Do you have a credit card that you never use or you regret opening? Or do you just want to close an account or two?
Know the right time and circumstances to close a credit card account so you don’t hurt your credit history and maintain a healthy financial life.
The right time to cancel a credit card
For the most part, it’s best to keep your credit cards open, even if you aren’t using them regularly. Closing your accounts can harm your credit score in a variety of ways.
However, like with anything, there are exceptions to this rule. If you find yourself in one of the following situations, it might be better to close the account.
1. Separation or divorce
If you have joint credit cards and are currently going through a divorce or any type of separation with the other cardholder, it’s probably best to close those accounts. If you have a joint account, you are responsible for any charges made by the other cardholder.
For example, what if your ex racks up a lot of credit card debt on your joint card and then leaves you with the bill? Even if your divorce proceedings determine that the debt belongs to your ex, your credit card company isn’t required to see it that way. It’s best to avoid that possibility and close down the card.
2. High annual fees
Some credit cards require an annual fee from cardholders. While these cards often offer impressive perks, sometimes those benefits aren’t worth the fee. If you’re holding a credit card that you never use, or don’t use the perks that come with it, consider closing it to avoid paying the annual fee.
However, it never hurts to call your card issuer and ask about getting that annual fee waived before you shut down the account. Sometimes, card companies will do this to keep a customer. It never hurts to ask!
3. Too much temptation
To put it bluntly, some people simply can’t handle having a credit card. If you find that you’re often spending more money than you have, simply because it’s too easy to do with your credit card, you might need to close the account.
However, before resorting to closing the account, try some other approaches first. Some people can simply take the card out of their wallet and the temptation disappear.
Another popular option is freezing your credit card in a block of ice, so you have it in an emergency but it takes effort to use. This approach gives you time to talk yourself out of using the card.
Things to consider first
Before you go running off to close your credit card accounts, there are some factors you need to consider. There’s a reason why it’s almost always recommended to keep all your credit cards open, regardless of how often you use them. Closing a credit card can affect your credit score in a negative way. Weigh these facts before pulling the trigger:
1. Credit utilization
Closing a credit card will hurt your credit score if it drastically changes your credit utilization ratio. Your credit utilization is the percentage of your available credit that you are currently using. Closing a credit card will reduce your available credit – and in turn, impact the percentage of credit you use every month.
If you’re currently utilizing a high percentage of your credit limits, you may want to pay down your balances before closing a card.
2. Paying off the balance
Speaking of balances, don’t think that closing a credit card will keep you from having to pay the balance on the card. When you close a credit card account, you are still responsible for the full balance. While you don’t have to pay it all at once, your minimum payment may go up, depending on your card issuer’s terms.
One more thing to keep in mind: your card issuer can still charge you interest on your balance until you pay it off, even after you close your account.
3. The myth about credit history
A highly searched question around closing a credit card is 'does cancelling my credit card hurt your credit?'. To this, many people will tell you YES, you shouldn’t close your credit card because it will hurt the credit history part of your credit score.
However, this isn’t really true!
When you close a credit card account, it doesn’t disappear from your credit report immediately. Closed accounts will stay on your report for 7-10 years, depending on the impact on your score.
How to close credit card correctly?
If you’ve weighed the pros and cons to closing your account, and you still want to close it, it’s important to follow the right steps to ensure you close it properly.
- Check for any unused cashback, points, or other benefits. You will want to use all of these before closing your account. You’ll lose them once the account is closed.
- Either pay off all of your other credit cards or get all the balances down as low as possible. This helps minimize the change in credit utilization.
- Call your credit card company to confirm you want to cancel your account. Verify your balance at this time.
- Mail a certified letter to your card issuer to cancel your account. If your balance is zero, ask for a written letter confirming the zero balance as well as the closing of your account.
- Wait 30 to 45 days, then check your credit report to ensure the account shows as closed. If anything is incorrect on your reports, dispute them through the credit report issuer.
It’s almost always best to keep your credit cards open, but if you need to close one, follow the proper steps and with the impact on your credit score in mind.