There are only a small handful of credit score myths that have been able to stand the test of time. One of them is certainly that you have to have an exact number of credit cards in order to optimize your credit scores. This is incorrect. You can have 1 credit card and have a great score, or a lousy score. You can have 15 credit cards and have a great score, or a lousy score. The number isn’t important, how you manage the credit cards IS important.
Case in point… FICO recently released data profiling the highest scoring consumers, which was a group that scored 785 and higher. The average number of credit cards on their credit files is…drum roll please…7.
Now, 7 credit cards may seem like a lot of credit cards to have simply to fit the profile of someone who has a FICO score at or above 785 and while that would seem to be an attempt to back into a really high score, it’s not necessary. The 7 card figure is the aggregate number of credit cards on your credit reports, not the number of cards that are open and active or cards with or without balances or cards that are inactive. According to FICO, “High achievers have an average of seven credit cards including both open and closed accounts.”
What that means is if it’s on your credit report it’s being counted. And, because credit reports maintain credit cards that are closed and have been closed, possibly, for years (a fact that my father just doesn’t understand so I stopped trying to explain it to him) the number “7″ all of a sudden doesn’t seem so high after all. Remember, plastic is more than just general use credit cards like Visa, MasterCard, Discover, and Amex. It also includes retail store credit card and gasoline credit cards. When you factor in those categories, 7 starts to see really low, especially for someone who has used credit for many years.
Credit Reporting Expert, John Ulzheimer, is the President of Consumer Education at SmartCredit.com, the credit blogger for Mint.com, and a Contributor for the National Foundation for Credit Counseling. He is an expert on credit reporting, credit scoring and identity theft. Formerly of FICO, Equifax and Credit.com, John is the only recognized credit expert who actually comes from the credit industry. Follow him on Twitter here.