Does Closing a Credit Card Hurt Your Credit Score?

Canceling a credit card may affect your score—here’s what you should know

There are many reasons you might be considering closing a credit card account. You may be trying to limit your amount of revolving debt. Or you might not be using a particular card any longer.

Whatever your goal, one question you might consider is how closing a credit card could impact your credit score. The answer varies based on your personal circumstances, but there are things to keep in mind before making a decision.

How Does Closing a Credit Card Affect Your Credit Score?

Closing your credit card can affect several factors that go into your credit score. A primary one is your credit utilization ratio, which is the amount of available credit you’re using.

You can get your utilization ratio by dividing the total of your credit balances by your total credit limits. Then multiply that number by 100 to calculate your ratio as a percentage.

You can get your utilization ratio by dividing the total of your credit balances by your total credit limits. Then multiply that number by 100 to calculate your ratio as a percentage.

So, when you close a credit card, you’re decreasing the total amount of credit available to you. And that increases your credit utilization ratio. According to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, experts recommend keeping your credit utilization below 30% of your available credit. 

How long you’ve had credit can also impact your credit score. For instance, both FICO® and VantageScore® consider the age of your oldest account as well as the average of all your accounts. The older your credit history, the better. And closing an account can make your credit history younger. 

Choosing to Keep Your Card Open

Just as there are reasons to consider closing your credit card, there are also good reasons you may decide to keep it open:

  • Helping manage your credit utilization: If the card you’re thinking about closing has available credit, keeping it open could help keep your credit utilization ratio lower. 
  • Keeping your credit file robust: If your credit card is one of only a few sources of credit, closing the account could give you a thin credit file. This means you may not have enough credit history to be scored. In this case, you may want to keep your card open to continue building your credit.
  • Maintaining a mix of credit types: Your credit score can also benefit from having more than one credit type. This can include things like revolving credit, personal loans or mortgages. If your credit card is your only form of revolving credit, you may want to keep it open to diversify your active credit.
  • Preparing to make a big purchase: If you’re planning to purchase something like a house or a car, it helps for your credit to be at its best. Especially when it comes to applying for a loan. In this situation, it could be in your best interest to keep your credit card open for the time being.

Keeping your card open could be the right move, but it all depends on your unique circumstances. Consider weighing the pros and cons of your particular situation before making a decision about whether to keep your account open. And if you decide to close it, there are ways to help minimize the impact to your credit score.

Ways to Safely Close Your Credit Card

Closing a credit card may seem simple enough. But before you break out the scissors to snip your card in two, here are some things to consider:

  • Pay down your balance first: While you can close a credit card with an active balance, you may want to consider paying down your balance first. Even if you close your account, you’re still responsible for any remaining balance or interest and fees that might be charged. Plus, paying down your balance first will help keep your credit utilization under control. And that can help minimize impacts to your credit score.
  • Double-check your payoff amount: In some cases, the payoff amount for your card may be more than just the statement balance because of fees and interest. Be sure you check with your card issuer to confirm what you owe.
  • Get confirmation of your cancellation: With some issuers, you can simply sign in to your account in order to close it. Or you may be able to call your card issuer to make the request. Either way, consider getting a confirmation in writing. That way, you have a permanent record of it in case anything gets called into question.
  • Check your credit report: After closing your card, you might also want to check your credit report. You can get free copies of your credit reports from all three major credit bureaus—visit to learn how. 

If you still have questions about closing your account, you can also check your cardholder agreement for more details.

Alternatives to Closing Your Card

Before you make the decision to close your credit card account, there are other options that could be worth considering:

  • Upgrade to a new card: If you feel like you aren’t using your current card very often or that it’s not meeting your needs, you may be able to upgrade to a different card with the same issuer. Depending on how your issuer treats upgrades, you may be able to keep your existing account history while potentially getting new benefits and rewards.
  • Transfer your balance: If you’re hoping to consolidate your debt or potentially lower your interest rate, you might consider a balance transfer. Just be sure to factor in any fees or terms that may be involved.
  • Use your card for small purchases: If your card hasn’t been getting much use, consider setting up a small recurring purchase. This will help keep the card active.
  • Lock your card: If you want to limit your spending, see if your lender offers a card lock feature. Capital One lets you instantly lock your card to prevent it from being used for purchases. It takes just a few taps on the Capital One Mobile app. And if you decide you want to use the card in the future, you can unlock it just as easily. Just remember that your account may eventually be closed due to inactivity, so be sure to contact your lender for details.

Keeping an Eye on Your Credit Can Help

The decision to close your credit card account is a personal one. But routinely monitoring your credit score can help you make a more informed decision. CreditWise from Capital One is a completely free tool that allows you to monitor your VantageScore® 3.0 credit score. Using CreditWise to keep an eye on your credit won’t hurt your score. And it’s free for everyone, not just Capital One customers.

Learn more about Capital One’s response to COVID-19 and resources available to customers. For information about COVID-19, head over to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Government and private relief efforts vary by location and may have changed since this article was published. Consult a financial adviser or the relevant government agencies and private lenders for the most current information.

We hope you found this helpful. Our content is not intended to provide legal, investment or financial advice or to indicate that a particular Capital One product or service is available or right for you. For specific advice about your unique circumstances, consider talking with a qualified professional.

Your CreditWise score is calculated using the TransUnion® VantageScore® 3.0 model, which is one of many credit scoring models. It may not be the same model your lender uses, but it can be one accurate measure of your credit health. The availability of the CreditWise tool depends on our ability to obtain your credit history from TransUnion. Some monitoring and alerts may not be available to you if the information you enter at enrollment does not match the information in your credit file at (or you do not have a file at) one or more consumer reporting agencies.

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