What You Should Know Before Closing Credit Card Accounts

After learning the difference between traditional, secured, subprime, retail and major credit cards, you may want to close one or more of your credit cards, especially if you have more than five. If that’s your only solution to increasing your credit score, learn more about the credit process before closing an account.
Most credit scoring systems award a higher credit score to those who have no more than five credit cards. Before rushing to close an account, know the impact it will have on your credit score.
Here are a few basics about owning credit cards.
Fifteen percent of your credit score comes from the age of your credit accounts. The older your credit accounts are, the better it is for your credit score. Credit scoring systems consider the average age of your accounts. If possible, never close older accounts. If you do, you will drive down the average age of your accounts which will decrease your credit score.
Closing a credit card account may also affect your utilization rate. “Utilization rate” is the ratio of your credit card balance against your credit limit, expressed as a percentage. For example, if you charge $800 on a credit card with a credit limit of $2,000, your utilization rate is 40 percent. Credit-scoring bureaus reward people who have utilization rates below 30 percent. If you want to be rewarded by the credit scoring bureaus, always keep your utilization rate under 30 percent.
How does closing credit card accounts impact your utilization rate? If you transfer the balance on the account you want to close to another account, consider this first. If you decide to cancel a credit card and transfer the remaining debt to another card, you may cause the utilization rate on the second card to rise sharply.  This may cause your credit score to drop.
Leaving a balance on your card after canceling the account is worse than transferring a balance because you won’t have a credit limit to offset the balance owed. For example:  If you leave a $700 balance on the canceled card, your utilization rate will suffer dramatically since the limit on the card will be $0.
Develop a strategy to increase your credit score when you have more than five credit cards. Your best bet is to keep all of them active but pay them off every month. This is achieved with a budget. Plan which expenses you will pay with credit cards.
A steady history of payments will demonstrate to credit-scoring bureaus your ability to manage your accounts and will eventually improve your credit score. Pay special attention to the cards with the highest limits, oldest ages, and best interest rates. Be sure to keep these cards active, maintaining a utilization rate below 30 percent.
Retail credit cards, cards which can only be used at the designated company on the card, are an exception to the “keep-them-open” rule. There is no reason to purchase monthly from these stores. Letting a retail account go inactive may not be the ideal choice, but it should not be a cause for alarm unless it causes your credit score to drop. If that happens, call the retail store and to see if you can reactivate the card.