditors may grow nervous about your ability to pay off balances.
If there’s a retailer you particularly like, and one that you use more frequently than others, then use their branded card if you must.
By and large, though, you’d be better off skipping the store cards and ignoring all the come-ons for additional plastic.