Q&A: Too many credit cards? Protect your credit scores while closing accounts

Dear Liz: Over the years, my husband and I have accumulated a number of credit cards. All have had a zero balance for years. I want to start canceling these cards, but I’m concerned that will hurt our great credit scores. How should I go about this, or should I?

Answer: As you probably know, closing credit accounts won’t help your scores and may hurt them. That doesn’t mean you can never close a credit card, but you shouldn’t close a bunch of them at once or close any if you’ll be in the market for a major loan, such as a mortgage or auto loan.

If you’re not planning to borrow money in the near future, then you can start closing accounts one at a time. You’ll probably want to keep the cards with the highest credit limits, and perhaps your oldest card as well. Monitor your scores to see how long they take to recover from each closure. You may need to wait a few months before shutting the next account.

Be sure to use your remaining cards occasionally by charging small amounts and paying the balance in full. That will keep the cards active and help prevent the issuer from canceling them.

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  1. I went through a divorce this year and my ex still has the accounts open according to my credit report. I was an authorized user on the account so I can close both accounts. The problem is I believe it will hurt my credit as they are older accounts. Should I close them both at the same time? I don’t trust him.

    • Liz Weston says

      It may be best to get off the cards if you don’t trust him. If you’re the authorized user, you probably can’t close the accounts but you can contact the issuers, tell them the situation and asked to be removed.