We’ve all gotten those letters in the mail: “You’ve been pre-approved for a credit card from this major lender, just call this number and get credit in a few minutes!” On first glance, they can seem pretty tempting, because who wouldn’t want more financial flexibility in just minutes?

But the reality is, credit cards are more complicated than that. Just because you’re getting extra money doesn’t always mean it’s a good deal. In a lot of cases, people have more credit cards than they should, and that can hurt their credit score. You might not know this, but utilization is part of your credit score. If you use a lot of credit, you’re going to get dinged quickly.

That said, credit cards certainly aren’t all bad. They can bail you out in a jam, and good cards can help you rack up rewards for your usage. So what’s the number to target for financial flexibility that doesn’t overwhelm you?

Choosing The Right Amount

The right number of credit cards depends on you and your needs, but for many people, two is a good number. If you make a lot of business purchases, such as for travel or for supplies, having a third card for those purposes only makes sense, but most people will be fine with one rewards card and one card for emergencies.

Ideally, you’ll use the rewards card to get cash back and points toward fun items, and the other card only when you have a major purchase that will take time to pay for or if your rewards card isn’t accepted by that merchant.

Why You Need Multiple Cards

Financial flexibility is an important thing with credit cards. If a major expense arises, you don’t want to find yourself stuck paying a lot of interest if you can’t pay it off right away. That’s why you need an emergency card, and it should card should be the lowest APR card you can find, which is why it shouldn’t be a rewards card.

hose cards tend to carry higher APRs and annual fees, so putting a large purchase you can’t immediately pay off on them can backfire in a hurry. Getting rewards is great, but when your rewards get eaten by interest, using them isn’t as much fun as it should be.

Why You Shouldn’t Have Too Many

The main thing you never want to do with credit cards is put yourself in a tight spot financially. If you carry too many, debt can crush your future, and without having at least one, you could find your savings wiped out if a major event happens in your life.

By carrying two or three credit cards and staying on top of their balances at all times, you’ll give yourself the freedom to overcome life’s struggles and the flexibility to make your cards work for you instead of the other way around!