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So, you’ve been rummaging through your belongings and found a credit card that you signed up for in college. That pizza that they gave you for signing up was pretty good, but it is long gone. Now, your stuck with this card and wondering if you should just cut it up and cancel it or keep it around.
It may not seem like a big decision, but how you handle this and other old credit card accounts can impact your credit score. It may seem foolish, but canceling that account can actually hurt your score. Let’s take a look at how to properly handle old credit card accounts.
View Your Credit Report
You are entitled to a free credit report each year. Visit annualcreditreport.com to do so, as this is the only site that is officially authorized to give free credit reports. Others may do so, but many come with strings attached.
Check the report for credit cards that you may have forgotten about and anything else that you were unaware of. For example, if you have 2 cards in your wallet and 8 cards on your report, you may want to address this situation.
Cancel (Some) Unused Credit Cards
If you have an unused credit card or two out there on your credit report, contact the card provider to cancel all but one of them. If you have a lot of unused cards out there, it is best to cancel them gradually. Doing so over time will help avoid negative attention from creditors.
Even if your unused cards still have a balance, you can cancel them. Ask the provider to close the account to new purchases. This will prevent the temptation to spend more money and will also prevent identity theft.
It is important to keep a few older cards active. While this may seem like nonsense, cancelling an old card may shorten your credit history and adversely affect your credit score.
Finally, after you cancel the cards, check your credit report at the usual time (for example, yearly) to confirm that they have been cancelled.
Things to Avoid
It may be tempting to just cut up your old credit cards and throw them away. However, doing so will not close the account. You should contact the provider to cancel the account.
Also, don’t ignore inaccuracies on your credit report. If you do not agree something or have no clue where that $5,000 balance on your 10 year old card came from, contact the card provider until you are satisfied with the issue. Someone could have stolen your identity or there could have been a simple mistake. Either way, it’s best to investigate it.
After you get your credit card situation cleaned up, be sure to track your card usage in the future. It is rarely a good idea to have old cards out there that you have forgotten about. An identity thief could charge a load of money in your name and leave you holding the bag. It’s best to tie up all loose ends and keep your credit card situation under control.