The short answer is that nothing is likely to happen if you don’t use your credit card for a few months. Not using your card could actually help your credit score if you have a $0 balance when you stop (contrary to some common myths about keeping a small credit card balance being beneficial).… read full answer
The longer answer is that exactly what happens if you don’t use your credit card depends on which card you have. Some rewards cards will revoke any unredeemed points, miles or cash back you have saved up if you don’t use your credit card at all for a certain period of time – usually around 12 months. And if you don’t use your credit card for 6 months or more, the issuer could close your account. But there’s no standard timeframe for when a credit card issuer will decide to close an account due to inactivity.
Having your account closed due to inactivity could hurt your credit standing and possibly make it seem like your credit history is shorter than it really is. However, you will not be charged any sort of inactivity fee by your credit card company if you don’t use your card to make purchases or other types of transactions for a prolonged period of time. Credit card inactivity fees are banned by law.
As a result, not using your credit card (at least not regularly) can be a great strategy if you want to build credit but are worried about overspending. You just have to make sure your balance is $0 when you stop using your card. A credit card with no balance will get reported to the credit bureaus as being in good standing each month, with an on-time payment and 0% credit utilization. That in turn will lead to credit score improvement if you manage the rest of your finances responsibly.
For your convenience, we’ll summarize the key points to remember below.
Here’s what happens if you don’t use your credit card:
Nothing is likely to happen if you don’t use your credit card for a few months, as long as you make bill payments for any recurring monthly charges.
The credit card’s issuer may decide to close your account after a long period of inactivity. There is no standard timeframe, but they will often send a notice in advance and give you a chance to use your card first.
Some credit card rewards will expire after a certain period of account inactivity. You’ll also lose any rewards you’ve yet to redeem when your account is closed.
If the credit card you’re not using has a $0 balance and is in good standing, positive information will be added to your credit reports each month the account stays open.
Unpaid balances from before you stopped using the card will continue to accrue interest. If your balances have been paid in full, you won’t have to send in any new payments.
If your credit card charges an annual fee, not using the card won’t get you out of having to pay. And if you’re not getting anything out of a card that you’re paying for, you might want to close it.
The bottom line is that not using your card can still be good for your credit. And it’s far better than using your card irresponsibly. So if you don’t trust yourself to limit your spending, it may be wise to set your card aside until you have a necessary expense.
When you cancel a credit card, your credit score could fall in the short term, depending on how old the account is and how much other credit you have. But canceling a credit card account might also benefit your credit score in the long run if you manage the rest of your finances better as a result of having one fewer account to worry about.… read full answer
Why canceling a credit card could hurt your credit score temporarily:
One way canceling a credit card account could hurt your credit score is if it reduces the amount of credit that you have available and thus increases your overall credit utilization. Keeping utilization low is key for a good credit score. So closing a high-limit credit card account will hurt your score more than closing a low-limit account, all else being equal.
Another way canceling a credit card account could hurt your credit score is if it brings down the average age of your accounts. That can make it seem like your credit history is shorter than it really is. Closing one of your oldest accounts will lead to more credit score damage than closing a newer one.
Plus, you’ll have one fewer account reporting positive information to the credit bureaus each month, assuming the credit card you cancel was in good standing.
Why canceling a credit card might still make sense:
Despite the potential for short-term credit score damage, canceling a credit card can still be the right decision. For example, if you’re paying an annual fee for a card you don’t use, and you’re not planning to apply for a mortgage or car loan in next few months, it’s probably better to close the account. Credit scores usually rebound within 3-6 months after canceling a credit card. And if you don’t plan to borrow during that time, you don’t have to worry about that drop.
But an unused credit card with no annual fee is another story. Even a credit card with zero balance still reports positive info to the credit bureaus on a monthly basis. That means it’s an asset to your credit score.
In any case, you should know all the facts before you cancel a credit card, so you can make an informed decision. We’ll summarize the key considerations below.
Here’s what happens to your credit score when you cancel a credit card:
Credit score drops: Your credit score often goes down because the average age of your open accounts decreases and your overall utilization increases (since you have less available credit).
Scores bounce back: Your credit score should rebound within 3-6 months of canceling your credit card account. Make sure to have at least one open credit card remaining and pay all your bills on time.
What happens if you don’t cancel: A credit card that is in good standing will continue to help your credit score. Even if you don’t make purchases with it, it will still report positive information to the credit bureaus each month. This is definitely worth considering if your card does not charge an annual fee.
Age matters: Closing newer accounts won’t have as much of an impact as closing older ones.
Limit matters: Closing low-limit accounts won’t do as much damage as closing high-limit ones.
When score drops matter: If you don’t need the best score possible for the 3-6 months it usually takes credit scores to bounce back after credit card cancelation, the temporary drop shouldn’t cost you anything.
Bottom Line: Avoid canceling your oldest card and your card with the highest credit limit. That will mitigate the amount of credit score damage. And if you have to close your oldest or highest-limit card, make sure you do it at a time when you don’t need your credit score to be at its best.
You should not close unused credit cards, unless they charge expensive annual fees, because good information continues to be reported to credit bureaus as long as the accounts are open, even if you don’t use the cards. Keeping unused credit cards open will also help preserve the length of your credit history, and the unused credit limits on the cards will contribute to your total available credit. These factors are used by credit-scoring models to calculate your credit score, which is why closing an unused credit card - or any credit card in good standing, for that matter – may hurt your credit, especially if it’s one of your oldest credit accounts or if it has a high credit limit.… read full answer
With that being said, you can see exactly how closing an unused credit card is likely to affect your credit score by using WalletHub’s free credit score simulator.
Furthermore, despite the potential for credit-score damage, it’s important to remember that there a few situations in which it might be better to close unused credit cards rather than leave them open. If your unused credit card charges an annual fee, for example, and you don’t need your credit score in its best shape for a while, it’s probably best to save the annual fee and close the account. On the other hand, if you want to cancel your credit card because you are concerned about overspending, try locking it away in a safe place first. If that doesn’t work, it will likely work out better for you - and your financial future - to close the credit card, even if your credit score takes a hit.
WalletHub Answers is a free service that helps consumers access financial information. Information on WalletHub Answers is provided “as is” and should not be considered financial, legal or investment advice. WalletHub is not a financial advisor, law firm, “lawyer referral service,” or a substitute for a financial advisor, attorney, or law firm. You may want to hire a professional before making any decision. WalletHub does not endorse any particular contributors and cannot guarantee the quality or reliability of any information posted. The helpfulness of a financial advisor's answer is not indicative of future advisor performance.
WalletHub members have a wealth of knowledge to share, and we encourage everyone to do so while respecting our content guidelines. Please keep in mind that editorial and user-generated content on this page is not reviewed or otherwise endorsed by any financial institution. In addition, it is not a financial institution’s responsibility to ensure all posts and questions are answered.
Ad Disclosure: Certain offers that appear on this site originate from paying advertisers, and this will be noted on an offer’s details page using the designation "Sponsored", where applicable. Advertising may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). At WalletHub we try to present a wide array of offers, but our offers do not represent all financial services companies or products.