Money Poll #3: Credit Cards

Coming on the heels of the successful budgeting and coupon polls, we have Money Poll #3: Credit Cards. The question of the week is “How many open credit card accounts do you currently have?” As before, I’ll go first…

We currently have five credits cards. An American Express, a Chase Visa, and three different Citibank MasterCards. We actually only use one of these at a time, and we typically rotate them to get the best rewards. So how does everyone else do it?


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43 Responses to “Money Poll #3: Credit Cards”

  1. Anonymous

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  2. Anonymous

    I’m new to this web site. My answer may already exist on another thread, but if someone could give me advice here I’d appreciate it. I was happily debt free except for my nice fixed rate mortgage, then my Dad had a catastophic illness. I used my Bank of America and Union Plus cards to help pay medical expenses etc. I’m now trying to roll the balances to 0% credit card offers. I have 3 department store cards and a Capital One card that I don’t use. I just did a 0% transfer to a brand new Discover More card. I am looking to get an additional card to transfer the rest of the BOA balance to. Would it be better to close the department store cards and Capital One card before I apply for another card so I don’t have too many open accounts. I’ve been under the impression that cards with a zero balance make your credit look better, but I’ve also heard you can be denied for having too many open accounts.

  3. Anonymous

    I have two one is through paypal and is kind of a debit card and the other is through presidents choice no fee.. i cant imagine having more than that.

  4. Anonymous

    I think about how many credit card should people have. There are some reason to have more then one credit card – you may decide that the best credit card for you Amex or Discover credit card but many merchants don’t accept those cards. Because of it you need another card for example Visa credit card or MasterCard.
    Besides credit cards offer higher rewards on different types of purchase so you need special card for gas station. Or if you travel a lot it is reasonabe to get one of the airline credit cards.
    Otherwise it’s easier to manage budget if you use only one or two credit cards. Besides more credit cards – more credit card statements to check for errors.
    As for me I use American Express
    Blue Cash and Chase Bank Platinum Visa.

  5. Anonymous

    I have one debit card, paying on a car loan and student loan. Just went through the Dave Ramsey course. I dont agree 100%- just 98.89%. One thing is you have to budget and seal up the cracks in which your money falls through. I already see a real difference in the 12th week of the course. The course is not for everyone, just those who earn a wage to live.

  6. Anonymous

    I have a Citibank Platinum rewards CC used for everything 5% back on gas/1% everything else. I use a AmEx for costco with 3% back eating out, 2% traveling, and 1% else. We have a discover card because I never bothered to cancel it, a Best Buy and Home Depot cards. I’ve used the BB and HD for 0% for 12 or 24 months.

    I’ve liked this for 10 years where I’ve had CC and never paid a cent of interest. Why? Because I’ve never spent more than I could afford. I do not spend 12-18% more on the CC because I can tell you to the penny my budget. We save the max in all retirement accounts, no car loans, just got a student loan, and own a home. We have the cash for the student loan but DH likes having money in the bank.

    CC are a tool we happen to use because I track our spending daily. I know exactly how much we’ve spent on gas monthly for years. I can tell you what we’ve spent on travel, food, etc. I also know exactly how and what our purchases were I’ve receipts for about 3 years. Yes it takes time, but we used to make $40k combined and bought a home in Sunny SD.

    So every penny has counted, and the cash back has helped us. We consider all financial decisions carefully. We would love to emulate Allen and retire at 52, and we probably will be able to.

    Debt doesn’t come from CC, it comes from behavior. It comes from spending tomorrow’s money today, whether it be a CC, car loan, or even mortgage. Knowing what you can afford versus taking what you want is now is the difference.

  7. Anonymous

    I have been using an Amex Platinum for just about all purchases. I have most of my bills set to pay automatically through the Amex, so I only have to write checks for the mortgage and some child care stuff. I carry a Citi Dividend MC for those places that don’t take Amex, which I’ve found to be few. I stay within my means because I know I have to pay off my $2500 or so in charges each month. I don’t even carry my Visa Check Card anymore. I strive to have a buffer between the world and my personal checking account. Amex does a pretty good job, and the perks are worth the $395+$175 annual fees. If I could find a way to pay my mortgage and other stuff through the Amex I would.

  8. Anonymous

    I have 7 open cards (that I can think of), but I only use:
    – Starwood Amex for all non-restaurant purchases that take Amex. (Not including gas, grocery or drugstore)
    – Costco True Earnings for all restaurant purchases that take Amex (3% Costco Check)
    – Citi Dividend (2 cards) for all gas, grocery or drugstore (5% cash back up to $300 per card)
    – United Airlines Visa for all other charges.

    Thanks to everyone else for sharing!

  9. Anonymous


    Or anyone who knows. Which card(s) are available that give 1.5% cash back on all purchases? I have not been able to find such a card that was truly 1.5% back on all purchases from dollar one. So please share.


  10. Anonymous

    Allen – Your comments are very encouraging, it’s good to hear from someone who has walked the walk.

    Emma – I guess my point is that disciplined spenders SHOULD use credit cards while undisciplined spenders (ie most of America) should not. You are precisely the kind of person who can benefit from cash back cards without abusing the credit. The fact that most people can’t control themselves shouldn’t dissuade you from taking advantage of a valuable resource.

    We follow a strict budget and never carry a balance on our card. We get around $600 back each year. Based on Allen’s post, I’m going to look into ways to increase that. I might even be able to get enough back to make an extra mortgage payment…

    Regardless, you are still way ahead of the game. Keep on keepin’ on!

  11. Anonymous

    The majority of americans can not constrain their spending with plastic, but they can not constrain their spending with anything else at all. They have no budget.

    Personally, I only buy what I mean to, so I am not the majority of Americans. As such, I think I am fine for the free money. If somebody can not control their spending based upon their budget (if they have one in the first place) then of course they shouldn’t carry a card.

    Relegating all card use to the dust bin just because most American’s can’t control spending is a moot point, since most American’s are not even trying or conscious of the fact that they should.

  12. Anonymous

    Allen, thanks for your input and, congratulations on your dilligence. It is a hard thing to come by but so richly rewarded. I’m sure you would agree.

    Although you have had the self-control with credit card purchases, the majority of Americans don’t. And that is my main reason for my healthy distaste for plastic.

    Samerwriter, I don’t believe I misread Stanley’s book. I do believe that one sees the book from their own worldview which leads to differences of opinions on it. I am a Christian, therefore, I approach debt from that point of view.

    Plankton, thanks. We are disciplined with our spending and that is exactly why we don’t use credit cards. After planning our finances, we now have the ability to squeeze every dollar for what its worth. People have this idea that budgets are constraining. I feel the opposite is true. We tell our money where to go, therefore have more control over how its used and how far it will go. It’s quite a liberating experience.

    Hahah, Blaine Moore, I don’t carry cash unless I expect to buy something. At least not in the amount that I would be at a great loss. 🙂

  13. Anonymous

    I have a feeling that my wife and I are older than pretty much everyone who has posted here, so perhaps our hindsight will be of value. We are retired and have been for 6 years; I was 52 at the time. So are we wealthy? I guess that depends on your definition of “wealthy”. A key factor in our financial position is no debt. We carried a credit card balance for about two months when we were first married, but quickly vowed to never again throw money down that rat hole. We managed our car purchases so that we gradually took on shorter and smaller loans, and now we only pay cash. We took advantage of mortgage rate decreases to go to a 15 year loan which we paid off in under 8 years. I can’t emphasize enough the financial freedom and peace of mind that comes from not having any debt. It gives you tremendous flexibility and options (like retirement!).

    As to the question at hand, we use four credit cards. Three pay 5% cash back on gas, grocery and drug store purchases and 1% on everything else, with a maximum cash back of $300 each per year. The fourth card pays 1.5% cash back on all purchases, capped at $1,500 per year. We only use the 5% cards for 5% purchases, using one card until until we reach the $300 cap, then switching to the next card, etc. That gives us $900 cash back each year. Everything else, including things like utility bills, goes on the 1.5% card. We haven’t had it for a full year yet, but I expect that we’ll get $1,000 or so back on it. So that’s about $2,000 cash back every year. It may not make us rich, but hey, it’s free money!

    Keys to doing this successfully: We NEVER carry a balance, and we don’t buy things we wouldn’t otherwise just because we’re getting cash back. We monitor our spending according to a spending plan that we periodically update. We’ve done that for nearly 40 years now, and it has been invaluable in helping us make sure our money goes toward our highest priorities. In other words, we’re able to buy pretty much anything we want because we try very hard to make sure we don’t spend any money on things that aren’t really important to us.

    I’ve never read “The Millionaire Next Door”, but based on the descriptions of it in previous posts, it’s sound advice. Take it; it works!

  14. Anonymous

    I’ve enjoyed this list of comments. I wanted to briefly comment on something Emma said earlier re: the Walton fortune not being built with debt – Sam Walton was heavily indebted during the first 15+ years he was in business, up until the time he took the company public. In fact, one of his biggest problems was getting enough loans to fund his expansion.

    Which brings me to a larger issue: debt by itself is not inherently bad. Yes, consumer debt is not good (unless it’s a 0% credit card), but debt that allows one to finance passive streams of income is very powerful. I know it’s an over-used term, but other people’s money can come in very handy.

  15. Anonymous

    Emma, if you have the discipline to stick to a budget, then NOT using a cash-back card is passing up free money. If you really can’t trust yourself with a credit card, set up auto payments for all your utility bills on the account (my boss is lucky, he can put his mortgage payments on his) and then CUT UP THE CARD. Now there’s no potential for abuse, and you get a check for a hundred bucks or so every year.

  16. Anonymous

    It’s useful to distinguish the billionaires from the wealthy. It’s likely that no one here will reach the former group, but some may reach the latter.

    Obviously the super-wealthy aren’t worried about cash back from their credit cards. Nor are they worried with saving money on groceries or gas prices. For any of us to try to emulate their behavior would be a huge mistake. Larry Ellison has maxed out his $1 billion credit line and Paul Allen is buying a 150′ yacht to follow his 350′ yacht, simply for extra storage. Bill Gates has been rumored to drive exotic cars without changing their oil until the engine is destroyed.

    These people got where they are because of some hard work and a lot of luck. For every Sam Walton or Bill Gates there are 10000 people who worked just as hard and failed. In my opinion it’s best not to set one’s goals that high.

    But prudent spending and saving can certainly make someone with a middle-class income fairly wealthy over the long term. I think Emma has misread The Millionaire Next Door; the personalities described therein are precisely those who would take advantage of cash back offers, if they were going to spend the money anyway. Of course they would be careful to watch their expenditures and make sure they aren’t spending more money just because it’s on plastic.

    It’s also a little disingenuous to use the GM credit card as an example of why cash back cards are bad, because the GM credit card isn’t a cash back card. So far this year I’ve earned $147 in cash back on my Citibank card, for purchases I would have made one way or another.

    Having said that, if someone is unable to control his spending when he uses a credit card, then obviously the rewards do not outweigh the money he’ll lose.

  17. Anonymous

    Emma, it’s also difficult to lose a lot of money when you get rolled when you don’t have any on you…


    Hopefully nobody who reads this board has to do deal with that. Of course, you don’t need to be mugged in order to lose cash.

  18. Anonymous

    D-Man, you’re right, the wording is incorrect. But, you get my point now.

    Blaine Moore, it’s rather difficult to get hit with fraudulent charges when you don’t have any.


  19. Anonymous

    I use two cards. I used one for a long while, but the perks of an American Express Platinum became very useful for trips. If you pay off your cards every month then it doesn’t really matter which one you use. If you have no clue about your spending and spend freely because you don’t keep track, then plastic is not for you.

  20. Anonymous

    Thanks for the responses Emma,

    I am familiar with the Millionaire Next Door. I have not read it cover to cover but have been over many of the concepts and know the basic demographics that 80% are first generation millionaires and did it by working a normal job like everybody else and just living well below their means and saving so that at retirement they had a million.

    To be on point, neither the principles in that book nor your plan are what “the wealthy do”. You have a great plan and the principles in the book are great. They are the way most everybody needs to do it. They are the way that the non-wealthy over a long period of time become wealthy.

    This is an important distinction though in that it is not what the wealthy do. Wealthy people already have wealth by definition. So I was curious if you actually meant what you said and had some wisdom to follow from what the wealthy do. I think its the case that you meant it different than you actually stated it. Basically you are going to do what people do to become wealthy, not what the wealthy do. The Fortune 500 type of wealthy people are just not achievable for 99.9999% of Americans, again by defintion (there are only 500 of them). And yes, I am sure they don’t care about credit card cash back bonuses. But I would think a number of people in Millionaire next door do that type of thing as just one of the many ways they are frugal with their money.

  21. Anonymous

    I read millionaire next door; it didn’t say anything about not using a credit card over cash for the wealthy. Quite a few of the test cases in fact did it exactly the way I do it, where they paid the balance every month and worked in a budget.

    Either way, the extra protection of using a card such as not being responsible for fraudulent charges and getting extra warranties on purchases are also worth the slight effort. While I haven’t been rolled in a long time, it’s less to lose at any given point.

  22. Anonymous

    Since you also want to know what I’m doing more specifically to obtaining wealth, this is our plan:

    1-We have a budget that includes saving for vacation, vehicle replacement, and furniture. We opened an ING account with automatic deposits from our checking account and then separate the deposit into their proper categories.

    2-We get paid bi-weekly during the same week. We are going to open an ESA account for our daughter with the 2 extra paychecks we receive.

    3-We will pay off our remainding credit card balance next month. We are going to pay off Sallie Mae in 2 years. We have no car payments.

    4-With no payments, except for living expenses, we are going to max out our retirement (401k and IRAs) and invest in mutual funds.

  23. Anonymous

    D-Man, you need to pick up a book called The Millionaire Next Door by Thomas Stanley. He’s narrowed down what the typical American millionaire looks like and how they got there. Not all of them were entrepeneurs.

    Stanley outlined seven common behaviors in millionaires:
    1- they lived well below their means
    2- they allocated time, energy, and money in ways conducive to building wealth
    3- they believe that financial independence is more important than displaying social status
    4- their parents didn’t economic outpatient care
    5- their adult children are economically self-sufficient
    6- they are proficient in targeting market opportunities
    7- they chose the right occupation

  24. Anonymous

    I figure I will work off of a budget, get things as cheap as possible, wait to buy things until I can get rebates etc etc.

    I will continue working at my job at least until my fiance gets her law degree, and between now and then will try to work up to at least 2 passive streams of income by the end of this year and to have at least 7 or 8 within a few years. Once she is working again and I am getting some small bit of passive income (hopefully at least 1/3 of my current annual salary) then I will probably “retire” or at least cut my current work hours in half from my current job and spend more time on my personal businesses and fitness training. Within 2 years of not working at my current job (which I do enjoy a lot) I would want to have at around 40 passive streams of income and to start working on some more active streams such as promotional work or consulting.

    That is my general game plan for the next 6-10 years anyway. How close I can stick to it, I do not know, since I am in the process of buying a house, will be getting married soon, and will begin having children (hopefully) in about 3-4 years.

    Part of that is saving as much money as possible, and if I can add $400-$500 per year to my investments from cash back rewards or lower insurance premiums for the same coverage, then I’ll take it.

    There are wealthy people other than fortune 500 CEOs; it just takes them 20 or 30 years to get there. I’m starting a little later than I wish I had, but now that I am going that route I am going full bore.

  25. Anonymous


    BTW, I did not say most people dropped out of college, just some (which I have no problem with. College is just a means to an end and if you can get there without it then its not necessary). I don’t know the details of how Buffet and Waltons got started and perhaps they didn’t use any debt. But try to start any business venture other than a lemonaid stand today without getting some outside financing or drawing down a significant amount of personal savings. I know its very difficult because I have been down that path.

    You keep referring to doing what the wealthy do, but you don’t say what you think the wealthy do. Other than saying they have vision that they will be rich. I know lots of poor to middle class people with vision that they will be rich, and they have ideas coming out of all ends about it too. Most of them fall flat when they try them though. Vision doesn’t even get you out of the batters box. It also takes a lot of skill and execution in addition to the correct vision. The correct vision by the way is not all the common. So what do you think the wealthy do?

    I guess I am just trying to get at what you are specifically doing that you believe the wealthy do to help you get wealthy.

  26. Anonymous

    That’s not so true. You are taking the minority account of those 500. There are few who took that route.

    The Walton fortune wasn’t built on lack of education or borrowed money. It was build on hard work and the entrepeneurial spirit. To some, this spirit is risky. But, it is the essence of the American dream, which is to build personal wealth. Warren Buffett, number 2 on the list, was an educated man and borrowed no money to build his fortune.

    By doing what wealthy people do, you will become wealthy. Most of it is vision. Vision that they will be rich. The typical American has no vision, only hopes and dreams that they will be rich some day, yet do nothing to ensure that. And sure, I have no dreams of becoming a billionaire, only a millionaire at retirement age.

  27. Anonymous

    Interesting take Emma,

    I have to say that I find myself agreeing with some of what you are saying. The amount of savings and cash gained by using the credit cards is not much, a few hundred dollars a year for the most part. Sometimes it can be a bit higher. That will not make you wealthy as you say.

    You say you are going to do what the wealthy do. Speaking of the Fortune 500 type of wealthy people that you reference my understanding is that most of them did something like the following: Take a large business risk, borrow a bunch of money including putting up all your assets including your house as collateral, potentially drop out of college, and then work your butt off to turn your risk into great wealth. If you are very business savvy and hit the right market at the right time, then you can join them on the Fortune 500. The alternative is the join the rest in the Broke 5,000,000.

    Is that what you mean by doing what the wealthy do or did you have something else in mind that the wealthy do that you want to emulate? This is a serious inquiry by the way. Just curious what wealthy traits you want to emulate.

  28. Anonymous

    Blaine Moore, that’s great if you don’t spend more than you would with cash. But the majority of Americans spend 12-18% more with plastic. That is not surprising.

    You know, I don’t remember the last time someone made the Forbes 500 because of credit card rewards and discounts on insurance. I’m of the opinion, that if I want to be wealthy, I’m gonna do what wealthy people do, not what broke Americans are doing.

  29. Anonymous


    I do not spend more than I would if I were paying cash or by the card, since I track everything that I spend with one or the other and try to avoid frivolous purchases.

    The 3-5% gets applied to my auto insurance, which I am bound by law to get, and will be sticking with my current providor long enough to use anyway.

    The 1-5% cash back is just a nice little bonus. I don’t have to purchase anything extra to get that.

  30. Anonymous

    I don’t have any. I have a Visa debit card that I use sparingly. I buy with cash only now. Most of my bills are set on automatic payment and I write 2 checks every month for daycare.

    Honestly, I don’t miss the cards. We had 4 last year and paid them off and closed the accounts. I’m not convinced, either, that it is smart to use them, when you pay them off ‘responsibly’, for the rewards or benefits. With a credit card you end up spending more than you would with cash. What’s smart about that?

    Mathematically, the cash back rewards don’t make sense and are outright idiotic. With the GM card, for example, you get a 5% rebate towards a new car purchase. Let’s say you’re getting a $4,000 rebate for being such a smart consumer. To get that $4,000 rebate, you had to spend $80,000. Then, buy a new car that will lose approximately $3,000 of its’ value when you drive it off the lot. How many stupid things can a person do at once?

  31. Anonymous

    Too many is how many I have.

    One WSECU Visa, no balance this is the oldest so I’m keeping it for my credit history

    2 Citis MC, 1 Cap One Visa and 1 Bank of America Visa, these are all balance transfer offers that will be closed as paid off.

    Do store charge cards count? I have 1 with Goodyear for misc car repairs but I haven’t used it in 3 years. I like it because it has 90 days same as cash.

  32. Anonymous

    D-Man, I have a feeling your comment is directed at me… 😉

    I wouldn’t say I am unable to keep from running up balances, but I’ve certainly shown a definite lack of restraint in the past. Is that the credit card co’s fault? Well no, certainly not. And today, I doubt very much that I’d do something as mindnumbingly stupid as rack up $25k+ in credit card debt. Nonetheless, I’m pretty certain my bank would step in to stop me if I attempted to buy $25k more than I had in my account with my debit card… 😉 So in a sense, sure, it’s protecting myself from, well, myself.

    But the real reason I’m looking forward to the day when I don’t have a credit card account is because, quite blatantly, I don’t trust the credit card companies. Their ability to arbitrarily raise interest rates to almost any level bothers me – I’ve never noticed a rate decrease without compaining, have you? Their attempts to trip up customers by, for instance, making due dates on Sunday – when, of course, they neither can accept mail nor payments – bothers me. Their ability to change contract terms at will bothers me (and amazes me that we apparently are all too willing to be party to a contract that essentially states ‘we can do whatever we want whenever we want’).

    1% back? 5% back? Bleh. It really just isn’t worth it to me.

  33. Nickel

    D-Man: I can’t speak for anyone else, but I agree with you regarding credit card usage. I would definitely miss having a credit card. As far as debit cards go, we have one because our bank’s ATM card doubles as a debit card. But we pretty much never use it as such (just about the only time we’ve used it was when we’ve been at Sam’s Club and forgot the checkbook). Regarding fraud protection, I’ve heard that most debit card issuers now give similar protection similar to what is available for credit cards, but I’m not sure. This may vary from issuer to issuer.

  34. Anonymous

    Question for people or for Nickel.

    A few people have commented on debit cards and one or two people have hinted that they don’t use their cards or won’t miss them when they are gone.

    If these reasons are because people are unable to keep from running up balances that they can’t pay then that is one thing but if that is not the case then I would be curious as to the reasons why people would not use a credit card or would not want one. I have my two cash back cards setup on automatic payment with my checking account. Nearly all purchases are made on these cards and they are paid off at the end of the month automatically (after a 25 day grace). So I get cash back on my purchases and get to use the credit card company’s cash flow for about a month. For me the fact that the money is on a card and not coming directly out of my bank account does not cause me to spend one extra penny. But that may not be true for all.

    And beyond that I would be curious as to people’s thoughts on debit cards and why to have one (again other than if you don’t have the will power to not overspend your credit card).

    I don’t have a debit card and wouldn’t want one. To my understanding there is not as much protection from fraud and lost cards on a debit card as there is on credit cards. Does anyone else have any thoughts on this?

  35. Anonymous

    A good follow up would be how many of those open credit card accounts are actively used. I answered “five to seven” in this poll for my wife and me, but of those we only actively use one. It earns cash back and we pay the balance in full each month.

    The other accounts we only keep open to because we’ve had them for awhile and they help our credit histories. And having that extra emergency cushion doesn’t hurt either.

  36. Anonymous

    We have three:
    – an MBNA with zero on it that’s hanging around solely because it’s our oldest open credit account, or it’d be long gone (in case you don’t know, MBNA sucks 😉 )
    – an AMEX Blue card I’m using for it’s 15-month low-interest balance transfer, which will be zero’d out in a couple months assuming things go as they have been
    – a Chase holding the remainder of our credit card debt at a until-balance-is-paid 3.99%

    Haven’t pulled one out for several months, and then only because I left my debit card at home. Let’s just say, I won’t miss them when they’re gone…

  37. Anonymous

    We have five, but only the two best rewards cards are used regularly.

    Two others were good rewards programs in their day, but have been superceded by better ones. I keep them open because they are older accounts with high credit limits for emergencies.

    The fifth is a Sears card, which only gets used to take advantage of sales for Sears card holders.

  38. Anonymous

    I have four.

    One is going to get cancelled once I buy a house since I have never used it and probably never will. I am waiting to close it since I don’t want that to show up in my credit report yet.

    One is a cash rewards card, which I am going to start using in the near future.

    One is a rewards card that applies towards my auto insurance, which just lost its 3 month promotion of getting more than usual rewards (hence switching to the cash one soon).

    The last is an MBNA card with a 5.25% fixed rate that I don’t use since I don’t keep a balance on any of my cards. It has a decent rewards program that I haven’t cashed in yet, and I folded my first credit card that I got as a freshman in college into that account so it looks like I have a long credit history with it.

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