Credit lessons from the man with the most credit cards in the world

Most credit “experts” advocate for having a sensible number of credit cards. Somewhere between three and five cards is usually touted as the credit sweet spot, although everyone has their own opinion. Still, you’ve probably never heard anyone advocate for having quite as many credit cards as Walter Cavanagh.

Cavanagh was recently recognized by Guinness World Records as having the most open, active credit card accounts in the world. How many cards does Cavanagh have in his name? Try 1,497.

The nearly 1,500 cards create an overall line of credit worth approximately $1.7 million. And according to Cavanagh he’s got an “almost perfect” credit score. So is there even such a thing as having too many credit cards? Or should you try to be more like Guinness’ “Mr. Plastic Fantastic” and open every credit card someone offers you?

Number of cards and your credit score

Here’s an important thing to keep in mind – in most credit scoring systems, the number of open credit accounts you have does not factor into your score. From this perspective, having a lot of credit cards isn’t a problem. So why does everyone always preach caution when opening new accounts? There are a few different reasons.

First, while the actual number of accounts in your name isn’t a factor in your score, the age of your accounts is a factor. Older, more established accounts are better for your score. Every time you open a new account, the average age of your accounts goes down, taking your credit score with it.

A bigger concern with having too many credit card accounts is that many credit cards aren’t free. There may be fees associated with simply having the card (whether you use it or not). Additionally, the more cards you have, the more difficult it might potentially be to keep track of every account. Generally speaking, when people run into problems with credit cards, it’s usually because they have a lot of accounts and they use all of them, overextending themselves and falling behind in the process.

It’s how you use them

Walter Cavanagh, for the record, claims to only use one of his 1,497 credit cards, and he pays it off in full at the end of every month. Ultimately, this is the real trick of good credit – it’s all in how you use it.

You can have as many accounts as you want, as long as you can successfully manage those accounts. It’s nice to have multiple lines of credit at your disposal, but you should never spend money you can’t pay back. Having three or four credit cards gives you flexibility and added security, and while it only takes one card to abuse your credit, the chances of running into a problem with credit will only increase with each new account.

Jesse Campbell is the Content Manager at MMI, focused on creating and delivering valuable educational materials that help families through everyday and extraordinary financial challenges.

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