How do I close old credit card accounts without hurting my credit score?March 1, 2012: 5:54 AM ET
I have gotten a few credit cards — which I pay off each month—because they will allow me to gain free travel. Now, however, I feel I have too many, and I'd like to close some of them. How do I do that without hurting my credit score (now 766)? Is there a formula or a method of determining which ones are less likely to ding my score?
"There is no optimum number of cards to have, and, unless these cards are charging an annual fee, there's really no compelling factor to close them," says Gerri Detweiler, director of consumer education for Credit.com, a website that focuses on credit and debt. "Having too much credit available is truly not a standalone factor when measuring your credit score," she says. Credit bureaus, she says, "are much more interested in how you use your cards, whether you pay on time, and carry balances."
That said, wanting to simplify one's wallet is certainly understandable. So here are some suggestions for paring down the number of cards you have.
"Cut off the line with the lowest line of credit," says Robert Manning, president of Debterswise.org, a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing affordable financial education. Manning also suggests using no more than 30% of the credit limit of each credit card you keep, since a low utilization ratio, as it is known, is good for your score.
"I would close one, and then in another six months, close another," says Detweiler. "Take your time. Closing a bunch all at once could negatively impact your score."
When you do end a relationship with a creditor, make a clean break. To prevent problems, make sure in advance to remove any automatic bill payments that are scheduled on an on-going basis. (You don't want to find out that you are late on your phone bill because it's being billed to a card you've canceled.)
-- Judy Feldman
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