Paying off a credit card is a great accomplishment, especially after working long and hard to accomplish it. Now, you may wonder whether you should leave the card open or close the account.
You could keep the credit card active in case you want to use it again in the future. However, there are also a few good reasons for closing a card once you've paid it off.
You Want to Downsize Your Credit Cards
You may feel that you have too many credit cards and want to minimize the number of accounts you have. Even a credit card with a zero balance has to be monitored regularly to spot any unauthorized charges. Closing a paid credit card could make it easier to manage your finances.
You Have Better Credit Cards
Your first credit card may not be as attractive as others you've opened over the years. It may have a low credit limit or high-interest rate while your other credit cards have better limits, low rates, and better rewards programs. Getting rid of a credit card that no longer benefits you is a good idea.
Keeping your oldest credit card open is good for your credit score because it demonstrates that you have years of experience with credit.
You Don’t Want to Get Into Credit Card Debt Again
After you've worked hard to pay your cards off, you don't want to max them out again and put yourself into debt. If you think having an open credit card will tempt you into racking up more than you can afford to pay, closing it is better than getting back into debt.
What Closing the Card Won’t Do
While there are some advantages to closing a credit card you've paid off, it's important to know what closing a credit card won't accomplish. For example, many people think closing a credit card will improve their credit score. Unfortunately, it's more likely that closing a credit card—even a paid one—will hurt your credit score rather than help it.
Closing the credit card also won't remove it from your credit report. The account will remain on your credit report until the credit reporting time limit has expired. That would be seven years if the account were closed with a negative standing, like a charge-off. An account closed in good standing will stay on your credit report, based on the credit bureau's timing for reporting closed accounts.
Should You Leave the Account Open?
Leaving a paid account open can benefit your credit score under certain circumstances. Consider leaving the account open if it's the only credit card that has available credit. Having this card is helping your overall credit utilization, which makes up 30% of your credit score.
You should also keep the account if it's your only credit card as long as you use it responsibly. You should also understand that your credit score benefits from having a mix of accounts on your credit report. That means that your paid-off credit card might help your credit score when combined with loans as part of your active credit history.
Some credit card issuers close credit cards that go unused for several months. To keep your account open, be sure to use it periodically. Occasionally, make a small purchase on the card—every three or four months—and pay off the balance right away to keep it active and open.
Otherwise, if you have a pretty high credit score and other credit cards that have been open, especially for longer, closing your paid credit card won't likely hurt your credit score much, if any.
If you're planning to apply for a mortgage loan soon, don't close (or open) any credit cards, since it's impossible to predict with 100% accuracy how that action might affect your credit score.
Frequently Asked Questions
What happens when you close a credit card?
When you close a credit card, you'll no longer be able to use it for any transactions. Your credit card issuer will send you a final billing statement, and you'll need to pay off any remaining balance. Once you complete your payments, your credit card issuer will report the account as closed to the credit bureaus, but it will remain on your report for up to 10 years. Your credit score might dip temporarily when your available credit amount drops, and the average age of your credit shrinks, but it will bounce back if you maintain good credit habits.
How do you close a credit card?
To close a credit card account, you typically need to call your card issuer's customer service and follow up with a written notice. You'll need to pay off any remaining amount owed on schedule, and you can still be charged interest on any outstanding balance. Check your cardholder agreements for specific cancellation terms and instructions.