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How using more credit cards can help maximize rewards

Writer and credit card expert Jason Steele shares his tips for finding the best cards for cash back, miles and more.

MINNEAPOLIS — Most Americans carry two to four credit cards.

But there's a growing trend of people carrying five, 10, even 15 or more cards to maximize their benefits and make a lot of money.

Jason Steele said he has about 20 credit cards, which might seem like a lot, but not for Steele.

Steele is a writer and credit card expert who specializes in travel rewards, so opening and using new credits cards is part of this job.

"It's certainly possible to make maybe a $1,000 a year from your rewards,” Steele said. And you can earn even more if you choose miles over money.

Steele said he flies several times a year for free using his credit card points.

Here's how his system works.

There are four main categories for credit cards: travel, restaurants, groceries and gas.

Steele will research which credit cards offer the most points in each category and will get at least one or two credit cards for each of them.

He also has a few credit cards that feature rotating categories that might feature a category like “Groceries” and offer as much as 6% back for an entire month.

Steele also has a few generic credit cards that offer a steady percentage of around 2% on everything you buy.

He'll use those credit cards for every purchase that doesn't fall into one of the four categories, things like insurance or a cell phone bill.

And he also keeps an eye out for new credit cards that are giving away a significant amount of points for first time customers.

"There's been a lot of cards recently with 100,000 or even 150,000 bonus points or miles for new accounts,” Steele said.

He'll do that a few times a year, cashing in on those first time offers.

He said some people will then cancel the card once the introductory bonus is over, but Steele says the credit card companies don't like that and they may not give you offers in the future.

And it could affect your credit score.

"I would say keep the card for a year, see if it meets your needs. At the end of the year, maybe when the next annual fee comes due, you decide if you want to keep the card or cancel it,” Steele explains.

With so many cards, Steele recommends setting up autopay so you don't miss a payment.

But this system doesn't work for everyone.

"I do not recommend that anyone has more credit cards than they can responsibly manage.”

Steele says people who don't pay their balance each month should not use this system, because it can lead to more borrowing and debt and can get people into trouble.

And start slow. Don't add a bunch of new credit cards all at once.

You don't want to have more than you can handle, like the world recorder holder in China, who according to the Guinness Book of World Records, has more than 1,500 credit cards.

Yikes.

Can you imagine paying those off each month?

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