'I enjoy being able to hack a system': How people who carry 10+ credit cards make it work

"I've never, ever missed a payment."

How people with 10+ credit cards make it work

Carrying more than one credit card is common: Americans have an average of three in their wallets, according to a review of national credit report data by Experian. Most credit cards offer a chance for spenders to earn rewards on everyday purchases and, depending on what you like to spend on, maximize those rewards.

Here's how some people with 10 or more credit cards manage the responsibility, maintain their credit scores, and take advantage of the rewards, all without going into debt.

'I enjoy being able to hack a system'

Sara DeSantis with her credit cards.
Courtesy Sara DeSantis
  • Sara DeSantis
  • 19 credit cards

For Sara DeSantis, content portfolio specialist at Eli Lilly, having 19 credit cards is a way to maximize bonuses. She "churns" cards, which involves opening new credit cards just to earn an intro bonus or reward.

"If I have a big purchase coming up, I'll get a credit card for that," DeSantis explains. "For example, I'll be getting a new iPhone .... I've gotten cards that have $1,000 spend, get $200 back," DeSantis says.

DeSantis maintains a credit score in the 790s, spends nothing on annual fees, and makes sure to pay off purchases as soon as she makes them to avoid paying interest.

'I would get easily $10,000 worth of rewards every single year'

Nick Ewen is a senior editor at The Points Guy.
Courtesy Nick Ewen
  • Nick Ewen
  • 21 credit cards

Ewen, senior editor at the credit card site The Points Guy, has a credit score in the 800s, and across his 21 cards, pays $3,800 in annual fees. But the rewards outweigh those costs: "I estimate that I would get easily $10,000 worth of rewards every single year just by having these cards and using them very strategically."

His rewards fall into two categories: points or miles earned on everyday spending and ongoing perks like free nights at hotels and coverages and protections on travel cancellations.

To stay on top of payments, Ewen uses auto pay and keeps a ledger that details his spending and sources of income: "This makes sure that based on my typical spending, I'm not going beyond my means and I'm still taking in more than I'm actually spending on paying these credit card bills."

'I'm pretty specific about what I look for'

Rocky Trifari in Madrid.
Courtesy Rocky Trifari
  • Rocky Trifari
  • 10 credit cards

Travel blogger Rocky Trifari uses his credit cards strictly to earn back money on his trips. "My mindset, especially while traveling was that if I was going to be spending my money in these different places, I want to get different types of value out of it," Trifari explains. "Whether that be cash back [or] different points, a lot of times [you can get] actual incentives for travel."

Trifari relies on perks like comped checked baggage, access to airport lounges, and waived foreign transaction fees.

With a score in the 790s, Trifari uses an app to help him stay on top of payments. "I'll set specific reminders so that I know each month when I need to pay off certain cards," he explains. "I've never, ever missed a payment."

More from Grow: