By Travel + Leisure and Travel + Leisure Staff
April 17, 2015
The Conversation Q+A
Credit: iStockphoto

Credit card sign-up bonuses are hard to resist, especially when you’re trying to rack up loyalty rewards. It’s okay to take the bait, as long as you follow some guidelines—and understand how credit scores are calculated. According to Meredith Griffanti of Equifax, two major factors are payment history and how long accounts have been open (the longer, the better). Cards stay on file for 10 years, even if they’re closed, so past late payments will still hurt you. And each new card lowers the average age of your accounts—another hit. This means don’t jump at every new offer, and do keep accounts open even if you use them only one time. As Jill Gonzalez from Card Hub puts it, “You can never have too much available credit.” Also, think twice before trying to game the annual-fee grace period. If you cancel after the first year, your score could be affected, so don’t open and close cards frequently.

The final word: You can have a wallet full of cards—just don’t get too many new ones at once, keep them open, and pay them off in full and on time.