To use your credit card for purchases and other transactions, it must be open, active, and in good standing. Your credit card can become inactive and thereby unusable in certain circumstances.
There are a few ways a card can become inactive. If you haven’t used your credit card in several months—or years even—the credit card issuer may deactivate the card. Or, if you’ve fallen behind on your payments, your purchasing privileges may be suspended. The credit card can also become inactive upon expiration with no-issuance of a new card.
An inactive credit card will be declined when you try to use it. So, to save yourself a little embarrassment and the hassle of finding a backup payment option, check to see whether it is active before using it.
Call Customer Service
The simplest way to clear up any question about whether your credit card is still active is to call the issuer and ask. Call the number on the back of your card to inquire about the status of your account. If inactive, customer service can likely reactivate.
Try to Use It
If you don’t want to call customer service, you can test your credit card’s status by using it to make a purchase. A declined card is a sign that it is no longer active; however, it could also mean a number of other things, such as the cards are expired or you've reached your credit limit. For those reasons, it is wise to carry additional forms of payment.
What if you lost or misplaced the credit card, and you don't remember the credit card number? You can get the card issuer’s number from their website and give them your social security number to locate your account (make sure you're at the correct website before giving out your personal information).T The card issuer can send you a replacement credit card if your account is still active.
Check Your Credit Report
Finally, your credit report can give you an idea about your credit card status. Credit card issuers generally report credit card statuses to the credit bureaus once per month. If your credit card is closed, your credit report will probably reflect that. It won't, however, tell you why your account was closed. You'll have to contact your former credit card issuer to get that information.
What to Do If Your Card Is Inactive
Some inactive credit cards can be reactivated by just calling your credit card issuer and asking. You may have to catch up on a delinquent balance before you will be allowed to use your card again. Unfortunately, if it is completely closed, you may not be able to open it up again, especially if it was closed because of delinquency.
Check Your Balance and Available Credit, Too
Once you've confirmed that your credit card is still active, you need to know how much you're able to charge. Ask the issuer or check your account for your current balance and available credit before making any purchases. That way you can be sure you're not exceeding your credit limit.
You're still responsible for making regular minimum payments on your balance, even if your credit card is inactive. Missing your credit card payments has serious consequences, including late fees and damage to your credit score.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
How long will a credit card remain active without being used?
The amount of time that a credit card can sit unused but active differs from issuer to issuer. Most credit card companies will close the account in anywhere from 12 to 24 months of not being used. If you have credit cards associated with a particular retail store, it may have a longer period before being closed.
Should I keep a zero balance on my credit card?
While having a zero balance on your credit card won't hurt your score, if the card goes unused long enough that the credit card issuer closes the account, it could have a negative impact on your credit report. Without the recent activity, lenders won't have a recent borrowing history to determine if you are a responsible borrower or not.