How To Cancel a Credit Card Without Hurting Your Credit Score

So I was reading creditcards.com and came across an interesting article on canceling credit cards the right way. Apparently, there’s a way to cancel your credit cards without jeopardizing your credit score.

According to creditcards.com, there are six steps to take in order to effectively cancel your credit card and avoid negative repercussions on your credit report. I thought we’d take a look at these six steps and talk about them just a little.

# 1 – Know who to contact

Well, this one is a no-brainer. You have to gather the contact info for the credit card company you’re going to call. Creditcards.com suggests you gather both the telephone number and the mailing address.

# 2 – Pay off your balances

Admittedly, I didn’t follow this advice when I was paying off my credit cards. According to creditcards.com, it’s better to pay off your card before telling them you plan to close the account. There’s no real benefit to you by telling them of your plans, but in doing so, it can backfire. Lenders could raise the interest rate on the outstanding balance, leaving you paying back more in interest simply because you’ve closed the card.

# 3 – Close the card

Once you’ve paid the balance off in full, it’s time to give the credit card company a call. It’s a good idea to keep notes of dates, times, and names of the people you’ve spoken to. You’ll also want to be prepared for the representative to try and talk you out of your decision. In some cases they will make very good arguments or offer you deals that may be tempting. But, you’ll need to stick to your guns based on your reasons for closing the card.

Since we’re here, let’s review some good reasons to close out a credit card.

  • It tempts you to spend more than you can afford
  • Fraud
  • Protecting yourself from authorized users
  • Annual fees and monthly maintenance fees

Any one of these can be good reasons to close out your credit card. Keep in mind your utilization ratio, i.e. how much credit you’ve used versus how much you have available, as well as how long you’ve had the card you intend to close out. Both factors are considered in your credit score, and closing a card prematurely can have a negative affect on your score.

Anyway, once you’re certain that you’d like to close the account, the best thing to do is make sure you politely let the representative know that while you appreciate their offer, you’d just like to close the card. Creditcards.com doesn’t suggest this, but I do…always ask for written confirmation that the account has been closed. This way you know that the representative you spoke to did take care of the request and it was reported correctly to the credit bureau. Also, make sure you follow up. If you didn’t receive the letter, call and ask about it. Make sure you check your credit report, as well.

# 4 – Write a letter

What was mentioned in the article I read was that you write a letter to the credit card company. In addition to making the phone call requesting the lender close the card, it’s a good idea to write a letter requesting they close the card and include details of previous phone conversations, as well as a copy of the cleared check that shows the card was paid off.

I’m of the opinion that this step may be excessive and unnecessary – unless you are having trouble the company. However, I’ve always found that anytime I close a card, requesting written notification of completion from them was sufficient enough. Why should we have to do all the work? It’s already our responsibility to make sure they report it correctly to the credit bureau, so I think asking them to write a confirmation letter is perfectly reasonable.

# 5 – Be patient…and diligent

Ok, the last bit was mine. The article says that you should be patient as a card closing could take up to a month. I think that’s a long time and in this electronic day and age, I would think the account closure would happen immediately. However, I think if you’re waiting for the letter to come to you, then yes, a month is a good time frame.

But, I think in this tip, it’s far more important to stress the fact that you must be diligent in following up with this. It is your responsibility to make sure that the account closure was reported to the credit bureaus correctly. It is your responsibility to follow up with written communications. Don’t just take for granted that the representative will do what they said they would. In a perfect world, you wouldn’t need to be concerned with it, but in reality, things fall through the cracks. It’s your credit, protect it.

# 6 – Take notes

I talked about this at the beginning. Write down the date, time, and names of the people you spoke to. That way, if there’s something that was done incorrectly, you have the facts recorded. Having the time and name of the individual is good information, particularly if the company you’re dealing with records calls. This makes it much easier to find the call in their logs if it is needed to settle a dispute.

Overall, I think these are excellent tips, but I don’t really see how they help prevent a negative impact to the credit score. There’s still the utilization and time factor to consider that are going to affect the outcome despite following the above tips.

Of course, the first step to not hurting your credit score is knowing what it is! Check out this page for info on getting your free credit score and credit report.

Anything else you want to add to the list?

10 thoughts on “How To Cancel a Credit Card Without Hurting Your Credit Score”

  1. I totally subscribe to #6 – I’m always amazed that companies don’t have a better system of tracking what they told (or ‘promised’) customers over the phone.

    Recently, we moved and had our cable service transferred to our new house. Prior to agreeing to move the service, I negotiated for several new little perks and discounts. Then, when the tech came to install it, he didn’t have any of that info. He called his corporate contact who didn’t have any of that in the records either. Thankfully, I pulled out my notes, showed the tech, and his boss made all the changes.

    Funny how they just randomly forget some of this stuff!

  2. What about the access to the account online? I cancelled two cards and they sent me the written letter that the card account had been closed, but I was still able to access the accounts online. I feel that they should have stopped the accounts from being accessible online immediately. There is still personal information within reach of an identity thief, right?

  3. There is a new service now that is free to the public to report the theft or loss of your credit card in an easy way. You can even use your mobile phone or iphone for it. The site is http://cancel.tel and can be used from any country in the world to report card loss or theft to your card company 24 hours per day. The numbers are toll free and the site is especially designed to work with cellphones very fast and easy. You don’t have to remember a phone number, only the word cancel is enough now. That might come in handy to many people who find themselves in the situation where they lost their card.

    Jenny

  4. Thanks for outlining steps to cancel, however there’s no mention as to how to do this without hurting your credit score! Too bad the title of the article lead me on.

    The closest thing that was said is the below:

    “Keep in mind your utilization ratio, i.e. how much credit you’ve used versus how much you have available, as well as how long you’ve had the card you intend to close out. Both factors are considered in your credit score, and closing a card prematurely can have a negative affect on your score.”

    …but how do I make sure that there’s not a negative effect on my score? Great to know that factors are considered, but this tells me nothing…but this is where the meat of the article should have been.

  5. you have to leave this up to your own judgement, there is really no right answer. If its a card with a good long positive history, closing it may have a negative effect. But, depending on if you are planning on applying for a mortgage, car loan, etc. It might be worth it to wait. It affects your credit to debt ratio, so if you don’t have alot of outstanding debt, then it might not cause too much of an effect.

  6. Thanks Ross, you’re absolutely right – every individual needs to find the right choice for their own situation and future plans.

  7. What if there is a yearly fee? I am getting ready to pay off a credit card that has a $59 a year fee, even if there is a zero balance. Should I go ahead and cancel after I pay the balance in full to avoid paying the fee, or is it worth paying the fee to not hurt my credit score? Thanks so much!

  8. Many people see little point in paying credit card fees, especially if you won’t be using the card. However, in some instances the fee exists to cover other cardholder benefits which you might not want to give up by cancelling the card. You just have to weigh up the pros and cons to decide whether to keep the card and pay the fee.

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