Credit cards can offer many financial opportunities and benefits. They also can give you a lot of worry if they aren’t managed well. If you have a high-interest credit card that you are thinking about canceling, don’t grab the scissors just yet! It is important to explore all your options first. After all, you don’t want to end up damaging your credit score. Here are some steps you might want to consider before canceling your card.
First of all, you might want to consider negotiating with your provider. Ask yourself, What is the reason you are canceling? Is it because your interest or annual fee is too high? Ask your provider if there are more options. Let your credit card company know, for instance, that you are struggling to make your monthly payments and are thinking about switching issuers. Remind them that you are a loyal customer and express how much you want to stay with the company. This might not always work, but it can’t hurt to try!
2. Pay the Card Off
Before canceling your credit card, it is important to try and pay the card off in full. Most credit card companies will not let you close the card without doing this. If you do cancel the card without paying the full amount, you will still be liable for the remaining balance, including any pending transactions. Consider calling your company to make sure you don’t have any outstanding payments. If you close your card without paying off the full amount or stop paying your card altogether, you can wind up hurting your credit score. (To see how your payments are affecting your credit, you can view two of your scores, updated monthly, for free on Credit.com.)
If you are struggling to pay off your card, you might want to consider budgeting and cutting back on some expenses. Instead of buying lunch or getting a coffee every day, consider putting that extra money towards your credit card. The sooner you pay off that balance, the sooner you will be out of debt.
3. Use Up Points & Rewards
If you are set on canceling your credit card, then you might want to take advantage of your leftover points or rewards. Most people aren’t even aware they have points. You might want to consider putting these points into a gift card or redeeming them for cash.
4. Pull a Copy of Your Credit Report & Credit Score
Since you are thinking about closing your credit card, you should be aware of how it will impact your credit. Closing cards can lower your credit utilization — the amount of debt you owe versus your total available credit — and, ultimately, your credit history (the age of your accounts) so you’ll want to see where you stand in these two areas of credit scoring before you make your final decision.
Still, a small impact shouldn’t necessarily affect your decision to close a card, since credit scores tend to fluctuate. And, if your goal is to take control of your credit and reduce the number of cards to minimize debt, then closing a card may be a good idea.
5. Educate Yourself on the Closing Process
It is important to be patient and wait until you see the account is marked “closed” on your credit report. Closing your card doesn’t mean cutting it up to pieces and being done with it. It is a step-by-step process that should be done carefully. Keep notes on who you spoke with and when, and consider sending a cancellation letter to your card issuer for added insurance.
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Image: Eva Katalin Kondoros