What happens if you don’t use your credit card?

Depending on your financial situation, you may have more than one credit card. And sometimes one of those cards can become less useful over time. You may wonder: Is it bad to stop using a credit card? It can depend on your situation and goals. 

Learn more about what happens if you don’t use your credit card, plus what to consider before closing an inactive credit card account.

Key takeaways

  • If you don’t use your card, your credit card issuer may lower your credit limit or close your account due to inactivity. 
  • Closing a credit card account can affect your credit scores by decreasing your available credit and increasing your credit utilization ratio. It can also affect your credit history and credit mix, two credit-scoring factors.
  • Not monitoring an open credit card account could cause you to miss potentially fraudulent activity or recurring charges you may want to keep up with.
  • You won’t be charged a fee for not using your credit card. Inactivity fees were banned in 2010.

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What happens if I don’t use my credit card?

If you don’t use your credit card for a significant period of time, your credit card issuer may close your account due to inactivity or reduce your credit limit, both of which could affect your credit scores.

How long can you keep a credit card without using it?

There’s no industry standard for how long you can leave a credit card unused before the issuer takes action. But it could be anywhere from a few months to a year.

Will I be charged for not using a credit card?

You won’t be charged for credit card inactivity. Credit card inactivity fees, also called dormancy fees, used to apply to inactive accounts. However, these charges were banned in 2010 as an amendment to the Truth in Lending Act.

Is it bad to close a credit card?

It depends. Closing a credit card account can affect your credit scores and give you access to less credit, so you may want to consider whether it’s worth it. 

If you find yourself not using the card or monitoring its statements regularly, it can be more difficult to keep track of potentially fraudulent transactions or recurring charges.

How closing a credit card account could affect your credit scores

Using credit responsibly can help you build credit. But if your credit card is closed due to inactivity or you close it yourself, it could impact your credit scores in the following ways: 

  • By increasing your credit utilization ratio: Your credit utilization ratio measures how much of your credit you’re using compared to your available credit. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau recommends keeping your credit utilization ratio below 30%. Closing a credit card account could lower your total available credit, which in turn would raise your credit utilization ratio.
  • By reducing your length of credit history: The length of your credit history is determined by how long your credit accounts have been open. So canceling a credit card could affect the average age of your accounts. 
  • By affecting your credit mix: Your credit mix has to do with the types of installment and revolving credit accounts you have. If you close a credit card account and it’s your only type of revolving credit, your credit mix could be negatively affected. 

These are just some factors that credit-scoring companies FICO® and VantageScore® consider when calculating your credit scores. With that in mind, it can be helpful to understand where your credit scores stand before closing an account. 

With CreditWise from Capital One, you can monitor your VantageScore® 3.0 credit score and obtain your TransUnion® credit report. And you don’t need to be a Capital One cardholder to use CreditWise. You can also see how certain financial decisions, like closing a credit card account, could affect your credit with the CreditWise Simulator.

How to keep your credit card account active

If you want to keep your credit card account active, you could use it to make small purchases or pay for a subscription service, and then pay off the balance each month. You may even set up autopay for the card so that you won’t need to worry about missing a payment. 

Consistent positive payment activity like this will usually be reported to the credit bureaus each month. And that can help your credit scores.

If your card has an annual fee but you’re worried closing your account could affect your credit, you could ask your credit card issuer to upgrade or downgrade the account. That could let you swap your current credit card for one you may use more frequently—and it usually doesn’t affect your credit scores.

Unused credit cards in a nutshell

Credit card inactivity could have negative effects on your credit scores, but you can evaluate your cards and make a plan for how to keep them active if you decide to keep the accounts open.

If you’re interested in applying for a new credit card or replacing an old one, you can compare cards from Capital One and find the best one for you.

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