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Will Your Credit Card Outlast Your Marriage?

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Will you be sticking with your credit card longer than your spouse? For some Americans, the answer will be “yes.” Overall, we are are pretty faithful to our plastic. According to Experian, the average time a credit card account remains open is approximately 129 months — or 10.75 years.

Contrast that with the fact that the U.S. Census Bureau reports that in 2009, first marriages that ended in divorce lasted a median of 8 years for men and women overall. The median time from marriage to separation was shorter — about 7 years.

It appears that Americans are also more loyal to their cards than their counterparts across the pond. Research by MoneySupermarket found that credit card users in the U.K. have remained loyal to their card provider for six years on average.

Is loyalty to a card issuer good or bad? On the plus side, holding on to your cards for a long time may help your credit rating. FICO High Achievers — those with FICO scores of 785 or above — opened their oldest credit card account 25 years ago on average; and the average credit account is 11 years old. Plus, if you’ve been a good customer for many years you may be able to negotiate a lower interest rate or get a fee waived more easily than a new customer.

On the other hand, issuers are trying to woo new new customers with flashy promotions, such as the Starwood Preferred Guest Card from American Express that currently allows new cardholders to earn 10,000 points after their first purchase, and 15,000 points after spending $10,000 within six months. Just try matching the British Airways credit card 100,000 miles sign-up bonus with your current card. Fat chance it even comes close.

But that doesn’t mean you should be fickle.

Perhaps the best strategy is to plan on a long-term relationship with your cards, and choose accordingly. But check in periodically to make sure they still offer you the best deal. If not, let them know you think you can do better — and why. They may be able to able to come up with a reason for you to stay.

If not, and you do break up with your credit card company, you don’t have to end the relationship completely. You can still keep the account open in case you decide you want to come back later. Just think of it as keeping your options open.

Image: Shelley Panzarella, via Flickr

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