Monday, January 28, 2008

How Many Credit Cards?

In an ideal world of tidy wallets, I would only have three credit cards, an Amex, a Visa, and a Mastercard. Well, my checkered past hasn't led me to the ideal, and so as I've chased zero percent rates to pay for CFP classes and mandatory family vacations, I've accumulated a fair share of plastic. So the past few months I've been slimming down the plastic accounts as part of my New Year's resolution. I dropped 2 Chase cards because their terms and interest rates were absurd. I dropped an HSBC card because it was relatively new. And yesterday, I dropped two cards. One is a Citibank, and one is an Amex rewards gold card.
    C(itibank)- May I ask you why you are dropping our card?
    P(iggyBankBlues)- I have too many cards, I don't need this many.
    C- Everybody has a need for a low interest rate. Would you be interested in a lower interest rate?
    P- It's not the interest rate, I pay my card off in full each month.
    C- So you're telling me that you do not have a need for a lower interest rate anywhere? I can beat any loan you're paying.
    P- I prefer loans from banks, not on a credit card. Like I said, I pay it off in full-
    C- (adamant) Do you or do you not have loans?
    P- (baffled) Excuse me?
    C- A car loan, we can transfer your car loan-
    P- Used car, paid cash. Listen, I just want to cancel my card, can I please-
    C- You have no loans whatsoever? (he's getting a little agitated at this point...)
    P- (joking) Unless you're going to buy our mortgage, then no, I have no loans for you.
    C- (serious) I've done it before. I'm sure it's not over $X50,000-
    P- (hands up) I live in New York City, of course it's over $X50,000-
    C- (irate) Ma'am, you asked questions and I'm just answering them, okay?
    P- (magnanimous) Yes, thank you, I appreciate it. May I please close my card?
    C- one moment please (click)

Amex went smoother, though they did offer me $40 off the annual fee. Then I was feeling just plain giddy with account closing madness, and I called the Wall Street Journal. Four people later they let me close the account. I told them all the same thing, I am no fan of Rupert Murdoch and refuse to give the man a dime. I did not, of course, tell them that the WSJ was now free online so I could now read it without paying him to begin with. I was naturally told that the ownership of the Journal did not reflect the content of its pages. I was like, have you seen Fox News?

So now I am down to 2 Amex cards (a Delta that I use for everything and a platinum Optima that I use for my credit score), one Bank of America (high limit, low APR, never use, in case of emergency), REI rewards card (no fee, use it only if Amex not accepted), and one last Citibank that I am contemplating closing. Is five cards too much?

While there are good reasons to have multiple credit cards, and the average number of cards Americans have is four, I'm still considering closing that last Citibank card. So while I contemplate closing that card and bring my total down to the good 'ol American average, I'll see how I stack against the Credit card industry facts and personal debt statistics (2006-2007).


Ms. M&P said...

I cannot BELIEVE that they were willing to take on a mortgage. That's just crazy talk.

I know you know this stuff better than I do, but are you going to ask your other cards to increase your limit so your credit score stays the same? I'm always calling the cards and asking them to up my limit so my score will go up.

And I think that having 3-4 cards open is all you need. I like to try and keep it simple so none of the cards can jerk me around. The fewer cards I have, the closer I can watch them.

PiggyBankBlues said...

i know! and i was like, um, didn't you just lose nearly ten billion dollars on sub prime mortgages, and you're laying off thousands of workers?!?! i should've said that, but i didn't...

GOOD POINT about maintaining my credit score, i should have put that in the post! i first made sure over the past few months that i bumped up my credit limits to replace what i was going to cancel. in the end, i ended up exceeding it by more than $10k, mostly b/c the amex rewards is a charge card. on your credit report charge cards with "no limit" show your credit limit as the highest balance in your card's history, so mine was only a few thousand. but yes, like clockwork every quarter i call up my cards (or do it online) and request both a credit limit increase and an APR reduction. i'm pretty comfortable where they are, and actually worry that they might become to high.

i agree about the # of cards, i'll probably close that last citibank card...

SavingDiva said...

Ohmygoodness! I had to laugh about the above conversation! That citibank CSR really takes his job seriously!

Mrs. Micah said...

They wanted your mortgage? Wow, they're desperate. Lol.