Dear Liz: I’m working off credit card debt. I have two cards down to a zero balance. Which will improve my FICO credit scores the most: leaving the cards open but not using them or using them minimally and paying the bills off in full each month?
Answer: Congratulations on your progress paying off your debt. Erasing your debt on those two cards is doubtless already helping your scores. You can continue to improve your numbers by using the cards lightly but regularly, paying the balances in full each month.
Credit scoring formulas want to see you actively, and responsibly, using credit. Shutting the cards in a drawer won’t demonstrate that you can do that. You’re also running the risk that a card issuer will shut down your account because of inactivity.
If you discover you can’t use the cards responsibly, however, then locking them in that drawer (or freezing them in ice) is better than running up credit card debt again.