Do you remember the excitement surrounding your first credit card? You probably applied for a credit card when you went to college or maybe your parents offered some advice. Either way, you've had that card since your teens or early 20s and it's probably not the greatest card in your wallet. It might have a high interest rate, no rewards or a lofty annual fee.
Once you starting building good credit you were likely offered better credit cards. Your interest rates are lower, you probably don't have an annual fee or a it's a low fee, and you probably have access to airline miles or cash back rewards. So, why keep the card that is no longer serving you?
How will closing the accounts affect my credit?
The important thing to remember is that when you make the decision to close a credit card account you're reducing your credit utilization rate. Remember that credit utilization accounts for 30 percent of your total score calculation. You'll need reduce your spending habits when you close a credit card account or you're likely to go over the recommended 30 percent utilization rate causing your credit score to take a nose dive.
The average age of your credit accounts is another important factor for your credit score. This is two-fold. If you're newer to credit, it's best to keep old cards open because they remain on your credit for 10 years. That card, though rarely used, is actually helping your credit – especially if you have good payment history. Closing it could hurt your credit far worse than someone who has been building their credit for more than a decade.
So, what can I do?
If you have a high interest rate or a large annual fee, try negotiating with your credit card provider. Sometimes if you tell them you are considering cancelling the card due to high fees, etc, they may work with you. It costs them far more money to acquire a new customer than it would cost them to waive your annual fee or lower your interest rate.
Sometimes you have to close a card. If it's costing you money because the credit card company won't negotiate a waived or lower annual fee, it doesn't make sense to keep it. Your credit might take a hit, but it will recover. You can't however, recover lost funds due to annual fees for a card you don't use.
Closing a credit account should not be taken lightly. Make sure to consider the factors listed above before you close your accounts.