Will Canceling My Credit Card Hurt My Credit Score?

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We’ve all heard the importance of paying close attention to our credit scores. Many of the credit card companies are beginning to catch on to the importance of having consumers keep it in control, and helping them track it—whether on a monthly statement, like Discover, or through the online account, like Chase and US Bank. But the question remains: will canceling my credit card hurt my credit score?

Once you start to pay attention to your credit score and understand just how it is calculated, you should be doing everything you can to keep it in a good range, or make it better. Canceling a credit card is one thing that many people do without realizing that it can have a damaging effect on your credit score.

Here are the answers to some common questions about canceling credit cards and how it might affect your credit score:

Will closing a card I don’t use hurt my credit score?

In general, it won’t hurt you to keep a credit card open. It will have more of an effect on your credit score if you close it, especially when you have had a card for a long time. The length of time that you have had a card is a factor in determining your credit score. That said, you definitely don’t want to close your oldest cards, even when you no longer use them.

Of course, if they have high annual fees, you may want to weigh this decision heavily. Consider using the card if they offer great perks, downgrading to a no-annual-fee version, or making a request to the credit company to waive the fee for a year. They just might consider this, depending on your relationship with them.

Is there such a thing as too much credit?

Some people are under the assumption that you can have too much available credit. This is not really the case. You can open too many cards in too short of a time period, which can hurt your score. You can ring up too many purchases too quickly, which raises your debt level. This can hurt your credit score. But, for the most part, you can’t have too many credit cards that are paid in full.

If you do choose to close a credit card, the credit history will remain on your credit report. If you were a customer in good standing for 10 years, this will show up on your credit report, and it will help your credit score. If you do take a hit to your credit score for closing an older, unused credit card, the ding should be temporary if your credit is solid.

Are there reasons to close a credit card when trying to raise my credit score?

If you have a good history with a credit card, and there is not a huge annual fee, then, no, there is not really any reason to close a credit card. It won’t help your credit score to close it. Keep it, especially if you have had it for a long time, even if you don’t use it.

What happens if the credit issuer closes the account?

While closing a credit card yourself is usually better, a closed account is a closed account. It will show up as “closed by consumer” or “closed by creditor”. Unfortunately, some reading your credit report may assume you had problems.

The best thing to do is try to avoid having creditors close your account. If it does happen though, don’t worry. It doesn’t really make a difference in the long run. You will take a hit to your credit score either way, and you can get your card closed due to inactivity. Each company has different policies so checking with their terms and conditions may be in your best interest.

Should I close my store credit cards?

Store credit cards are the ones most commonly closed by creditors when they are inactive. Store credit cards do have an impact on your credit utilization. Let’s say you owe $500 to a store and you have a $600 credit limit. This is a high credit utilization for this card.

Make sure that your other cards have lower rates of utilization. It would be even better if you can pay something off. Closing store credit cards does have less of an impact on your credit score than closing major bank credit cards. Your credit report will focus on the bigger picture—mortgages, loans, major credit cards, revolving credit lines, etc. when calculating your score.

While it’s better to keep all your big cards and close the store cards, it’s not the end of the world if you can’t. One thing to keep in mind about store cards is that they may be your oldest credit card since they are often easier for people to get. If you have had a store credit card in good standing for 15 or 20 years, then there is really no reason to close it and more good reasons to keep it open.

Final Thoughts

Closing credit cards can have a temporary effect of lowering your credit score. As long as you are not closing your oldest cards and are keeping all of your cards in good standing, there is no reason to close any. Keep track of what you have. Make sure you are not paying any unnecessary annual fees. Understand how your credit score is calculated. You will likely find that you won’t need to close any cards and can keep your credit shining!

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