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How to cancel a credit card

Canceling a credit card can be a good idea in certain situations, though not always. This article will cover steps to take to cancel a card and factors to consider before you do. 

Can you cancel a credit card?

Yes, you can cancel a credit card. Sometimes it's no longer a good fit for your needs or your lifestyle. If you're thinking of canceling, be sure to consider the implications it will have to your credit score including your credit utilization ratio and the age of your accounts, which is outlined in more detail below. Also consider if changing to a new card with different terms or rewards may be a better option.

Instead of canceling the card, some banks will allow what's called a product change (also known as an upgrade or downgrade). This just means that you're switching to a different credit card but staying with the same credit card issuer.

To do this, call the customer service number on the back of your current card and ask what product changes you are eligible for. The customer service representative can walk you through this process over the phone. 

Five steps to cancel a credit card

If you decide you are ready to cancel after all, here are the five essential steps you'll want to take.

Pay off balance

Pay off your entire balance before you close your credit card to avoid accidentally incurring additional fees. Some issuers will allow you to just close the account to new charges while you continue to pay off the balance. However, if you forget that you have the account and stop paying the balance, your credit score could take a big hit. Once your balance is paid, check to see whether your card has any automatic payments or subscriptions on it and move these to a different card.

Use rewards

Be sure to redeem any rewards that haven't been used on your account. If you can't redeem the rewards for any reason, you may be able to transfer them to your partner or to another card.

Call issuer

Call your credit card issuer to cancel your card. Be prepared that you may be given a counteroffer to keep the card open. If you're sure you want to close, say no and continue with the process. You'll want to confirm that you don't have an existing balance on the card.

Check your credit report

You'll want to check your credit report anywhere from 30 to 45 days after you cancel your card to be sure that it was closed and that you don't have an existing balance.

Destroy card

Make sure your card is completely destroyed so no one will have access to it. Use scissors or a shredder if the card is made of plastic, or ask your issuer if they have a card recycling service for cards made of metal.

Should I cancel my credit card?

The thought of canceling a credit card may feel a like a relief — but even if you've paid it off and don't plan to use it again, there are still implications to closing your account. Consider the following factors before you cancel your credit card: 

How old is your account? While canceling an account doesn't affect the average age of your accounts, the canceled account will no longer improve your score. It's important to note, however, that accounts in good standing remain on your record for up to 10 years, so the overall age of your canceled account will still be included in the average.

Does your card have an annual fee? If your card has an annual fee, it may be worth canceling. If it doesn't, there might be little upside to getting rid of it. Even if your card has an annual fee, you might be able to ask your issuer to downgrade your account (just know that this will probably result in you losing access to some perks.)

Will this affect your credit utilization ratio? Closing a credit card can affect your credit utilization ratio, which is the money you owe on your credit cards, divided by your total credit card limit. Canceling a card will mean you have less credit available. Any outstanding balances are then taking up more of your available credit than before, which could negatively affect your credit score. You ideally want your credit utilization ratio to be 30 percent or lower. If canceling your card will put you above 30 percent, it might be smart to pay down other card balances first. 

How to calculate your credit utilization ratio

  1. Add up the statement balances on your credit cards
  2. Add up the limits on your credit cards
  3. Divide your total balances by your total credit limits

When it's a good idea to cancel a card

If your spending is out of control and you've found yourself falling into debt, closing your credit cards might make sense if the temptation to use them is too great. A high annual fee may be another valid reason for canceling. Either way, you'll want to pay off the balance in full and follow the steps listed above to close your card account.

If you want to track how your credit score is affected by the different accounts you carry, their transactions or closures, Chase Credit Journey® can offer you insight into your financial health. 

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