You may have credit card accounts open that you don’t seem to use anymore. Maybe you just feel that you have one too many accounts, and you’re thinking about closing one.
Before you decide to close a credit card account, carefully consider why you think you need to close an account and how your credit score and history could be impacted. In some cases, closing a credit card account may not be the best idea.
Check out this information about closing a credit card account to help decide if it’s the right financial move for you.
Good reasons to close a credit card account
Separation or divorce
If you’re going through a separation or divorce, it may be best to close your joint credit card accounts. With a joint account, you are responsible for any past or future purchases on the account. Even if it’s continued routine spending from your former partner on the account, your lender will also hold you responsible.
High annual fees
If your lender charges high annual fees on a credit card account you rarely use, you may be in a position that canceling is beneficial. However, you need to look at the full picture of the account before you make that call.
If you’re receiving benefits from the credit card account, the benefits may still outweigh the annual fee. Travel credits and perks may add up to be worth the cost of the annual fee.
If you aren’t receiving benefits that outweigh the fee, try calling your lender to ask for the fee to be waived. If you mention you are considering closing the account, you may be more likely to receive a positive response.
If benefits are low and the fee can’t be waived, then closing the account may be a good solution for you.
Negatives to closing a credit card account
Lower credit score
Although your credit history will be unaffected if you close a credit card account, your credit score could be if you don’t pay off all credit card balances first. The only way to not hurt your credit score in closing an account is to make sure the balances of all your credit cards are $0 on your credit report. If you can’t pay off or transfer your balances on all your credit cards before closing a credit account, you will be doing more harm than good.
Can’t reopen accounts
Another factor to keep in mind is that once you close a credit card account, you can’t reopen it. When you close the account, any benefits you had will be lost as well.
Reasons to keep a credit card account open
Your credit cards show your payment history. If you have a good payment history on a card, it is positively affecting your credit score, so you won’t want to lose this good history.
In addition, if you’ve been building history on the credit card for a while, it is also positively impacting your credit score. Length of history is another factor in determining your score, so removing an older credit card will lower your credit age, and therefore, score.
If you have a high balance on a card, closing the account is not the best move. Closing the account with a high balance will negatively affect your credit score. Instead, pay off the balance before you close the account so you can avoid a similar situation in the future.
Alternatives to closing a credit card account
In many of the situations that people think they need to close a credit card account, there are more effective alternatives to consider.
For example, if you’re looking to lower your spending, don’t carry the credit card with you when you shop or tuck it away (and remove the number if you have it saved on your computer or phone) so you won’t use it for online shopping.
Having a credit card that you don’t use often is not a bad thing. Keep the card open to maintain a low balance and a long history of good payment.
If you want to learn more about credit accounts and best practices, check out our blogs on how to repair your credit and things most people don’t know about their credit score. If you are looking to consolidate your debt and transfer all of your credit card balances to one lower rate card, schedule a debt consolidation meeting to see if this will be a good fit for you.