With high credit score, adding new travel card not a problem

Opening Credits columnist Eric Sandberg
Erica Sandberg is a prominent personal finance authority and author of "Expecting Money: The Essential Financial Plan for New and Growing Families." She writes "Opening Credits," a weekly reader Q&A column about issues for people who are new to credit, for CreditCards.com.

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Question Dear Opening Credits,
I currently have two credit cards and a FICO score of a 798 at the age of 23. I would also like to open a credit card to get points toward flying. What is the general rule for having too many credit cards? I pay off everything every month, so that is not an issue. – Cameron


Dear Cameron,
I must say I’m impressed by your achievement. Millennials get such a bad rap for being irresponsible (or worse), but here you are – a young man who has developed a credit score that puts many an experienced adult to shame. Excellent credit scores don’t happen by accident. They take work to create, and to maintain them you must be dedicated to the process.

I can understand why you wouldn’t want to endanger those high numbers by adding another account to your wallet, but you shouldn’t worry. As long as you apply prudently and use the new account as expertly as those you already own, you’ll be in fine shape.

A variety of open and well-managed credit types can be advantageous for scoring purposes. The general rule: Keep each active with occasional use, and pay the bills on time and in full. Which is what you’ve been doing, so you need no lectures from me!

Security is another benefit to having more than a couple of credit cards, though, especially while globe-trotting. It will behoove you to have an additional backup account in case one card is compromised, stolen or temporarily suspended. Whether you’re in Alberta or Zaire, you’ll want to be sure you can check in to a hotel, buy train tickets or rent a vehicle. Extra credit lines can be a godsend in an emergency, too.

A travel rewards card will be ideal for you. Because your credit score is near perfect (FICOs start at 300 and top out at 850), and I presume you have a steady income, issuers should be eager to offer you their perk-rich products. Many are offering travel cards with incredible sign-up bonuses.

For example, you may qualify for an account that provides 40,000 miles or so, as long as you spend several thousand dollars in the initial three or four months after being approved. That many miles could translate into free roundtrip airfare.

Take a long look at the many credit card offers before deciding on one. You’ll want to be sure the card fits your lifestyle. If charging and paying off a few thousand dollars in a short span of time doesn’t make sense, go for one that doesn’t demand such a hefty requirement. Also be sure to review the number of points you earn for using the card long after you have it, but don’t let them lead you into debt. It can be tempting to overcharge so you earn more points – even for a pro like you.

Travel rewards cards are either co-branded with an airline or hotel chain or have rewards programs where points can be redeemed toward travel, but aren’t limited to a specific airline or hotel (think Capital One or American Express). If you prefer to fly with a specific carrier or stay at one of the affiliated hotels, you may be able to take advantage of special benefits such as preferred seating or room upgrades and additional points if you use the card for booking. If you don’t play favorites, though, a more universal card may be your better option.

Finally, whatever you’re doing to ensure scoring greatness, stick with it. You’re a credit to your generation.

See related: Help! I need points fast for a summer trip!, Consider award availability before selecting travel card

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Updated: 12-19-2018