Credit Cards: Considering Credit History

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Considering Your Credit cONSUMER-cREDIT

Do you have credit card accounts that you don’t use? Are you thinking about closing these unused accounts to clean off the slate? Read this article to learn more about the effects of closed accounts on your credit history.

A Fair Isaac representative reported that closing accounts does not directly hurt one’s credit score, regardless of whether it was closed by the cardholder or the credit grantor. That’s the good news. The other side of the story, and there is always another side, is that closing accounts indirectly affects your credit history and therefore, your credit score.

Closing Credit Card Accounts

Closing unused credit card accounts can increase one’s credit utilization ratio. Credit utilization is a measurement of the difference between one’s available credit and the amount being used. This figure is calculated by taking the sum of your credit card balances and dividing that by the sum credit card limits. One’s credit utilization ratio directly affects credit scoring. Simply put, the higher one’s credit utilization ratio the lower his or her credit score.

How does this come into play with regards to cancelling unused credit cards? The unused credit cards have low utilization since the entire credit limit is available. This offsets the higher utilization that one’s other credit cards may have. Thus, it reduces one’s overall credit utilization ratio boosting his or her credit score.

Putting that into perspective, let’s say you have a credit card with a $5,000 credit limit and another card with the same. That’s $10,000 of total credit limit. Now let’s say you spend $2,500 on one card and some minor purchases on the other, which you have paid off. Your total balance, or debt, is $2,500, which equates to a credit utilization of 25%. If you were to close the card with no balance, your overall credit limit would decrease to $5,000, which would in turn increase your credit utilization ratio to 50%.

Considering Credit History

Closing credit card accounts can also lower one’s credit score by reducing the credit history age. Credit age is essentially that. How old are your accounts? In the credit scoring world, the older the better. Age is one representation of stability. Since older is better when it comes to credit card accounts and credit scoring, if you’re thinking of closing old unused accounts, think again. These accounts can actually help your credit score. Keep in mind, however, the FICO score does take into account both closed and open accounts, and closed accounts can remain on a credit history report for up to a decade.

Setting all that aside, if keeping credit card accounts open leaves an open door to more spending – close them! Better to be financially free of debt and its negative impact on your finances, which we all know can lead to increased stress. And, who needs that!?

Do you want to know more about debt and how you can make smart financial decisions now that will help you secure a more prosperous financial future? Sign up for our newsletter for monthly money tips.

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