Walter Cavanagh owns 1,497 active credit cards valued at $1.7 million. Aside from holding the world record for the most number of credit cards, he also owns the world’s longest wallet, measuring 250 ft in length and 38 pounds in weight, with a capacity to hold 800 cards. Dubbed as “Mr. Plastic Fantastic” by the Guinness Book of World Records, Walter has been listed in the book annually since 1971. Cavanagh has been tracking directories of US businesses to send as many credit card applications as he can.
His fascination with credit cards all started in the later 1960s when he and his pharmacist colleague in California vied to collect the most credit cards to win a bet, the price of which was a fancy dinner. Cavanagh, who was fresh from Peace Corps at that time, was able to collect 143 cards by year end, defeating his friend who just collected 138. This feat earned him his first Guinness Book title.
He used to apply for one or two cards a week. There was even a time when he applied for 300 cards in just one month. He sometimes unknowingly applied for a card he already owned. When his application was declined, he would send a letter to the issuer explaining his purpose for seeking credit card approval, which is to maintain his world title. All of his credit card applications were accepted except one for J.J. Newberry. The company denied his application in the early 1970s when Cavanagh already amassed a large number of cards. Four decades later, Cavanagh still doesn’t own a Newberry credit card.
The retired financial planner used to take his collection with him wherever he traveled. One got him into trouble when it set off a metal detector in a Texan airport. The guards then inspected his briefcase and found hundreds more. The culprit was the sterling silver credit card issued by the defunct Mapes Hotel, the first casino hotel in Reno. The card, a collector’s item, grants unlimited credit privileges, said Cavanagh.
His credit cards were issued by various establishments such as ice cream store, airlines, bars and gas stations. His cheapest credit card has a maximum credit of $50. From green cards to gold cards, Cavanagh has the most diverse collection of credit cards. His cards come from every state in the Union and some even come from foreign countries like Canada, the UK, Germany, Norway and Mexico.
All of his 1,497 cards are valid. But Cavanaugh only uses one of them and keeps the rest in a safe-deposit box. Majority of his cards have never been used or signed by him. He pays his due on time, which gives him an almost perfect credit score.